When student voters showed up to the polls in spring and decided which Bruins would have the honor of sitting on the undergraduate student government, they envisioned a council that would represent their needs and try to address the institutional challenges plaguing our campus.
What they didn’t foresee was a council that was going to defer control of its money and power back to the university that students pay fees to.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council is tasked with controlling a multimillion-dollar budget composed primarily of student fees. Students on the council have historically fought for improvements within the Associated Students UCLA, such as the creation of prayer spaces in the union, and most recently, the formation of a transfer-veteran student center.
This year’s council, however, seems intent on using its position of power to pass the buck to UCLA – literally. Whether it be writing checks to campus departments outside of the union or relying on administration-managed wings of the university to do the heavy lifting for its efforts, it’s clear USAC isn’t putting its own power to use.
Instead of handing over blank checks to UCLA, the council should leverage its resources to set up programs under its own control. Relying on the administration to put on events may seem efficient, but a council that defers to university administrators to do its work is no better than a student group with no legislative or executive power. A 14-person council with millions of dollars at its disposal doesn’t – and shouldn’t – fit that bill.
This kind of outsourcing was most recently seen two weeks ago, when USAC unanimously allocated $100,000 of its surplus to the Undocumented Student Program, a section of the Bruin Resource Center that aids undocumented students. Though the council’s motivations were admirable, USP is funded by UCLA, not ASUCLA, and never expressed a need for the funding. While USP has taken it upon itself to poll students for what they think the additional funds should be used for, it could very well have spent the money as it saw fit.
It doesn’t stop there. Earlier this quarter, a USAC commission worked with UCLA Residential Life to turn two dining halls on the Hill into after-hours study spaces to address student concerns over a lack of study spaces on campus. Again, the motivations behind this were sound.
But relying on ResLife’s money has numerous ramifications: Housing staff, many of whom are students, are now tasked with watching over a supposedly USAC-managed service, and the council has few avenues to ensure the spaces are managed in the way it envisions – besides maybe asking UCLA Housing nicely. These are concerns the council wouldn’t have if it took the effort to cultivate a program within ASUCLA, where it has immense control over the money flow.
Of course, creating separate USAC services may seem redundant to those already provided by the university. But USAC was devised as a means to provide services that complement the university’s and are accessible to all students. Buddying up with the university and slapping the USAC brand onto a campus-led program does little to provide students with something the university can’t.
Relying on UCLA for everything from a Thanksgiving On The Hill program to the funding of undocumented student services may sound appealing to busy council members. But it only perpetuates the notion that USAC is simply an encumbering middleman that students should steer clear of.
It’s hard to imagine the council is in love with that kind of idea.