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USAC to use surplus money from last year to create endowment fund

By Jillian Beck

Jan. 16, 2013 12:54 a.m.

The undergraduate student government voted Tuesday to create an endowment with $100,000 of the leftover money from last year’s council by a vote of 9-1-2.

At its weekly meeting, the Undergraduate Students Association Council passed USAC President David Bocarsly’s proposal to use $100,000 from about $254,000 remaining in this year’s surplus – funds from the previous council that are carried over to next year – to start an endowment with the UCLA Foundation.

Under the new endowment plan, $150,000 of the surplus will be split up each year among the USAC programming funds – money that USAC offices and student groups can apply for – and the capital contingency fund, which provides money for student groups with offices in Kerckhoff Hall for supplies like computers.

A portion of the remaining funds will be spent on programs the council deems necessary at its own discretion, and the rest would be put into the endowment.

Anees Hasnain, USAC community service commissioner, voted against the proposal. USAC External Vice President Lana Habib El-Farra and Cultural Affairs commissioner Taylor Mason abstained. Mason and Hasnain said they were concerned about the vote on the endowment.

“It seems like a very top-down approach of how we are going to use student fees,” Mason said at the meeting. “We haven’t had any real interaction with students on the ground about how they feel about this.”

Hasnain said she wasn’t necessarily against an endowment in its entirety, but felt the vote happened too soon.

“It shouldn’t have been rushed,” she said after the meeting. “We should have reached out to the student body as a unit to get their input about how we spend student fees.”

The council spent several meetings discussing the proposal and held question and answer sessions for students before ultimately passing it.

Several students who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they did not want USAC to create the endowment during the public comment portion of the council’s meeting because they felt money could be spent in other ways. Others said they wanted students to be more involved in the decision.

“What could we be spending this money on instead?” said Lawrence Turner, a fifth-year African American studies student and chair of the Afrikan Student Union. “I challenge you to think what else you could do with this money.”

Cassarah Chu, USAC student wellness commissioner, said she voted in favor of creating the endowment primarily because she saw it as an investment in the student body.

“But, it doesn’t mean we are done doing things for all the current students, in terms of funding programs and initiatives that are vital to the campus,” she added.

At the meeting, USAC Finance Committee Chair Cynthia Jasso said the council still has the responsibility to engage with the student body as it moves forward with plans to create the endowment.

Going forward, the council will look into changing its bylaws to include guidelines on how to handle the new endowment, Bocarsly said.

Bocarsly added that he will work with UCLA Development in the coming weeks to bring language to establish the endowment for final approval.

Contributing reports by Jennifer Crane, Bruin contributor.

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