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Public information is lacking for over $2 million used by two campus committees

Committees that receive funding from USAC student fees, including the Student Initiated Outreach Committee and the Campus Retention Committee, do not have online public records of allocations made, leaving nearly $2 million publicly unaccounted for. (Niveda Tennety/Assistant Photo editor)

By Samantha Fredberg

Jan. 14, 2020 12:03 a.m.

There is no online public record of over $2 million in student fees used by two student organizations, prompting concern from student leaders.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council’s funds come from about $9 million in student fees, which is divided between programs and committees housed under USAC. Of USAC’s budget, $2,710,592 goes to the Campus Retention Committee and the Student Initiated Outreach Committee alone.

However, the SIOC and CRC do not publish their funding allocations or meeting minutes on any online public forum, including their official websites. These committees, which aim to assist students from underserved communities or with cultural differences through outreach efforts, are composed of students from USAC and cultural organizations housed under the Community Programs Office.

USAC President Robert Watson said USAC sent letters to the CRC and SIOC in November and asked them to attend USAC meetings held Jan. 7 and 14 and present their budgets. However, both groups said they were unable to attend the meeting. Three months after the initial letter, and there is still no public information on the two committee’s budgets.

“It’s something that USAC has been working on for a long time and we still haven’t received any information,” Watson said.

While there is no requirement to post the budgets publically, other organizations that are funded by student fees, such as USAC and the Graduate Students Association, publish theirs often. USAC’s latest budget report was posted in December on the council’s website. The GSA, funded by graduate student fees, posts its financial reports weekly on the GSA website.

Watson said the lack of transparency to students is upsetting, considering the groups were initiated by students with the intention of supporting other students.

“No students know where this money is,” Watson said. “There’s no transparency to students, but (student committee members) were the ones that voted over this money, created these committees and who said that they wanted to lead these committees. It is offensive.”

The CPO serves as an umbrella organization for groups such as the CRC and SIOC but does not directly manage them. General Representative 1 Eduardo Velazquez said in an interview in July that the SIOC receives funding from USAC, but the money is transferred to the CPO, which serves as an administrative body. Velazquez is a former CRC member but had knowledge of the SIOC budget.

The CPO supports the SIOC by administering funds, booking rooms and supplying templates for use, which are administrative tasks, Velazquez said. He added that the CPO does not take away the student-initiated aspect of the SIOC.

The director of the CPO, Antonio Sandoval, as well as others listed as student leaders on the organizations’ websites, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

GSA president Zak Fisher said although GSA does not frequently interact with the SIOC or CRC, he is also upset by the lack of public allocations from the committees.

“(Sandoval is) an administrator at a public school run by the government, and not as a student, but as members of the public, we have a right to that information,” Fisher said.

The policies and procedures that the CPO operates under are from 2009 and have not been updated, Velazquez said.

“It’s been over 10 years,” he said. “Now I believe they’re in the process of being updated as we speak actually, so I think hopefully something is coming up soon.”

The most recent SIOC bylaws are from 2012 and are not available to the public online, but were sent to the Daily Bruin from USAC. They do not include any rules on posting meeting minutes or budget reports. Since no more recent bylaws have been made public online, it is unknown whether or not SIOC still follows the 2012 bylaws.

“Every student has a right to know where their money is going and how it’s being allocated,” Velazquez said.

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Samantha Fredberg
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