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Past restructurings of 2 CPO committees’ budgets leave student leaders in the dark

By Justin Jung

May 24, 2020 6:13 pm

Members of two student-run committees that receive over $2.5 million in student fees only control about half of their budgets. Student leaders have criticized the decisions that placed the other half in the control of university administrators.

The Campus Retention Committee and Student Initiated Outreach Committee are expected to receive $2,710,592 of the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s nearly $9 million student fees budget this year. The two committees, which are housed under the UCLA Community Programs Office, oversee outreach and retention projects for underserved communities at UCLA.

Detailed budget reports for the CRC and SIOC are unavailable to the public, and to members of the committees themselves.

Currently, the committees’ budgets are split between a student-controlled programming budget and a fixed administrative budget overseen by CPO administrators.

[Related link: Public information is lacking for over $2 million used by two campus committees]

CRC and SIOC members used to directly control all of their committees’ budgets. However, the committees now control about half of their budgets because of changes in their budget structure from 2009 to 2017. These changes have been criticized by USAC for violating the committees’ guiding documents, known as statements of understanding.

CRC members are now unable to see all of their committee’s budget reports, including reports for the programming funds that they control, said Zuleika Bravo, a fourth-year political science student who sits on the CRC.

As a result, CRC members must make funding decisions without knowing how much remains in their budget, said Bravo, the 2020-2021 USAC transfer student representative.

CPO administrators also did not give the SIOC a complete budget report, and only verbally informed committee members of the budget breakdown, said Breanna Aguilar, a fourth-year gender studies and Chicana/o studies student who sits on the SIOC.

CPO’s business officer Angela Hernandez has denied multiple requests by CRC members to see complete budget reports, Bravo said.

“(CRC members) brought that to the attention of (CPO administration),” Bravo said. “It’s really just them saying, ‘Don’t worry about it; we’ll let you know if (the budget) is over.’ They never really tell us how much we can spend.”

Hernandez did not respond to requests for comment.

Tracking budgets

The 2018-2019 CRC and SIOC budgets totaled $2,506,767, which includes administrative costs, programming costs and the committees’ leftover balance.

The CRC and the SIOC allocated $1,332,269, or about half of the committees’ 2018-2019 budgets. CPO professional staff controlled $910,405 in its administrative budget last year. The committees had a combined $264,094 leftover balance.

The CRC and SIOC each initially allocated about $340,000 of their respective programming budgets to outreach and retention projects in their 2018-2019 budget plans. Because of additional and unforeseen costs, the SIOC’s initial allocation grew to over $570,000, said Uriah Blackwell, the SIOC chair. The CRC’s initial allocation also grew to over $760,000 by the end of the year.

Since 2009, the CRC and SIOC budget has been restructured at least twice because of financial problems. In both cases, some administrative costs that were previously funded by the university have been shifted to students.

Because of universitywide financial struggles in 2009, UCLA reduced funding to the CRC and SIOC, said Assistant Vice Chancellor of Campus Life Mick Deluca in an April 14 emailed statement to USAC.

In response, both committees reduced their programming allocations to pay for administrative costs previously covered by the university. Staffing costs, which are paid out of both the administrative and programming budgets, accounted for $1,755,174 of the committees’ budgets last year.

The CRC and SIOC budgets were restructured again in 2017, using student fees from the 2016 Social Justice Referendum, which increased student fees by $24.99 per quarter.

The 2017 budget restructuring also saw the committees further increase their allocations to staff salaries and other administrative costs, said Blackwell, a fourth-year African American studies student. That year, the CRC and SIOC increased their allocations to staffing costs by about $150,000.

The restructuring also created the SJR 2-Year Promise Fund, which serves as a reserve fund for potential financial struggles. The fund currently has $1.2 million and grows by $300,000 each year, but it is unclear how it is being funded.

Although university finances have generally recovered since 2009, the restructuring of the committee budgets has not been reversed. The CRC and SIOC funds previously used for outreach and retention projects continue to be used for administrative costs.

Addressing violations

USAC members have criticized the CRC and SIOC for budgetary procedures that they say violate the committees’ statements of understanding, known as SOUs.

