The original version of this article contained information that was unclear and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.
Next week, undergraduate students will vote on a $9.93 quarterly fee increase that would raise several hundred thousand dollars for six campus organizations, five student group funds and one student government office.
The fee increase – known as the Bruin Diversity Initiative – was initially blocked from the Undergraduate Students Association Council elections ballot by the council, but earned a spot on the ballot after its student organizers garnered more than 5,000 petition signatures to override the initial unfavorable vote.
Most of the revenue from the proposed fee increase would go to organizations that provide retention, access, community service and cultural programs. Multiple groups would use the money to support about a couple hundred student jobs and address growing costs such as the increasing price of gas for transportation.
Some of these groups, like the Community Programs Office, have seen declining state and university funds for their budgets and have consequently had to reduce the services or student jobs they provide, group leaders said.
Student leaders said other programs, like the Campus Retention Committee, that are mentioned in the initiative don’t have budget troubles. But, the groups’ leaders said they want more funds to expand their programs since they currently have to turn people away from their services, because of an increasing student population on campus.
Belem Lamas, a spokesperson for the initiative, said although several students think the initiative would only benefit a few groups, the initiative’s items represent programs that are open to all students on campus.
“It really helps all students – not just one set of students, not one department,” said Lamas, a fourth-year political science and Chicana/o studies student. “These line items were chosen to ensure (the initiative) was reaching as much of the community as possible.”
Items were placed on the Bruin Diversity Initiative for a variety of reasons, some without the knowledge of the parties involved with them.
For instance, the USAC contingency programming fund, which provides money to registered student groups, was placed on the initiative without the knowledge of Cynthia Jasso, the USAC Finance Committee chair who manages the fund. Initiative organizers added the fund after USAC President David Bocarsly suggested it.
Bocarsly later voted against the measure. No student from the initiative has yet approached Jasso about the contingency fund, a lack of contact she said concerns her.
Initiative leaders also included a provision for a new fund to be managed by the USAC Academic Affairs Commission. Leaders notified Kim Davis, the current academic affairs commissioner, the day before USAC voted on the measure, Davis said.
Some of the services provided by programs on the initiative are used by thousands of students, like the Campus Retention Committee’s test bank or the Community Programs Office’s free printing services, said Antonio Sandoval, Community Programs Office director.
Other programs on the initiative are open to any student on campus, but serve a few hundred students or less, such as the free fitness program FITTED, which served about 300 students this year, said Sergio Guevara, a fourth-year physiological sciences student and FITTED student project director.
The Bruin Diversity Initiative is similar to the PLEDGE $12.75 quarterly fee increase that students approved in 2009, though Lamas said the Bruin Diversity Initiative said it is not modeled after PLEDGE.
PLEDGE also increased funding for the Associated Students UCLA Communications Board, which publishes the Daily Bruin.
The Student Initiated Access Committee, Campus Retention Committee, Community Programs Office and Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president’s office all received revenue from PLEDGE four years ago and are now some of the beneficiaries listed in the Bruin Diversity Initiative.
Kenneth Ramos, Campus Retention Committee chair, said he wasn’t sure a fee increase this year would prevent other increases in the future for organizations like the retention committee, which relies on student fees in addition to external sources such as grants.
“If the university doesn’t do anything to help give these students resources … then the burden is going on the students,” said Ramos, a fifth-year American Indian studies student. “At this point, I see (a fee increase) as the only solution to support these services.”
If passed, the Bruin Diversity Initiative would also create two new programming funds specifically for Greek life and cultural and spiritual activities.
Initiative organizers spoke to a few groups like the Muslim Students Association and the Latino Greek Council, which do not receive all the money they request from existing programming funds and have fundraisers to make up the difference, Lamas said.
However, Jasso said she is concerned that the initiative’s plans to create new student group funds might be difficult to carry out, since funds require an established infrastructure of rules and managers to distribute the funds fairly.
Other USAC councilmembers shared Jasso’s concerns when they rejected the Bruin Diversity Initiative last month at a weekly board meeting.
Some USAC members also said they thought some of the measure’s items overlapped with already existing resources or offices that are addressing the same needs.
“If there are fees being proposed for resources that already exist, then we should try to publicize those first before making students pay more,” said Anees Hasnain, USAC community service commissioner.
Slates that are running candidates in this year’s undergraduate student government election differ in their stances regarding the Bruin Diversity Initiative.
LET’S ACT!, a new slate, supports the initiative.
“This Initiative will support the efforts of community service, college preparation, student retention and on-campus programs that strengthen the student body’s academic, community, cultural, physical and spiritual diversity,” LET’S ACT! members said in a statement on the slate’s website.
Bruins United, on the other hand, chose not to endorse the measure.
“While Bruins United values the programs identified by the Bruin Diversity Initiative, we do not endorse a 20 percent increase in student fees,” according to an emailed Bruins United statement.
If passed, the Bruin Diversity Initiative would enact an approximately 20 percent increase of referendum-initiated fees that go to groups under USAC or the Community Programs Office.
Bruin Alliance remains neutral on the initiative.
“Our official stance on … any referendum that comes up is that we want the student body to make its own judgment,” said David Mangold, Bruin Alliance co-chair and fourth-year business economics student.
Voting begins on MyUCLA on Monday at noon.
Clarification: Initiative leaders also included a provision for a new fund to be managed by the USAC Academic Affairs Commission, and notified Kim Davis, the current academic affairs commissioner, the day before USAC voted on the measure. Also, if passed, the Bruin Diversity Initiative would enact an approximately 20 percent increase of referendum-initiated fees that go to groups under USAC or the Community Programs Office.