There’s a proposal on the table to allocate $74,500.
A member of the table comes forth with a suggestion: Why don’t we round that up to $100,000?
As unbelievable as it sounds, this is an excerpt from a council meeting of our beyond-parody undergraduate student government.
Last week, the Undergraduate Students Association Council discussed how to spend a section of its surplus. The council eventually voted unanimously to allocate $100,000 to the Undocumented Student Program, a section of the Bruin Resource Center that aids undocumented students.
USAC’s motive to help undocumented students is admirable. But the process it went through to achieve that is not. After less than two hours of discussion, General Representative 1 Nicole Corona Diaz proposed the council give half of its surplus pool, approximately $74,500, to USP. Malik Flournoy-Hooker, Cultural Affairs commissioner, followed that up with the suggestion that council allocate $100,000 – a figure seemingly chosen out of thin air.
Moreover, USP is a program run by UCLA, meaning USAC has no oversight over how it operates or uses allocated funds. The council effectively handed over $100,000 of student fees back to the university we all pay tuition to without any control over how it will specifically be used.
The majority of the council lacked the knowledge needed to allocate funding to an organization outside of USAC. Council members need to be prudent and wait at least a week to do the bare-minimum research on how proposed fund allocations would be used. That way, they can ensure the funding they’re allocating can be spent as per their intentions and the intentions of the students who elected them, and that they have at least some oversight over how students’ money is spent – as opposed to handing over a tenth of a million dollars to UCLA.
Some council members did initially point out that they hadn’t done enough research on how a potential allocation to USP might be used. For example, Aaron Boudaie, USAC’s Financial Support commissioner, initially said the council shouldn’t rush to allocate the funding since it didn’t know enough about USP. One hour later, he voted to allocate $100,000.
“Many council members felt this allocation was rushed, but it was ultimately necessary to ensuring more undocumented students could continue to succeed at UCLA. I was happy to vote yes,” Boudaie said in an email statement, skirting the fact that he was the one who had felt the allocation was being rushed.
At best, only Corona Diaz and Divya Sharma, Academic Affairs commissioner, had done their research about how funding toward USP might be used. One of the arguments Sharma presented for the rushed allocation was that the funding was time-sensitive.
“A lot of students from this community can’t … wait for a week,” Sharma said at the meeting. “People get deported everyday.”
In reality, students are going to be waiting a week for the funding allocation. There are multiple steps before USAC can generate a check for USP, such as procuring a signature from the Financial Committee and gaining approval from USAC’s treasury. Associated Students UCLA director Roy Champawat said that the allocation could be completed sometime this week, about a week after the vote.
In addition, there is nearly no time-sensitive purpose for USP to have this funding now. In the case of an arrest of an undocumented student, it is likely that the university would step in to aid a student, as UC Berkeley did following the arrest of Luis Mora, one of its students. The disbursement of a scholarship, one of the suggestions council members brought up, would not be significantly affected by a mere seven-day delay in funding. USP intends to hold a town hall Feb. 15 to decide how to spend the money, meaning the council could have easily waited a week before allocating funds.
Furthermore, the council overlooked the fact that USP is a part of UCLA. The program already receives funding from UCLA to provide services for undocumented students.
Luckily, USP intends to solicit student responses to decide how to spend the funding, but it was by no means obliged to. That at least three council members voted to hand over $100,000 to a program they had little knowledge about is concerning.
USAC will hold a one-hour long town hall Tuesday to decide how to allocate the remaining $33,000 of its surplus. Some council members expressed their intention during last week’s meeting to vote on allocating the remaining funding immediately after the town hall
But that would be folly. Students are likely to bring forth a variety of causes during this town hall that they want the council to fund. Council members need to take time to research how funding these causes would potentially work and how the money would be used. They should then vote on their allocation during the following week’s meeting, after council members have found out whether the funding can be spent the way the students who elected them want it to be spent.
It’s commendable for the council to want to aid undocumented students. But randomly choosing a round number for an allocation is not the way to do that.
If USAC really wants to allocate its money usefully, council members need to start voting with their heads, not just with their bleeding hearts.