Deflecting blame and pointing fingers seemed to be the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s bread and butter this year.
And even as its newly elected members gear up for the upcoming school year, outgoing USAC members spent their latest meeting lamenting the Cultivating Unity for Bruins Referendum’s failure to pass.
Old habits die hard.
This was not a referendum anyone from the council proposed, but rather one they almost unanimously endorsed.
The CUB referendum, meant to finance the creation of spaces for marginalized communities on campus, including a proposed Black Resource Center, would have added $15 in student fees per undergraduate student per quarter.
Last week, students voted to not pass the referendum.
This doesn’t have to mean the end for the suggested Black Resource Center. Student leaders know this. In fact, newly elected members of USAC took to social media to announce plans for supporting the referendum’s initiatives through their own office’s work.
But talk is cheap. The fact of the matter is that students won’t be taking on the financial burden of creating the center this year. Instead of perpetuating divisive, single-issue rhetoric, incoming council members should note they have the budget to tackle and carry out the project themselves.
According to data collected by The Bruin, referendum and office fees have left thousands of dollars in unused funds. The Green Initiative Fund referendum, passed in 2008, was a $4 per quarter increase in student fees. In 2019, the Green Initiative Fund had close to $130,000 of allocated funds left over.
The USA Elections Board also received an additional $10,000 from USAC allocations to fund voter turnout giveaways, said USA Elections Board Chair Navi Sidhu in an emailed statement. That’s close to a year’s worth of an in-state student’s tuition to motivate students to log onto MyUCLA and fill out a ballot.
Regardless of whether this money was used wisely, it’s clear that the council is swimming in cash that could go toward meaningful projects like a Black Resource Center. What’s even more hypocritical for members of the student government is to berate students for being unable to fund such endorsed initiatives when the council’s own surplus funds could cover the cost.
Initial costs for the Black Resource Center are estimated at about $182,000, and a majority of incoming council members endorsed the referendum. If the CUB referendum had passed, this money would have come out of students’ own wallets – money that could instead come from the council itself.
And while the editorial board did endorse the CUB referendum for its initiative to represent the historically unrepresented, students have made it clear that its failure to pass was because of the fear of additional financial strain, no matter how little or how big, amid a global pandemic – nothing more. It’s unreasonable for USAC officials to claim otherwise out of emotionally charged disappointment for the referendum’s failure.
It’s clear many in USAC found the center’s creation important; they advocated on social media to ensure voter turnout met the minimal threshold for any approved referenda to be implemented, according to a screenshot uploaded to Reddit.
USAC does not lead referenda, despite what efforts may come from offices who openly support and endorse them.
But it does oversee a $9 million budget – one that could fund bigger projects than giveaways strictly aimed at enticing students to vote. Judging from what’s reported in the books, there’s more than enough to start work on the Black Resource Center.
CUB wasn’t USAC’s idea, but members overwhelmingly supported it.
So instead of using official Twitter accounts to retweet negative rhetoric surrounding students who opposed the referendum, the next wave of USAC student leaders could and should mobilize their support into meaningful change.