As deadline approaches, ASUC Auxiliary’s future remains unclear

With a little over two months until an April 30 deadline to submit recommendations for restructuring the ASUC’s administrative branch, a transition team charged with the task is still collecting information, leaving many in the dark about what will happen to the ASUC Auxiliary in the future.

The Transition Planning Team — composed of student leaders and campus officials — was formed after the ASUC Senate voiced concerns over the summer that the shift in the Auxiliary’s reporting structure was moving too quickly and without student input, possibly leading to the ASUC losing autonomy from the administration. The shift moved the Auxiliary from the purview of Administration and Finance to the campus Division of Student Affairs effective July 1.

However, the transition team may recommend a complete restructuring of the Auxiliary — which is chiefly responsible for overseeing the ASUC budget and facilities — after assessing its staffing, financial stability and student needs, according to a document provided by LeNorman Strong, associate vice chancellor of student affairs for Residential and Student Service Programs, and ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman, who are leading the team.

Though the transition team will suggest recommendations, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande will ultimately decide whether to implement them.

In order to re-evaluate the Auxiliary, the transition team is interviewing Auxiliary employees and visiting other campuses to examine their student government business models. According to the transition team’s planning calendar, campus visits and interviews are planned to last until Feb. 24.

Neither Strong nor Freeman was able to predict what the final recommendations will be.

The transition was a significant source of contention over the summer, when the ASUC Senate put forth two strongly worded documents opposing the change.

Following a June 30 letter from the incoming and outgoing senate classes to the campus administration, a senate resolution said the change would create a conflict of interest due to the ASUC Student Advocate’s Office — which advises in matters of student conduct — becoming too closely tied to the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards, which investigates student conduct matters and is overseen by student affairs.

“A perceived conflict of interest arises about representation and advocacy of students,” the resolution states. “This act disallows the ASUC from representing students in the most effective manner, and consequently strips the body of not only its autonomy, but also its duties.”

But ASUC Student Advocate Samar Shah said in an email that the issue of what organizational structure the Auxiliary is tied with has no influence on how his office functions.

“The organizational change has never threatened a conflict of interest and accordingly has had no influence on the operations or strategy of our office,” Shah said in the email.

Additionally, the resolution cited concerns regarding the Commercial Activities Agreement — a March 1998 agreement between the UC Board of Regents and the ASUC that created the Auxiliary. According to the agreement, the Auxiliary is limited to functions only related to the ASUC student and commercial activities.

“A reorganization of such significant magnitude substantially modifies the structures implemented by the … agreement,” the resolution states.

Associate Auxiliary Director Tom Spivey said he did not believe the Auxiliary had changed since the transition but did not want to speculate on the possible changes brought forward by the transition team.

Despite the senators’ concerns that the process was rushed, the reorganization was being discussed as a possibility since at least 2010, stemming from the campus cost-cutting Operational Excellence initiative.

Meeting minutes from an Oct. 6, 2010, senate meeting state that Albert Pisano — then professor and acting dean of the College of Engineering and former faculty head of the program office for the initiative — said the Auxiliary would be considered as part of the student services component of the initiative.

According to a Nov. 3, 2010, report from former ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul in senate minutes, Permaul said campus administrators planned to review “whether there was any synergy between the services currently offered within the Auxiliary and the potential for shared or relocated services in Student Affairs.”

At that time, there was no expectation of any change to the Auxiliary — only the consideration of the possibility, according to Permaul’s report.

Le Grande also said he had worked closely with former ASUC president Noah Stern and former Graduate Assembly president Miguel Daal before the realignment was set to begin.

Still, several senators said they feel they have been inadequately informed throughout the process.

“We have received very few concrete updates, other than the general notion that the Transition Planning Team has done very little thus far,” said CalSERVE Senator Andrew Albright in an email.

A subcommittee of senators led by Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein was formed to assist the transition team, but its meetings were infrequent last semester due to a lack of information from the transition team, according to Goldstein.

“We weren’t meeting,” Goldstein said. “And it seemed like the (transition team) wasn’t meeting.”

Chloe Hunt is the lead student government reporter.