ASUCI Consider Leaving UCSA

The ASUCI Legislative Council began discussion on a bill that would remove UC Irvine from the University of California Students Association (UCSA) during their meeting on Thursday night.

Phuc Pham | New University

Phuc Pham | New University

The UCSA represents all of the associated student governments for both undergraduates and graduates in the UC system with the exception of UC Davis’ undergraduates and UCLA’s graduate students. If ASUCI decides to remove itself from UCSA, AGS (Associated Graduate Students) at UCI will continue to pay dues and be represented by UCSA.

According to the mission statement on their website, “The University of California Student Association is a coalition of students and student governments that aims to provide a collective voice for all students through advocacy and direct action. UCSA participates in the shared governance of the University of California system, and seeks to further higher education by empowering current and future students to advocate on their own behalf for the accessibility, affordability and quality of the University of California system.”

Sanaa Khan, the ASUCI Executive Vice President’s office statewide liaison, presented before the council the reasons to remove itself from UCSA. Kahn spoke about the amount of positive work the organization has accomplished in the past, while expressing that UCSA is currently not operating at a level that the EVP office wants to be a part of. Historically, UCSA has had many victories for the UC Students that it represents. The organization has won tuition freezes or rollbacks 8 of the past 15 years. The presentation revolved around explaining UCSA and their work, as well as the grievances that ASUCI’s EVP office has for leaving. The reasons are listed as follows:

1. Inaction regarding official stance on the appointment of the new UC president
2. Disregard of undocumented students’ demands surrounding the appointment of Napolitano
3. Inadequate organizing support for student campaigns
4. Lack of staff and board cultural competency
5. Inefficient support for the Students of Color Conference
6. Dismissal of UC Workers outreach to UCSA
7. Over representation of graduate students

Though it was not formally listed, a common grievance that was not explicitly addressed in the presentation is the lack of proactivity on behalf of the UCSA, an organization which is meant to be active and engaged. Several members of the legislative council, as well as UCI students in the audience, shared their own experiences with UCSA and their discontent with the way it is currently functioning. Another common grievance that was not explicitly addressed was a lack of respect between the UCSA and their constituent campuses.

A coalition of undocumented UC students and allies traveled to every UCSA meeting urging them to take action in supporting their demands after Napolitano was appointed, however, the board did not formally lend their support. According to those present in the meeting, President Napolitano reached out to undocumented students and met with them before the UCSA board did.

Another issue that students in favor of this bill mentioned is that UCSA cut its professional organizing staff, who help students organize their campaigns, down from two to one. These organizing professionals help UCSA students build student campaigns such as the IGNITE campaign (Invest in Graduation Not Incarceration Transform Education).
The students, in particular the UCI delegation, worked very hard in designing and finding funding for the IGNITE Campaign.

“Students from UCI applied for funding from the Rosenburg foundation, which is a nonprofit that gives out grants regarding incarceration. They [UCSA] received this grant which the UCI delegation worked to get for the FIRE campaign, which was later renamed the IGNITE campaign… When UCSA was awarded this $25,000 grant, which is a large chunk of money, especially for a non-profit, UCSA only spent $5,000 [on the campaign] the other $20,000 was rolled into UCSA reserves.”

In regards to labor relations with the UCSA, many of the students present at leg council expressed discontent with the fact that UCSA never passed any resolution or formally expressed support for the workers. UCSA did not appoint a labor liaison until four days before the AFSCME 3299 unfair labor practices strike in November.

The undergraduate UCI delegation also believes that there is an over representation of graduate students on the board. The 10 graduate voting members collectively represent around 50,000 students, while the 8 undergraduate voting members collectively represent 180,000 students.

If ASUCI decides to remove itself from UCSA, it will still send students to its three conferences including the UCSA Congress, the Students of Color Conference, and the Student Lobby Conference that are held every year by UCSA, however, ASUCI will no longer pay dues.

UCI pays UCSA $28,880.79 in membership fees this year. They pay $1.50 per student which comes in the form of a student fee we pay each year. The EVP office wants to make sure that this money is used in the most efficient manner, they do not believe that the current membership fees paid to UCSA is the best use of monetary resources to meet its mission.
UCSA President Kareem Aref was present for the latter half of the discussion and took questions about the organization from those present.

Phuc Pham | New University

Phuc Pham | New University

“In the end we are a student- led, student-run board. If there are concerns, the only way we can get better is if students come forward and voice those concerns,” Aref said.

The discussion on this bill will continue at Tuesday’s Legislative Council meeting and the voting is set to take place at Thursday’s meeting. Legislative Council meets every Tuesday and Thursday in the Student Center Woods Cove B & C from 5 to 7 p.m. and is open to the public.