Friday, January 24

Former Finance Committee Chair uses role to aid USAC, student groups with budget problems

Recent graduate Ronald Arruejo flourished in his role as the chair of USAC's Finance Committee.

Kristen Taketa / Daily Bruin

On Ronald Arruejo’s desk in his small office tucked away in Kerckhoff Hall is a worn yellow book filled with rules that U.S. leaders have used to conduct meetings for nearly 150 years.

Arruejo, who graduated this month with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Scandinavian languages and cultures, reads the book in his spare time.

As the outgoing Finance Committee chair of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, the new alumnus analyzes and manages the council’s funds for student group programming.

He cannot vote or make motions, but nevertheless looks for alternative ways to engage in the council’s weekly meetings.

Since his appointment in spring 2011, Arruejo has become the go-to guy for councilmembers ““ and this is where the rulebook comes handy.

“I wanted to learn (parliamentary rules) particularly for my position because it’s the only power I have,” Arruejo said. “I’m able to make sure that whatever’s needed for student organizations gets through, even though I don’t have a vote.”

His term as chair will officially end on Saturday, Arruejo said. As chair of the Finance Committee, he played a key role in helping USAC cope with severe budget problems this past year, USAC councilmembers said.

The council had lower-than-expected funds available for student groups toward the beginning of the year. While councilmembers searched for alternative sources of money, Arruejo reached out to student groups, established close connections with the council, and reduced fund allocations so the council could have enough resources to last the year.

Despite the financial challenges, the council was able to make it by without having to dip into extra funds.

“Ron’s been exceptional,” said David Bocarsly, USAC president. “What he has done to really step up in his role has been remarkable.”

Arruejo said he took the job as Finance Committee chair because he wanted to make the committee more accessible to students. In the past, Finance Committee chairs were not often in their office and sometimes did not answer their emails, Arruejo said.

Having been a fiscal coordinator for Samahang Pilipino and the Vietnamese Student Union, Arruejo said he understands what it feels like for a student group to not receive funding in a timely manner.

“I remember what it was like to not have something signed,” Arruejo said. “I want to make the process a little easier. Just making the red tape less red.”

Arruejo met with student groups at the beginning of the year to explain how USAC finances work. He also held funding workshops for student groups throughout the year, and he had an open-door policy for any questions student groups had.

“He’s always in his office, I think more than anyone else on USAC,” said Joelle Gamble, former external vice president. “Previous Finance Committee chairs did not do that.”

Arruejo also attended multiple council retreats and councilmember staff meetings. His attempts to connect with the council helped handle the tight surplus situation, USAC members said.

Arruejo closed USAC accounts earlier than usual last year so more student groups could use surplus, which led to fewer funds for student programming this year.

Expenses from Bruin Bash, Homecoming and textbook scholarships during this past fall quarter also contributed to the low funds, Arruejo said.

To ease financial problems, Arruejo recommended councilmembers be more prudent when allocating money to student groups.

The council did not always accept Arruejo’s recommendations to reduce allocations, however. In a meeting during fall quarter, Arruejo said the council would have to cut 80 percent of allocations to sustain funding for the rest of the year.

Several members of the council did not accept the recommendation because they felt it would not be enough to fund student group programs, Bocarsly said. The council instead decided to look for alternative solutions, such as the failed Contingency USA/BOD Reference Enactment, or CURE.

This was the only significant instance when council did not agree with Arruejo’s recommendations, Bocarsly said.

“The fact that (Arruejo) is so organized and has been following the bylaws made it easier for USAC to find solutions,” Gamble said. “(The recommendations) weren’t well received, but we understood the situation.”

At its last meeting, the council appointed current Finance Committee Vice Chair Cynthia Jasso as Arruejo’s successor.

Arruejo said he hopes the next chair will continue to make improvements within the Finance Committee.

“Hopefully next year’s council will say, Ronald, you’re so bad,” he said. “I hope they say I did a bad job because that means (the new chair will do) a good job.”

Now that he has graduated, Arruejo will attend Indiana University Bloomington to study public administration. His ideal job, he said, would be to work as a city manager, a state comptroller or an administrator in the Office of Management and Budget.

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