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Judicial Board rules USAC followed UCLA policy in rejecting travel-related funding

The Undergraduate Students Association Council Judicial Board rejected the Bruin Republicans’ petition against USAC at the board’s March 30 hearing.(Daily Bruin file photo)

By Jessica Wong

April 19, 2021 2:57 p.m.

The undergraduate student government followed university policy when it rejected a student group’s request for funding to travel to a conservative conference during the COVID-19 pandemic, a panel of student judges said in an opinion released Wednesday.

Bruin Republicans, a conservative student political organization, sought $2,310 in funding from the Undergraduate Students Association Council in January to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference, a conference featuring conservative activists and politicians held in Florida in February. The council unanimously denied the request at the January USAC meeting, citing concerns that the event would be held in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bruin Republicans filed a petition to the USAC Judicial Board in late February asking the Judicial Board to overturn USAC’s decision. The petition argued that USAC used a policy that did not exist at the time to deny the Bruin Republicans funding.

The Judicial Board held a hearing with USAC and Bruin Republicans representatives on March 10. The board then decided the case in favor of USAC in a closed hearing March 30 and published its full opinion Wednesday.

The ruling, delivered by chief justice Ellen Park and five other associate justices, said that USAC was within its rights to deny funding to Bruin Republicans because the council acted in accordance with UCLA’s policies to limit non-essential travel during the pandemic. The justices added that UCLA policies apply to rejecting funding for the conference because Bruin Republicans applied to use university funds.

However, the board found that USAC violated its own bylaws because the council used rules that did not exist in the Finance Committee Guidelines to reject the Bruin Republicans’ application.

“If The Judicial Board were to direct Council to allocate funds to Bruins Republicans for this event,” the opinion stated, “the Judicial Board would be asking Council to act against University policy regarding travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic, regardless of the Council’s failure to include information regarding said policy within their funding guidelines.”

[Related link: Board to decide if USAC violated guidelines by denying Bruin Republicans travel funds]

The Finance Committee Guidelines, which regulate the approval process for contingency funds given to student organizations, did not explicitly ban in-person travel when USAC denied funds to Bruin Republicans. USAC only amended the Finance Committee Guidelines to restrict funding for travel or in-person events a week after denying Bruin Republicans funds.

Bruin Republicans argued in the petition that USAC was “inconsistent” in funding in-person events because the council approved a $850 allocation in December to fund Bruin Republican’s trip to Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit, another in-person event.

Bruin Republicans did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Naomi Riley, the USAC president and a fourth-year political science student, said USAC denied the Bruin Republicans’ application because the conference posed a health risk.

“It is within the purpose of the council to take necessary and proper action to ensure that the public safety and health of the student body is prioritized during a deadly global pandemic,” Riley said.

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