Wednesday, February 26

Slate politics dominate USAC meeting

Tuesday’s meeting was a busy one filled with presentations and budgets and roll call votes that reminded everyone this is a split council.
There were presentations about the success of the Earth Day celebrations this year, and another by representatives of the Student Health Advisory Committee on some bylaw changes. They seem to be focusing this year on issues like availability of psychiatric care and privacy, and wait time at the Ashe Center pharmacy.
Students from an education class came and made a presentation asking USAC to support an upcoming public hearing and conference on access to education for undocumented students.
The event will take place on campus on May 19 and will include testimony from undocumented students. There will also be a fundraising banquet. The group, led by second-year political science and Chicana/o studies student Ernesto Rocha, said they are currently looking for endorsements from various organizations and were hoping for USAC’s support.
Financial Supports Commissioner Shaun Doria said he questioned the political neutrality of the event and was concerned with supporting something with a possible political slant, but in the end council approved the resolution.
Council then approved the 2007-2008 budget with the redistribution of $1,000 each from net budgetable funds to the Office Space Allocation Committee, the Finance Committee and the USAC Faculty, Staff and Administrator Recognition Award that Academic Affairs Commissioner Nat Schuster helped push through.
USAC will be distributing a funding information guide to student groups to help them identify and apply for the variety of university funding sources that are available to them.
The meeting became a kind of ping-pong rally as Schuster attempted to request funds to revitalize the student government computing center in Kerckhoff Hall. Members of Students First! were not comfortable granting the funds requested right now, and council approved External Vice President Tina Park’s suggestion to pass an amendment to wait until 10th week to allocate any remaining contingency and programming fees.
Schuster then moved to amend the amendment, which failed. Park made another amendment to create a committee of three councilmembers to allocate whatever funds might remain by 10th week, which passed.
Schuster then made yet another motion to allow an allocation of at least $3,000 now, and then the left over funds in 10th week, but was shot down.
Frustrations rose as each of these votes was done by roll call, making clear the divisions and personal differences among the individual councilmembers, as well as the slate divisions. Schuster then moved to reconsider the last vote in a final stand, but was unsuccessful and the issue was finally put to rest.
Students First! continued to flex its muscle as its affiliated councilmembers shot down the proposal of President Marwa Kaisey, a Bruins United councilmember, to put the addition of three more general representative seats to a student vote in the upcoming election.
They felt this proposal had not been sufficiently discussed and hashed out.
In another roll call vote there was a tie, with six in favor and six opposing, meaning the proposal died there since it needed two-thirds approval. Kaisey said she was disappointed, and Doria asked Students First! members why they were afraid of putting the issue to a student vote.
Though councilmembers have spoken before of the challenges of a split council and slate politics, this was the first meeting where it became clear to me how deeply these fissures run.

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