At about this time every year, the Undergraduate Students Association Council gets an early Christmas gift.
And like the secret wish of many kids, the gift is cash ““ several hundred thousand dollars in unspent funds from the previous year.
The projected grand total for this year’s haul is about $308,000, which is enough money for the council to stuff each undergraduate’s stocking with a $10 gift.
But instead of guessing what students might want for the holidays, the council should just ask.
At last week’s USAC meeting, President David Bocarsly said that in the coming weeks, any councilmember can propose ways to spend the surplus.
As dedicated and inventive as the council may be, however, their collective brainpower is dwarfed by the campus at large ““ 27,941 undergraduate students handpicked for their aptitude and intelligence.
What I’m suggesting, simply, is that Bocarsly and the council declare open season on the $308,000 burning a hole in USAC’s pocket. With nothing more than a basic webpage and feedback box, USAC can create a forum that allows any student with a clever idea and Internet access to have his or her voice heard.
Want the money to go toward a high-profile Bruin Bash lineup next year? Let the council know about it.
If USAC truly wants to take a vote of confidence in the student body, they could select four or five feasible ideas submitted by students and poll the campus to determine the winner.
Such a display of student involvement would be precisely the type of outreach that could make the campus feel connected to its government, which can all too often seem detached from the student body.
Any avenue of communication between the council and the campus at large is a boon to our student democracy, and the council would do well to encourage this kind of interchange.
The advantages of putting the funds ““ or some portion of them ““ at the behest of UCLA’s undergraduate population are twofold.
First, it opens the floodgates to the immense ingenuity of this campus. It is certainly untrue that the only people with shrewd ideas about how student fees should be spent are those sitting in the USAC offices in Kerckhoff Hall.
Second, whatever program the money would eventually fund would have the explicit endorsement of the student body. It would not be the council’s program, but the students’ program, a subtle but important difference.
Financial Support Commissioner Sahil Seth said the money will likely go toward a council-wide program that USAC can put its name behind.
But of course, it is imperative that the council understands these funds do not belong to USAC.
The councilmembers are elected to spend revenue from student fees, but those fees belong to the students who pay them in the first place.
During this holiday season, showing one another how thankful we are is of utmost importance. USAC now has the opportunity to give students a big “thank you” for the Undergraduate Student Association Fee that each of us pay every quarter.
Given that it is our money, it seems inconsiderate not to periodically ask how we would like it spent. Other than attending USAC meetings, there are very few ways for students to air their opinions before the council.
In fact, much of the funding that goes through USAC is spent by the student body anyway, in the form of allocations to student groups.
Opening surplus funds up to suggestions from the student body reflects the same concept on a larger scale.
A fiscal pulse-taking of UCLA’s campus is not only wise but also, it would seem, in the very nature of student democracy.
So, UCLA, what do you want for the holidays?