Student groups and the ASUC itself will deteriorate without more funding. While the ASUC does sometimes misuse its money and fall short on revenue generation, the majority of its deficit is simply not the fault of its elected officials. The ASUC needs a referendum to increase the revenue it brings in from student fees. With greater funding comes greater responsibility, which means more checks would have to be implemented to promote improved financial accountability in the ASUC.
At last week’s senate meeting, ASUC Attorney General Hinh Tran pointed to the dangers of depleting the Carry Forward Fund — the senate’s cash reserves — and the likely deficit of more than $50,000 that would accumulate by the end of the year. With around $400,000 left in the fund and close to no revenue in sight due to Lower Sproul renovations, his classification of the ASUC’s situation as dire is accurate. Within years, the ASUC could see its Carry Forward funds completely evaporate.
Although the ASUC already receives an estimated $1.6 million in annual student fees, that money does not go far enough with 36,000 students. Full-time advisers, costly renovations and monetary allocations for hundreds of student groups on campus depend on the same source. Revenue coming from this modest student fee does not adequately take into account the needs of students and the effects of inflation.
With such a disproportionately small amount of money for the number of active student groups on campus, students end up paying out of pocket to fund substantial events that deserve more ASUC support. From a fiscal perspective, honoraria — payments for professional services — have been slashed this year due to financial problems, and for good reason. Honoraria are only irresponsible expenses when we have as little money as we do. Paying notable individuals to speak on our campus would enhance knowledge and understanding of different communities. If they just had the means, groups could afford to empower their members with words from eloquent role models.
Using funds allocated to last year’s executive vice president office, ASUC Executive Vice President Justin Sayarath recently purchased a machine worth thousands of dollars that would print posters at a cheaper rate. In terms of convenience, student groups will now be able to print posters on campus. Monetarily, each copy will be significantly cheaper compared to those purchased from neighborhood copy stores that take immense profit margins. Student groups can market more effectively and use their savings to do other things. But though the machine may reduce the ASUC’s and student groups’ long-term costs, in our current financial state, this purchase may not have been the best decision.
Having more funds would allow relevant items like this to be purchased without remorse. Items similar to poster machines would aid student groups and build a more sustainable economic long-term model for our campus groups. With more funding, theater troupes could use the props they deserve, while dance groups could hold larger events that would blow the minds of spectators from Cal and beyond.
All governments make mistakes, and it’s impressive that our student government has enough power to even make its own errors. Some university student governments’ most important role involves printing gameday T-shirts. This proposed referendum would have to be coupled with safeguards to ASUC spending in order to prevent financial misgivings. ASUC senators should create more bylaws aimed at improving the senate’s transitional memory before asking students for this fee.
At the beginning of most school years, the senate over-allocates funds and at times makes rash and costly decisions. Last year’s senate class erred by allowing a deficit to build early in the semester. This mistake will repeat year after year if left unchecked. Students should only give more money to an ASUC that fills this void of institutional forgetfulness.
An oversight committee would also be vital to ensure that the money is spent according to the wishes of students. It’s easy for elected officials to lose sight of student interests on the ground. This oversight committee would help keep elected officials focused on allocating student fees based on student needs.
Our financial dilemma is not solely the fault of our ASUC senators. It is also the result of a shortage in the ASUC bank account. Senators do not make a dime. Our legislative branch takes progress, change and personal growth as rewards for their efforts. Executives do receive a stipend, but those who support minimum wage laws would cringe at the mere cents they make an hour. This referendum would not be a ploy to give free yachts and private Akon concerts to our elected officials. It would be for the student groups that flier on Sproul and make our Cal community vibrant. It would be used for the future of Cal. It would be for you.