ASUCR criticizes UCOP assessment fee

Taken by Gordon Huang

During the ASUCR senate meeting on May 30, the legality of the recently implemented UCOP Funding Stream Initiative was questioned by both the senate and public alike. The Initiiative enacts a 1.69 percent assessment fee on all UC campus expenditures in order to fund central operating programs. Approved by the Board of Regents back in July 2011, the passage of the Funding Stream Initiative was enacted to create a greater degree of financial transparency within UCOP. Senators passed a resolution against the tax which declared that student-approved referenda items should be immune from the tax. Also approved during the meeting was a resolution that denounced the defacement of the Israeli flag that occurred on campus in March and the passage of the ASPB Constitution Revision.

“Despite clearly stating our stance against the tax, ASUCR has already been stripped of a large portion of their budget (around $17,000), which will no doubt greatly jeopardize our operations now and in the future,” stated ASUCR President Stephen Lee in an interview with the Highlander. Criticism arose over the method of collecting the tax, which is assessed on the expenditures made through the use of student referendum fees. “The problem is that student referenda have been included in the ‘base revenue’ that is used to calculate what each campus owes to [UCOP]. Yet, student referendum money already had a specific purpose: to go back to the students,” stated Lee. Lee and others argued that the student referendum fees (including the $12.50 quarterly amount paid to ASUCR) were already being redistributed to students in the form of campus programs and activities, therefore making the tax redistribution unnecessary.

In the previous revenue model, revenue generated from each campus would be processed through UCOP and after collecting a portion of that revenue, would then be redistributed to the ten campuses. The passage of the Funding Stream Initiative made the redistribution process dependent on each campus budget, which may fluctuate from year to year. The problem identified by senators, however, is the difficultly in determining which funding sources should be included in each campus budget. Prior to the Funding Stream initiative, student referenda-funded departments were not assessed by UCOP.

“Let it be further resolved that past, present, and further student initiated referenda at all UC campuses be exempted from the UCOP tax and be protected from revenue, tax funds, and expenditure tax,” stated Senator Andrew Whall. Whall had previously passed a resolution during the October 2011 UC Student Association Board of Director’s meeting in which he denounced the tax plan and requested that Yudof exempt student referendums and ASUC/GSA from the assessment fee. Other UC campuses such as UC Merced passed similar resolutions to stand solidarity against the taxation.

ASPB Chairperson Dominic Truong addressed the taxation issue by arguing that a legal case should be taken in order to address the students’ grievances. Truong strongly advocated for decisive action to be taken, in his belief that the issue would be forgotten if left to the newly-appointed senators of the following year. Many other senators felt it to be “unlawful” for the taxation to infringe on student-initiated fees, which had been abruptly imposed on the senate and drew severe cuts from the ASUCR budget. The tax has led the senate towards the possibility of turning to legal consultation to determine a specific legal stance regarding the tax.

The controversial tabling of the Israel Flag Resolution was once again addressed during the ASUCR meeting and was approved by a majority vote. The resolution had prompted controversy following senators’ inability to pass the resolution based on varying interpretations of the phrase “hate crime.” Conflict returned during this week’s senate meeting due to the contested decision to hold the vote without further discussion. Members of the galley spoke out in opposition for the lack of a continued debate and criticized the senate for disregarding dissenting opinions. The redrafting of the resolution ultimately defined the phrase “hate crime” based on the U.S. Congress’ definition, which includes acts of “vandalism.” Senators reasoned that the inclusion of the phrase was suitable for the act committed.

The meeting later saw the passage of the ASPB Constitution Revision and a stipend increase of over 30 percent for the ASPB Board of Directors. As part of an effort to internally restructure the ASPB board, the revisions would include the elimination of programming assistant positions, to be replaced by more unpaid volunteers in programming (VIPs). Because directors’ current $300 monthly stipend would be doubled, ASUCR was required to vote on the stipend increase. Truong claimed the ASPB reserve and donor foundation would fund the revision and it will not use student referendum fees. “The stipend increases are extremely necessary to hold our board members…accountable for the work that they’re doing and to make sure that it’s fair,” stated Truong, who based his assertion on the claim that directors’ current stipends fall below the minimum wage in California based on the amount of hours they work each week.

In recognition of the last ASUCR meeting of the academic year, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Jim Sandoval addressed the senate during the public comment session. He expressed his gratitude for all that the senate had accomplished and asked that graduating seniors revisit their alma mater in the future.

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