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USAC to withhold $800K from two committees until budget breakdowns are revealed

The Undergraduate Students Association Council voted to release checks to two outreach committees only after they release three years of comprehensive budgetary information. (Niveda Tennety/Assistant Photo editor)

By Samantha Fredberg

March 16, 2020 10:57 p.m.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council is withholding checks from two student entities until they are able to present comprehensive budget reports from the past three years.

Of USAC’s nearly $9 million in annual student fees, $2,710,592 go to the Campus Retention Committee and the Student Initiated Outreach Committee, which serve students from underserved communities through outreach efforts. USAC requested detailed budget reports from these committees in November, but neither submitted any records to the council in the following months.

USAC voted Tuesday – five months after its initial request – to withhold future checks for the 2020-2021 academic year amounting to around $800,000, said Roy Champawat, director of the Student Union. He added that the checks for the 2019-2020 academic year were already distributed, so the temporary absence of future checks will not affect any current projects.

CRC and SIOC sent USAC budget reports Thursday, but they were too vague, said USAC General Representative 1 Eduardo Velazquez, who previously served on CRC.

“It was not a complete breakdown,” Velazquez said. “What they gave us was broken down by line items without going into the specifics.”

He added that USAC will continue to withhold checks until it receives a more satisfactory report.

“We truly believe that students should be able to know where their student fees are going, which is why we made this decision,” said USAC Internal Vice President Kimberly Bonifacio, who was previously a member of Samahang Pilipino Education and Retention, one of CRC’s six projects. “We will only send these checks to the committees if we can see clearly what those budget reports look like and what they plan to do with the money.”

As past student members of CRC, both Velazquez and Bonifacio said that they were not given access to budgetary information.

“We would not see the budget in full,” Bonifacio said. “We would be given a partial budget to allocate to our retention projects. We also could not see how much money was in the discretionary funds.”

After funds are allocated from USAC to CRC and SIOC, they are sent to an outside accounting group. Once the funds actually make it to CRC and SIOC, they are managed by the administration in the Community Programs Office, which houses committees such as CRC and SIOC, Champawat said.

Velazquez said that students in CPO are not at fault for the absence of records.

“Certain students have definitely yelled at council for asking for the budget reports because they feel as if council is questioning the department that helps out students of color,” Velazquez said. “I’m also a student of color, and my community is being helped by these access and retention projects. But then, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to be critical of what the department is doing.”

Antonio Sandoval, CPO director, did not respond to a request for a comment.

Mother Organizations housed within CPO, including the Afrikan Student Union, MEChA de UCLA and more, sent a letter in early March to the CPO administration in support of the requests made by USAC.

Velazquez said serving on USAC has changed his perspective on CRC’s finances. USAC members are given access to the council’s comprehensive budget, Velazquez said. He added that if they have questions on allocations, they can communicate directly with the parties and remain transparent.

“But then, sitting on the CRC, that was never fully present to us. I think that is definitely a cause for concern,” he said.

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