The UC Student Association’s proposed budget increase for the 2005-2006 academic year recently failed to pass a vote in the Associated Students of UC Irvine’s Legislative Council. Citing a lack of results for UCI students from its membership in UCSA, the ASUCI vote was 0-8 against the fee increase.
UCSA’s stated mission is to represent students and their needs to state legislators and government officials. The UCSA Web site states that a ‘strong and consistent funding base is necessary for UCSA to continue to provide a statewide voice for UC students.’
Currently, $1 of each student’s $54 ASUCI fee goes to UCSA.
The budget increase proposed by UCSA would constitute a 20 percent fee increase from the current $1 minimum fee required from all UC campuses. Those campuses that fail to pay the fee become members in bad standing, and consequently lose their voting rights at the statewide level.
According to Jennifer Lilla, UCSA president, the fee increase will protect various services that UCSA provides.
‘The major changes in this year’s budget include the addition of a part-time administrative assistant for the staff, a slight increase in the base salaries of UCSA staff and, due to remodeling, a move for the Sacramento office,’ Lilla said.
An additional reason for the UCSA fee increase is the fact that many UCs pay more than the minimum fee of $1, and feel it is unfair that they are subsidizing the lobbying efforts that are benefiting all students throughout the UCs.
‘There are only five organizations that pay the $1 minimum, so the other organizations pay over and above the minimum and feel that they have been subsidizing everyone else,’ said Zachary Avallone, ASUCI executive vice president-elect. ‘So last year they moved to keep the same base amount of funding but asked that the minimum be brought up because they felt that they were unfairly subsidizing.’
Alexander Fuqua, ASUCI executive vice president, stated that his views reflected that of the rest of the council who voted unanimously to reject the budget increase, but maintained that UCI should remain a part of UCSA.
‘The Legislative Council’s refusal to pay for the increase in dues stems down to the simple fact that we have not seen any tangible return on our investment here on campus,’ Fuqua said. ‘[However,] I think the longer we are involved with the organization, the more this campus will see in return.’
ASUCI President Gabriel Ayass believes UCI’s membership in UCSA is ‘a waste of time.’
‘It’s my opinion that UCSA does not directly benefit UCI students. Issues and proposals [from UCI] are seldom heard by other campuses,’ Ayass stated. ‘Given how much money we send to UCSA and what it produces, I see it as a waste of time and personally don’t feel that we should belong to UCSA at all. I would be willing to entertain the opinion of [others] that we should stay in UCSA if [it doesn’t] propose the 20 percent increase. I don’t see the justification for the increase at all.’
However, according to Lilla, UCI does have a voice in UCSA, and UCSA does aim to meet the needs and interests of UCI students.
‘The work that UCSA does is meant to benefit all UC students, current and future. In particular, though, UCI representatives have been strong voices in the UCSA board over the last three years,’ Lilla said. ‘UCSA lobbies for student interests in the state and federal legislature, advocates to the UC Regents and to the UC Office of the President, and works with other higher-education campaigns. This work benefits UCI students by making the UC student experience more visible and, ultimately, changing the course of policy and legislation that affects student life.’
If UCI wishes to retain its voting rights in UCSA, a minimum fee of $1.20 per student would be invested into UCSA this coming academic year.
Ayass stated that since UCI’s investment in UCSA has not seemed profitable, it would not hurt UCI if it were to refuse to pay the fee and lose its voting rights. The fees that would be saved would directly benefit UCI students since the money would remain in ASUCI to reallocate on the UCI campus.
‘I really don’t care [about voting] because UCSA really doesn’t benefit us. When they raise their fees, we have less money to redistribute to the students,’ Ayass explained. ‘See, you give [ASUCI] $54 a year. [If we pay the increased fee] we would have only $52.80 to spend on you. It’s not a whole lot more, but it does add up. It would be about an extra $20,000 dollars that could go to a lot of services that ASUCI provides students-for instance the shuttle service or concerts.’
Fuqua still is optimistic about UCSA.
‘I think UCI is still relatively new in the UCSA organization. Thus we have not yet seen the fruits of our commitment to the organization,’ Fuqua said. ‘We have just reinstated ourselves within the organization, and to withdraw would be a hasty and faulty action. The only person that can formally withdraw the school from UCSA is UCI president Gabe Ayass, and he [should] not, in his right mind, pull the school out from the organization.’
In regard to UCI’s voting rights, Lilla felt that it would be a loss to UCI students if their opinions were not heard at the state level.
‘It would be a great disservice to [UCI], and it would undermine UCSA’s ability to represent all the students of the university,’ Lilla said. ‘This year, UCI undergrads had more student representation on the UCSA executive committee than any other member association