Had John Wooden lived another four months and ten days, he would have been able to attend “Wooden Day”, a campus-wide celebration that marked his 100th birthday. The event, coordinated by the Undergraduate Student Association Council two years ago, was by any measure a creative and judicious use of student funds.
As the current council prepares to divvy up about $300,000 in surplus funds at tomorrow’s meeting, it would do well to take Wooden Day as a paradigm. Campus-wide programming that reaches the length and breadth of UCLA’s population and brings to bear the entrepreneurship of its students is the exemplar for which USAC should strive.
In years past, surplus dollars have been a tool for innovative programming by student leaders, bankrolling projects such as Strathmore Safe Rides in the amount of $5,000 and Night Powell at $25,000. There is no reason not to continue that legacy.
Yet the only funds slated to come out of surplus as of last week’s USAC meeting consist of a stipend for this year’s JazzReggae Festival. The rest of the money, assuming it goes unspent, will be divided up according to a set formula into allocation funds for student groups.
Though this method of funding supersedes the student groups that rely on USAC’s budget, campus-wide programs are justified by their scope and reach. While money not spent from surplus is eventually redistributed to student groups, USAC should keep in mind that it does not represent student groups but rather the students themselves.
Most money that USAC spends is hardwired for a specific purpose, making it hard to fund unanticipated events like Wooden Day, said student union director Roy Champawat.
At tomorrow’s meeting, then, USAC should take steps to ensure that ample funds are available throughout the year to actualize creative ventures and deal with any challenges that may arise.
The USAC Discretionary Fund has existed for two years expressly for that purpose.
Following the funding conundrum that preceded Wooden Day, the Council under then-President Jasmine Hill wisely voted to allocate $17,000 into a Special Projects fund for unanticipated events or expenditures.
In fact, since Hill’s council two years ago, USAC has approved a $10,000 line item at the beginning of every year for the discretionary fund which can be spent largely without restriction. For example, since its inception this fund has been allocated to supplement the textbook scholarship and this year’s “Your Voice, Your Vote,” concert.
The relative flexibility of the discretionary fund is worth emulating when it comes to surplus. The difference is while the former comes in at just $10,000, surplus is invariably on the order of hundreds of thousands. With that kind of money, USAC can translate the ideas and suggestions of both council members and regular students into real, tangible results.
At last week’s council meeting, however, several officers argued ““ not without good reason Â”“ that surplus funds should go largely untouched in order to supplement allocations to student groups. Community Service Commissioner Anees Hasnain said that USAC should avoid a crisis like last year’s surplus shortfall, which prompted some student group leaders to finance their organizations with out-of-pocket money.
Of course, student organizations do provide a significant venue for actualizing the creativity of students. But it does so only on a small scale and for certain subsets of the campus. Student programs carried out on the campus level face neither of these drawbacks.
At Tuesday’s meeting, USAC would be wise to set aside money for the explicit purpose of fostering novel, innovative programming.
Above all else, the council should prioritize a funding agenda that seeks to maximize the entrepreneurship and enterprise of students both inside and outside of USAC. Operationally, such a goal entails hitching some portion of surplus to the dynamism and creativity of this campus, not to funding formulas or budgetary by-laws.
Any other move by USAC would sell short the creativity and enthusiasm of UCLA students ““ themselves included.