Tuesday, September 25

Groups protest treatment by USAC


Leaders present demands list; council discusses guidelines

By Scott B. Wong

Daily Bruin Staff

More than 40 student advocacy group leaders and members marched
to the fourth-floor chambers of Kerckhoff Hall Tuesday night and
presented a list of demands for the Undergraduate Students
Association Council.

SAG leaders say they are angry because the council proceeded to
amend USAC bylaws regarding student group funding last month
without prior notification or invitation of SAGs to participate in
debate.

“It’s very offensive to see that these issues are
being discussed (and) addressed in council without our
input,” Ghaith Mahmood, president of the Muslim Student
Association, said to the council.

But Lyle Timmerman, USAC administrative representative, said
there has not been any attempt to exclude USAC-sponsored
groups.

“I think the electorate also has a responsibility to stay
abreast on what’s going on,” Timmerman said at the
meeting. “All of us must share the responsibility in this
process.”

According to USAC bylaws, SAGs are defined as student groups
which work for the empowerment of their community, have
historically been disadvantaged and discriminated against, and are
underrepresented.

Essential to the goals and functions of USAC, SAGs are eligible
to receive campus resources such as base budgets and office
space.

SAG leaders put forth a list of four demands to the council,
including a retraction of what they called false statements made by
council members in the Daily Bruin concerning inaccurate
interpretations of USAC funding processes.

They also called for an apology from USAC members whose
statements defamed campus organizations, although the SAG
presentation did not mention any names.

They also demanded SAG inclusion in negotiations of funding,
sponsorship and SAG status, and ending USAC
“bully-tactics,” like threatening to end SAG status,
freezing SAG accounts and taking away Kerckhoff office space.

“Stop bullying us around and having no intention of
fulfilling these outlandish threats,” Mahmood said.

USAC Facilities Commissioner Steve Davey, who has come under
fire from Praxis groups after issuing remarks that USAC funding
practices are biased, said the demands were ineffective.

“Making ambiguous demands doesn’t accomplish
anything,” he said. “If a constituent of mine disagrees
with me, then I welcome constructive criticism.

“I think SAG members should take up their concerns with
individual members, not the entire council,” he
continued.

USAC has been drudging through the issue of fair funding to
student groups in light of a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge
John C. Shabez in December that the University of Wisconsin’s
compulsory student fee violated the First Amendment.

The case was remanded to a lower district court, and the
university was provided 60 days to re-examine fund allocation
practices.

Student leaders say there was no urgency to act on these funding
issues, since Shabez has not reached a decision, nor has there been
any interpretative statement by the University of California on
student group funding.

UC legal counsel does not anticipate a change in policy for
funding student groups with mandatory fees, according to Mary
Spletter, spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President.

“There is no change planned with our policy, but it is
under review, especially regarding the tightening of our
understanding of what constitutes student fees,” she
said.

Student leaders alleged USAC was irresponsible in “jumping
the gun” on discussing the Wisconsin cases before they have
been interpreted by UCOP.

“You’re not lawyers, you can’t make these
kinds of decisions, you can’t make these kinds of
claims,” Mahmood said.

Midway through discussions between USAC and SAG leaders,
President Elizabeth Houston recommended the conversation be
preserved for the ad hoc meeting which was to immediately follow
the general meeting. The meeting was to discuss guidelines on USAC
sponsorship.

But for the second consecutive week, council members staged a
walk-out from the ad hoc meeting.

Houston said council members were driven by SAG lobbying efforts
and not concerned with the welfare of the student body as a
whole.

Despite the protest by other USAC members, Houston, Timmerman,
Ryan Bulatao, a general representative, and Marselle Washington,
cultural affairs commissioner, convened to discuss sponsorship
guidelines.

Although Timmerman set a Feb. 27 deadline for council to amend
its bylaws, many members opted not to stay for the ad hoc meeting
because they felt SAG groups were not adequately notified.

According to Houston, the council did a great disservice to the
student body by not fulfilling their responsibility to address this
issue.

“The apparent boycott of these ad hoc committee meetings
is unprofessional and, at best, irresponsible,” Houston
said.

SAG leaders said council overlooked them, even when they were
present at the meeting.

“Even at this point when you have all the SAG groups
before the committee, there are no questions being addressed to us
about how we feel about the issue, and I think that’s
completely disrespectful to the organizations on this
campus,” said Karren Lane, chairwoman of the African Student
Union.

Roseanne Gutierrez, academic affairs commissioner, extended her
hand to SAG members.

“If and when we get any type of guidelines from UCOP, I
assure you we will invite you,” Gutierrez said.

While student groups’ concerns are important, UC policy
will ultimately determine USAC funding guidelines, Houston
said.

The USAC president set a one-month deadline for council to
respond to SAG demands, despite objections from student leaders and
council members that it was too long a time.

“That it would take a month to address these student
concerns is the most disappointing factor,” said Kei Nagao,
chairwoman of the Asian Pacific Coalition.

Berky Nelson, director of the Center for Student Programming
blamed external forces, like recent Supreme Court decisions and the
end of affirmative action, for raising sensitivity levels on campus
among students. He said at the meeting neither USAC nor SAGs were
at fault for recent tension.

“It should not be the situation of “˜you vs.
them,’ particularly since most of these things are being
decided somewhere off campus by people who don’t have any
concept about the reality that is going on in this campus,”
he said.

“You are not the enemies here,” Nelson told SAG
members. “You’re really not.”

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