Saturday, September 22

UC Berkeley’s withdrawal further cripples UCSA


By Greg Cooper

Daily Bruin Staff

Soon after the UC Student Association lost its lobbying powers
in the state government, the official student representative body
to the university’s administration was further crippled when UC
Berkeley yanked its support late last month.

Although its campus senate voted to eliminate ties with the
association, Berkeley’s undergraduate external vice president
succeeded in overturning the senate’s decision last week. However,
it still refuses to fund UCSA.

UCSA, composed of student governments from the nine UC campuses,
represents university students to the California legislature and
office of the UC president. Its funding comes from student fees,
which help support efforts to fight fee hikes and let regents know
student concerns.

Berkeley’s pullout follows UC Davis’ departure last year.
Translated into economic terms, the organization lost about $50,000
and 37,000 student members when the two schools bailed out.

UC Davis’ action came on the heels of a controversial legal
decision crippling the association’s political power.

Smith vs. Regents, a 1993 ruling, stated the organization could
no longer lobby the legislature with student fees. This limited the
association’s ability to influence state officials, members
said.

UC Davis student government leaders claimed the association did
not follow the Smith ruling, although UCSA officials said they
complied with the verdict.

"Our bylaws, charter and government documents are
Smith-sanitized," said Glenn Magpantay, UCSA’s executive
director.

Berkeley student leaders cited other reasons for leaving the
statewide association. They claimed the organization was, among
other things, "inefficient" and "invisible."

The impact of the two schools’ pullouts will be strong and
painful – hurting the association’s ability to advocate for
students, UCSA officials said.

"(The pullout means) a reduction in resources and what we need
to do," Magpantay said. "Some of the programs we wanted to start,
we won’t be able to do."

UCSA’s budget shrank from $250,000 to $200,000 after the
campuses withdrew their financial support. Because of a lack of
resources, the association scrapped plans to hire two new staff
members.

Magpantay said he worries about the political results of the
situation. He said if Berkeley and Davis take different paths to
educate students on pertinent issues, it could divide students.

"If Berkeley and Davis don’t do research (on how to best inform
their students about issues like fee hikes), it could pit students
against other students. We’ll be fed some info and they’ll be fed
some info from the president’s office," Magpantay said. "The Office
of the President has a history of creating dissension among
students."

The tension between the association and the two campuses
heightened last week when Berkeley and Davis leaders made a motion
at the UC Board of Regent’s meeting, to play a part in choosing the
student regent.

UCSA sends three candidates to a student regent selection
committee. Berkeley and Davis wanted to be involved, though UCSA
leaders were unhappy because they did not support the association.
The issue – just a sign of further troubles for UCSA – was
postponed until the next regents’ meeting.

"Once we’re spread all apart, student regent (selection) could
be taken away. Unless we’re unified and strong, we won’t be
effective, and faculty and administrators can do what they want,"
said Andre Quintero, acting president of UCSA.

Members of UCSA acknowledged problems within the organization,
but said they can be fixed.

York Chang, a board member on UCSA, said although the
organization may lose some effectiveness, "it didn’t cripple us.
The most important things we do won’t be affected as long as board
members work hard on campuses."

UCSA officials said they still lobby for students to the Board
of Regents and the Office of the President, though students are
often unaware of their work.

"I think the organization has gone through growing pains. We
haven’t been able to have a strong presence on campus within the
last year. But they’ve still been representing students to
regents," Chang said.

Chang pointed out that UCSA will pursue a voter registration
drive and are negotiating with regents to fight a possible mid-year
fee hike.

To improve the association and prevent further splits from the
group, York said he would like UCSA to offer students and student
groups a larger role.

"It should involve more students and student groups and let them
have a say in what it does instead of being an elite structure that
says we know best," he added.

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