The CRC and SIOC are required to submit an annual budget report to USAC by Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 respectively, according to the committees’ SOUs. The two committees have not formally presented their budgets to USAC in at least four years, which is an ongoing SOU violation, said 2019-2020 USAC President Robert Watson.

In November, USAC requested complete budget reports from the CRC and the SIOC for the past three years, which USAC received in March. CRC Chair Stephany Barrera and Blackwell met with USAC members twice in February to address transparency concerns, but the meetings were unproductive, said Blackwell and Watson, a fourth-year political science student.

USAC voted March 10 to withhold about $800,000 of fall quarter student fees from the CRC and SIOC until the committees published its budget reports.

Two days later, UCLA Campus Life, which oversees the CPO, sent three years of budget reports to USAC.

Blackwell said he thinks the CRC and SIOC did not violate their SOUs because UCLA Campus Life sent budget reports to USAC in March.

However, the March reports were not sufficient, said Watson and USAC General Representative 1 Eduardo Velazquez.

“To call that a budget report is inaccurate in the first place,” Watson said. “It’s basically a ledger summary or ledger report. … To give (USAC) a one-page document, that doesn’t go into any degree of detail about any expenditures, is not a budget report.”

Between 2011 and 2014, the CRC and the SIOC used memorandums to split their budgets into an administrative budget and a programming budget, which permanently fixed the administrative budget and removed it from the committee’s direct control, Deluca said.

However, the use of memos to split the budgets may also have violated the committees’ SOUs.

Significant changes to either committees’ structure must be approved by USAC, according to the committees’ SOUs. However, there are no records of USAC approval for the budget splits in the last 10 years of council meeting minutes, Watson said. Since the budget splits significantly changed the committees’ structure without USAC approval, they violated the committees’ SOUs, Velazquez and Watson said.

However, Blackwell denied that the budget split was an SOU violation.

“(The budget split) was basically passed by students to ensure that (SIOC) projects would all have a full-time staff member, which does not change the structure of the SIOC,” Blackwell said.

SIOC members can review and overturn the memos by a two-thirds majority, Blackwell said. However, Bravo and Aguilar said they were unable to receive a copy of the budget split memos despite multiple requests. Committee members need to review and verify the memos before taking a vote to overturn them, Aguilar added.

“If these memos were passed, (the committee members) should be able to revisit those to make knowledgeable decisions and change those decisions,” Aguilar said.

The SIOC’s guiding documents require that all of its funds be controlled by the SIOC itself. The CRC’s guiding documents require that all funds from certain student referendum fees prior to 1999 be controlled by the CRC, but does not state who controls the fees from referendums passed after 1999.

“The (referendum) language is very clear that the fee shall be given to the SIOC and the CRC,” Watson said. “When you take … hundreds of thousands of dollars away from the committees that they’re designed to go to, … it’s certainly a violation of the SOU.”

Moving forward

At the April 28 USAC meeting, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Monroe Gorden said he should be held accountable for SOU violations.

“One of the primary parties that the campus holds responsible for the SOUs is the vice chancellor of Student Affairs,” Gorden said. “(If there are practices) that don’t comport with the SOU, I’ve become primarily the person who has to be held accountable.”

USAC members and Gorden met May 8 to discuss the SOU violations, said Velazquez, a fourth-year Chicana/o studies student. The meeting resulted in several commitments from UCLA Student Affairs, Watson added.

The CRC and SIOC will now present budget reports at the beginning of each year, and a working group will be formed to address transparency concerns, Velazquez said. The working group will be composed of representatives from USAC, the CRC, the SIOC and UCLA Student Affairs.

Associated Students UCLA will also work with these groups, said UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez in an emailed statement.

UCLA Campus Life, which operates under UCLA Student Affairs, created a format for CRC and SIOC budget reports, which will be shared with the committees and USAC, Deluca said. However, it is unclear if the format will include both the programming and administrative budgets.

Watson said he is unsure whether the working group with UCLA Student Affairs will be successful in resolving SOU violations.

“I’m nervous about if that will happen, because it hasn’t happened; (SOU violations) have been happening for years now,” Watson said. “It makes me nervous to see if (the working group) will be effective in accomplishing that goal.”

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Justin Jung | Assistant Enterprise editor
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