Monday, May 27

USAC funds base budget of 48 groups


The number of student groups receiving budgets from the
undergraduate government rose by nearly 50 percent this year due to
an increased pool of money and more familiarity with guidelines
that were revised to be more inclusive.

Forty-eight groups applied successfully for funding from the
Undergraduate Students Association Council, up from 33 this past
year and 25 in 2001-2002. These groups will begin the year with a
total of $171,713.19 in funds collected from student fees,
including some groups’ summer expenses.

Base budgets support basic operating costs for many established
student groups on campus, including staff pay, telephone bills,
office supplies and advertising.

The Budget Review Committee, which was in charge of allocating
the funds, consists of director Zara Bukirin, Finance Committee
Chairwoman Priscilla Chen and councilmembers Linda Lam, Tutram
Nguyen and Justin Schreiber. Groups had to submit a proposal and
present in person their funding priorities.

Groups typically found the application process
straightforward.

“I thought it went very smoothly,” said Mariam
Jukaku, president of the Muslim Student Association, which was one
of the top-funded groups by the council.

She added that the groups’ longtime establishment on
campus and former members’ familiarity with applying helped
her along.

But some councilmembers had concerns in regard to their office
allocations. Among them was General Representative Josh Lawson, who
received the second-lowest amount of funding for a council
office.

“I think that unfortunately the balances were tipped in
favor of certain student groups and offices,” Lawson
said.

When he brought up the same point during the Aug. 5 council
meeting, several members dismissed his objections and expressed
their support for the allocations.

“I feel very confident with the process,” said
council president Anica McKesey in an interview after the
meeting.

One of the programs for which Lawson sought funding was a
seminar on student activism, but he was unsuccessful. He said he
understood the reasons ““ he hadn’t specifically
plotted out how the money would be spent ““ but he hoped
council would support non-traditional forms of student
outreach.

“Whether they fit per se within the criteria, it’s
what students endorsed (by electing me),” Lawson said.

Another council office was left out of the budget process
completely. Campus Events Commissioner Jason Gaulton took
responsibility for his office’s failure to complete the
budget application, attributing the situation to
“miscommunication” and “misappropriation of
time.”

He did not express much concern, though, as the fee referendum
passed this past fall automatically allocates upward of $145,000
for campus events.

“The base budget in the grand scheme of things is
insignificant to our whole budget,” Gaulton said.

Several groups new to the base budget scene found their way to
council’s wallet, as USAC doled out funds to 22 groups that
didn’t apply this past year. Some councilmembers attributed
this to the committee’s advertising of the process.

Bukirin added that she and the rest of the committee met
frequently to plan how they were going to instruct groups on how to
apply.

“We wanted to make sure the new groups understood the
process better,” she said.

The influx of new groups receiving budgets can be attributed to
revised guidelines on base funding, which were altered two years
ago to include all “officially recognized student
groups,” those registered with the Center for Student
Programming and sponsored by the university.

Prior to the revision in the late 1990s, base funding from
council was limited to USAC-sponsored groups ““ commonly known
then as student advocacy groups ““ effectively giving about 20
groups exclusive access to this funding.

In 1996, Scott Southworth of the University of Wisconsin sued
his campus, objecting to his student fees being used by groups with
ideologies that differed from his own. The U.S. Supreme Court heard
the case in 2000 and ruled that mandatory fees collected by student
governments had to be distributed on a “viewpoint
neutral” basis.

USAC was already in compliance with the ruling but updated its
funding guidelines for clarification purposes.

McKesey said council “made every effort to make the
process as inclusive as possible” and that USAC made
significant progress since the days of Southworth.

“The base budget process was reflective of the student
leader evolution (at UCLA),” McKesey said. “We’ve
taken strides in being more inclusive and comprehensive.”

The other group category, independent groups ““ which often
have an explicit political or religious foundation ““ are
ineligible for USAC funding because their ideologies violate
criteria of university sponsorship.

However, all groups registered with the center can apply for
contingency from a council-based funding pool that reviews requests
on a program-by-program basis.

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