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Editorial: Millions of dollars unaccounted for in USAC committees funded by students

By Daily Bruin Staff

Jan. 20, 2020 9:55 p.m.

Over $2.7 million in student fees goes toward the Campus Retention Committee and the Student Initiated Outreach Committee.

Rounding down, that could be 4 million Diddy Riese cookies, 20 endowed academic scholarships or full tuition for 151 in-state students at UCLA.

Alternatively, it could disappear from public record.

Despite calls from undergraduate and graduate student leaders for publication of these expenditures, the two committees refuse to disclose how they’ve spent their appropriation of student fees.

The CRC and SIOC, committees under the Community Programs Office, pursue retention and outreach initiatives for students from underserved communities. The former provides programs such as peer counseling and mentorship, the CPO food closet and the test bank. The SIOC administers alternative efforts to traditional UCLA outreach programs, providing a larger breadth of projects like American Indian Recruitment for students to participate in.

Unfortunately, honesty can’t be replaced with good intentions.

Both the CRC and SIOC both have commendable missions, but that doesn’t discount them from being transparent about their usage of student fees. Together, the CRC and SIOC’s funds make up nearly one third of the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s total $9 million budget comprised of student fees. As such, students deserve to know how their money is being used – especially if they’re required to fork up $262 per year to fund it.

And as of now, even those distributing the money don’t know where it’s going.

As the organization providing this funding to CRC and SIOC, USAC should be the first to know how its appropriations are being used. According to Section C, Subclause 15 of the USAC code, organizations receiving USAC funding must at least provide a report to the council on how it’s managing and using funds.

Transparency is imperative for any well-functioning government, as it provides accountability for the very institutions established to serve its community.

And this isn’t just a case of student mismanagement.

The CPO is run by a school administrator, Antonio Sandoval, who has repeatedly stayed silent after information requests from Daily Bruin. So not only are students paying fees only to watch them disappear, UCLA is doling out money to the person letting it happen.

The CRC and SIOC certainly have their hearts in the right place. But without any type of public accountability, mismanagement could easily be lurking behind hidden numbers.

Perhaps what is most frustrating are the historical increases to student fees for these particular subcommittees. Since 1969, student voters have approved subtle expansions of student fees paid through tuition for the CRC, only for that money to disappear into thin air.

Surely, these committees are doing good work. Funding increases must be voted on by the student body, and for 50 years, students have recognized, if not applauded, CRC and SIOC’s good faith efforts. Most recently, the Social Justice Referendum passed in 2016 to fund the CRC and SIOC. But without transparency, it’s unlikely this unequivocal support will continue in the future – nor should it.

Students want to support on-campus initiatives that benefit fellow Bruins, but they also want to know that their money is being put to good use.

And mismanagement shouldn’t prevent them from having both.

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