Sunday, September 23

UCLA, public schools will refund mandatory fees


UCLA, public schools will refund mandatory fees

Bruins objecting to certain funding can be reimbursed

By Gil Hopenstand

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Students who object to certain uses of their mandatory student
government fees can now get their money back ­ an average of
about 20 cents.

Student government officials are now completing the process for
students to request refunds on parts or all of their mandatory
quarterly fees. Refunds will range from two cents to $5. UCLA and
other California public schools will return money in accordance
with the February, 1993 state supreme court ruling of Smith v. UC
Regents. The case began when four students objected to certain uses
of mandatory fees by student groups on campus. Now student groups
must refrain from religious, ideological or political lobbying or
else provide reimbursements for students who pose reasonable
objections.

Groups will be affected less at UCLA than groups at other
universities because university money has not funded political,
ideological or religious groups for about 20 years, said Jerry
Mann, student government accounting manager.

Even with this policy, UCLA students may still question certain
groups’ actions as ideological in nature. It is easier for UCLA to
refund money than debate the issue in court, Mann said.

The refund process begins with students filing a form detailing
what student group actions they object to and the reason behind the
objection. Beginning Oct. 17, complaint forms will be available
from many student government offices. Students may challenge the
use of fees for Spring 1994 quarter, or any time in the past four
years.

UCLA student government officials will review the requests and
forward the money in question to a student’s Bruin Gold card within
ten days. An elaborate appeal process has been established to
challenge a refund rejection.

Refunds will be based on what part of a group’s funds came from
mandatory fees, as opposed to outside sources such as fund-raising.
Quarterly refunds vary depending on the specific group
protested.

No one is sure how many students will request reimbursement
because of the few cents that will actually be returned.

"I guess if I really object to something I will ask for my money
back. Otherwise I won’t really fight for a few cents," said Amy
Malone, second-year English student.

Other students agreed that the hassle of appealing outweighs the
reward.

"I guess it’s good that you can get your money back, but I won’t
challenge them for such a small amount," said Mike Chan, third-year
history student.

Mann said the refund process was made as simple as possible,
stressing that moneys will not come from the challenged groups’
budgets, but rather from the general accounts of student
governments.

"Government should shoulder the burden of refunds," he said.
"This way, refunds can’t be used as a political tool to harm a
particular group’s budget."

Every undergraduate pays their student government $18 quarterly,
which provides the council’s $1.2 million annual budget. From that
amount, the student council has only set aside $500 as anticipated
refunds, less than half a percent of that sum.

Refunding the money will not make that big of a dent in the
government’s budget, said York Chang, the group’s external vice
president.

"The refund mechanism doesn’t really affect USAC but it allows
students to express their views on programming on this campus. What
hurts us as students in general is that the decision that prompted
the mechanism infringes on students’ rights to free speech and
representation on real issues," he said.

Graduates pay $5.50 per quarter in mandatory fees, giving their
officers an annual budget of $155,000. From that, only $200 has set
aside to refund students.

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