Tuesday, May 23

Funding system ensures equal access


New guidelines open USAC funding to all student groups

Because of recent Undergraduate Students Association Council
action, all UCLA students have won a tremendous victory in terms of
their student governance. For the first time in many years, all
student groups will be able to apply for funding from USAC, as it
is now recognizing newly revised funding guidelines that will
include independent groups.

This monumental transformation was made official after talks
between the University of California Office of the President and
UCLA administration.

Previously, only those groups that were “officially
recognized” received funding according to USAC’s
bylaws. Such status required a departmental sponsorship and overtly
stated religious and political groups could not apply.

The Handbook for Officially Recognized Student Organizations
stated that “programs, activities, and functions sponsored by
an Officially Recognized organization may not be political or
religious in nature.” This system that inherently excluded
independent groups was not only morally wrong, but its legality was
questionable as well.

This type of funding system was ruled illegal in two Supreme
Court Cases: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
v. Southworth (March 22, 2000) and Rosenberger v. University of
Virginia (1995).

These two crucial verdicts culminated in a series of funding
policy amendments that echoed throughout the respective UC student
bodies, save one, UCLA. But the court decisions were unambiguous in
their intent ““ to ensure viewpoint neutrality in the funding
allocation process. Accordingly, the Southworth decision argued,
“Viewpoint neutrality is the justification for requiring the
student to pay the fee in the first instance and for ensuring the
integrity of the program’s operation once the funds have been
collected.”

Furthermore, USAC found itself in violation of the University of
California Office of the President’s Guidelines in 1999 and a
new draft that came out just this last academic year.

Last year, General Representative Josh Lawson’s office
spearheaded the movement to change the funding system, supported by
many independent groups. His efforts toward achieving equal funding
access were highly commendable and in part responsible for the
eventual change. Blocked at the council table, Lawson and his staff
worked tirelessly, communicating their concerns to the UCOP and
UCLA administration regarding the unjust system and a possible
compromise.

Now, all student groups can apply for several types of funding
from USAC, including a base budget (submitted once a year, over the
summer) and contingency funds that are available throughout the
entire year. These funds can be used to pay for a student
group’s advertising, office needs, programs and more.

As a member of the Equal Access Coalition and a current voting
member of USAC, I am extremely pleased with the new funding policy.
Achieving this victory has been a prominent goal of the Equal
Access Coalition over the past year. The groups that have
traditionally received funding in the past may see lower budget
levels than before ““ but that is more than acceptable if it
means including groups that have gotten absolutely nothing year
after year.

This is a step in the right direction to ensuring all students
have the ability to access their student government in an equal
manner. Kristina Doan, president of the Bruin Democrats, which is
an independent group, stated, “A base budget is imperative to
the stability and growth of a student group. Groups should be
concerned about achieving their goals and reaching out to more UCLA
students; not worrying about how their club will financially
sustain itself.”

We must work to ensure that the new funding policy does not
revert back to an exclusive form in the future. If your independent
group has not yet applied for a base budget for 2004-2005, I
strongly encourage you to do so before the new deadline, July 22 at
5 p.m.

Go to students.asucla.ucla.edu for more information on applying
for funding.

Alex Gruenberg is the USAC Financial Supports commissioner.
You can E-mail him at [email protected]

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