The undergraduate student government withdrew Monday from the United States Student Association, a national student-led organization that aims to organize students to address issues at local, state and federal levels.
In the 7-2-1 vote, six Bruins United and one independent councilmember voted to withdraw from USSA. Two LET’S ACT! councilmembers voted against withdrawing and an independent councilmember abstained from voting.
Zach Helder, external vice president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, brought the topic of withdrawing from USSA to the council table for discussion.
“It is financially irresponsible and intellectually lazy to continue the membership of an organization that is ineffective,” Helder said in the meeting.
Several councilmembers expressed concerns over the lack of transparency surrounding the decision to withdraw membership.
Cultural Affairs Commissioner Amy Shao said she voted against the proposal because student organizations such as the Afrikan Student Union and Samahang Pilipino, whose members are active participants in USSA conferences, were not consulted.
Helder also did not send a UCLA delegation to the USSA National Student Congress held in Las Vegas mid-August.
Shao added she thinks these conferences allow student groups to interact with student leaders who want to fight for issues that affect their communities.
Helder said he made a decision that he thinks will make the best use of student fees. He added USAC bylaws give him the authority to make the decision to withdraw from USSA by himself, but he wanted to consult the council.
“We all know that USSA is a sinking ship,” Helder said. “It’s going down.”
Academic Affairs Commissioner Trent Kajikawa, who voted in favor of withdrawing, said he supports Helder’s proposal to create an independent lobby corps in an attempt to lobby more effectively on a federal level.
He added he thinks the External Vice President office’s new partnership with the UCLA Government and Community Relations office will also enable effective lobbying.
USSA Vice President Alexandra Flores-Quilty said in an email statement she is disappointed UCLA students will not be represented at the national level, given the long history of UCLA leading the student movement within USSA.
Helder added the External Vice President’s office will have a budget of roughly $85,000 to establish advocacy at the national level, which includes student fees that would have otherwise been used for USSA membership and conferences.
Helder said he will be giving a special presentation during the Sept. 22 council meeting, where he will discuss his exact plans for the federal lobby corps.
Compiled by Shreya Maskara, Bruin senior staff.