The undergraduate student government is looking to create a poll to gauge student opinions on how certain funds should be spent after a recent Daily Bruin opinion column proposed the idea.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council came to a general consensus at last week’s council meeting to create the poll to see which programs students want surplus funds ““ unspent money that is carried over from the previous council each year ““ to go toward, said Undergraduate Students Association Council President David Bocarsly.
The idea of students other than members of USAC deciding how to spend the money is unprecedented, said Roy Champawat, director of the UCLA student union. USAC normally allocates surplus funds without asking for student input, he said.
The idea of polling students about how to spend the funds originally came from a Nov. 20 Daily Bruin column by Eitan Arom, Bocarsly said. In the column, Arom called for more student involvement in the USAC funding process.
At last week’s meeting, the council discussed having students vote on how to spend the remaining $7,800 of this year’s discretionary fund, an annual $10,000 given to USAC to spend at its own discretion. The discretionary fund is a rainy-day, emergency fund, Champawat said.
The council also talked about possibly moving some money from the estimated $308,000 remaining in surplus funds into the discretionary fund and then having students vote on how to spend it. In past weeks, USAC officers talked about using the surplus to fund textbook scholarships or already established programming, said Kim Davis, USAC academic affairs commissioner. She added that another option is to return the surplus money to contingency funds ““ money student groups can apply for.
Champawat said he thinks polling students is a way to engage those who normally do not care about student government, while also making the council more responsive to the student body.
“What (the poll) could add is an opportunity for new ideas to surface,” he added.
At last week’s council meeting, however, Cynthia Jasso, chair of the USAC finance committee, cautioned councilmembers about setting a precedent for future councils.
“(The poll) is a great and innovative way to ensure students feel ownership of their funds,” Jasso said in an interview. “(But) at the same time, it’s a little worrisome to set a precedent and next year (possibly) not following it.”
Jonathan Zielke, a fourth-year African American studies student, said he thinks the poll would be a good way to gauge what the student body wants.
“If (students) don’t care, that’s their problem,” Zielke said. “At least you gave them the option (of a poll) ““ it’s just like voting.”
Other students said they feel the poll would also increase USAC’s accountability.
“I feel like it is a win-win situation because it increases the legitimacy and transparency of USAC and students are going to be happier too,” said Eeman Khorramain, a first-year undeclared student.
Davis said the poll would be conducted online, though the council has not finalized what it will look like.
She added that the council has not agreed on which amount of money it will poll the student body about spending.
Davis said she and Taylor Mason, USAC cultural affairs commissioner, plan to propose ideas about the poll at Tuesday’s meeting.
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