Sunday, February 18

Fee hike could benefit ASUCLA


The student association fee increase that will appear on
undergraduate and graduate ballots in a few weeks could mean much
more than an additional dent in student pocketbooks.

The fee increase could be crucial to Associated Students of UCLA
finances because it factored a fee increase in its five-year
forecast. That also means the increase could help the current
ASUCLA supervisory board ““ which has a student majority
““ avoid a change from its current structure by staying out of
fiscal trouble.

“If we took that fee out, we’d be in a difficult
financial position,” said Bob Williams, interim executive
director, in a Jan. 18 article in the Daily Bruin. The current
Board of Directors structure would remain if ASUCLA has secure
financial standing in accordance with the 1996 Advance Agreement
with the university, made after ASUCLA took out a $20 million loan
from the university. If it was in financial trouble, under the 1996
agreement, the association could possibly be taken over by the
university administration or the board could be converted into an
advisory board, said Yousef Tajsar, an undergraduate member of the
board.

SAFE, the referendum named for its relevance to students,
activities, facilities and employees, has been approved by the
undergraduate and graduate student governments and the chancellor.
It is now up to the students to decide to increase their student
association fees.

The referendum proposes that the current annual student fee of
$7.50 be increased to $19.50 for the 2006-2007 school year. The fee
will increase to $31.50 for 2007-2008 and by $12 each year after
that until 2009-2010, when the annual fee would be $55.50.

The fee increase is proposed to go toward new facilities and
facility upgrades, more available funds for student programming and
increases in student wages. The Board of Directors, composed mostly
of undergraduate and graduate students but which also includes
faculty, administration and alumni, has the power to approve
financial budgets, hire the association’s executive director
and allocate space.

ASUCLA is unique in the amount of power the students have. The
association is in charge of providing student services like food
and retail services and meeting room space instead of the
university itself, as it is at many other universities, said Jerry
Mann, student union director.

“(ASUCLA) was founded in a period when the regents felt
their only obligation was education,” Mann said. “If
students wanted services, they’d have to provide it for
themselves.”

In a survey of 32 schools across the country compiled by Mann,
22 student union boards were advisory boards, many of them with a
student majority. Six of the schools, including UCLA, have
supervisory boards in which students have voting power in their
unions’ affairs.

“The challenge with supervisory boards from a university
perspective is that most universities would be frightened to give
students (supervisory) control,” Mann said. As new UC schools
were being built, student services started to be offered directly
by the university instead of student associations, Mann said. At
many other schools, there are advisory boards who give advice and
suggestions to union directors, but ultimately the directors make
the decisions and can choose not to follow the advice of their
advisory boards. The current structure of ASUCLA offers more power
to students, Tajsar said.

“I don’t think anyone is going to reject the
structure at ASUCLA where students have direct power of what goes
on at the association,” he said.

Many relationships between union directors and advisory boards
are based in trust and good faith. At schools like the University
of Oregon, the student union is run by the university and students
are involved in the management of the union only in an advisory
capacity.

Brandon Rhodes, the student vice chair for the advisory board of
directors at Oregon’s student union, said that their director
usually agrees with the advisory board’s suggestions, even
when it came to ending profitable tobacco sales in their store.

“That was something (director Charles Miller) didn’t
agree with and thought was financially risky,” Rhodes said,
adding that the director has only gone against the board twice in
his nine-year tenure. “It was the will of the board that we
end sales of tobacco products and he complied.”

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