So, what is the deal with the missing 2,000,000 dollars everyone is asking about? For several years there has been confusion within student-led organizations on campus regarding how the SIOC and its sister committee CRC’s budget is being spent. To give background, the Community Programs Office (CPO) is responsible for overseeing a considerable amount of UCLA affairs, including 12 student-initiated programs: 5 retention services (SPEAR, RAIN, MEChA, Calmecac, SEACLEAR, ASP), 7 access projects (SPACE, HOPE, SHAPE, MAPS, PIER, AIR, MEChA XINATCHLI) which are overseen by the CRC and the SIOC. Nearly ⅓ of USAC’s budget is set aside for retention services on campus, including these organizations, and are made up entirely of fees paid by enrolled students as costs of attendance. For reference, if you have ever voted in a USAC general election, you may remember being presented with initiatives on the ballot that essentially ask for your permission to raise tuition by a small amount (usually less than $5) to create funding for a student-designated campaign. A most recent example is the “Bruin Emergency Relief Fund Referendum ” presented by former student body President Naomi Riley that would increase undergraduate student fees by 6 dollars a year to invest in a fund for students impacted by natural disasters or personal crises. Any fund-related decision must be a result of student and commissioner agreement, thus making this lack of transparency a school-wide issue.
The specific committees struggling with discrepancies under CPO’s direction are: The Campus Retention Committee (CRC) and the Student Initiated Outreach Center (SIOC). In line with CPO’s overall mission to provide resources to underrepresented communities at UCLA, The CRC promotes organizational and student-led projects that align with their mission to increase retention for marginalized UCLA students, while the SIOC committee performs local outreach for high school students of marginalized communities to incentivize enrollment into higher education. They have faced perplexing issues regarding lost from their annual budget and argue that the administrative powers overseeing these budget allocations are giving them the run around. To further explain, Ryan Factora, the Retention Coordinator of Samahang Pilipino, breaks down how money flows through the system. Any policy implementation, removal, or otherwise major change is supposed to be approved by USAC through the passage of ‘referenda.’ Referenda must be voted for by official USAC members and relevant student leaders, with Factora further explaining that “these referenda can be viewed as a tax and are among the strongest objectives that can be passed within USAC.” He continues “we refer to the set of referenda… funding the CRC as the SEMF Special Education Monetary Fees [and] the set of referenda funding the SIOC as the FSIO, (Funds For Student Initiated Outreach.)” Together, the funding allocated from these referendums total roughly 2.7 million dollars, (the exact amount fluctuates year to year) and each organizational entity is entitled to their half of the 2.7 million dollar funds to distribute as they see fit. However:
1. The two separate proposals (named the Operational Budget), passed in the 2011-12 academic year for the SIOC and 2013-14 academic year for the CRC could not have passed without a consensus from student leaders within USAC government. However, there is no record of a vote by USAC happening to approve said Operational Budget that is responsible for re-allocating the 2.7 million dollars directly to CPO every year rather than to the individual committees it was intended for, nor has any formal documents or meeting minutes been produced that would legitimize the change in budget allocation.
2. There have been inconsistencies in CPO spending since the ‘passing’ of the Operational Budget, leading to concerns among students and staff that the money designated for the organization is not being utilized for retention and access projects.
3. The CRC and SIOC have been allowed access to just $700,000 total, leaving 2 million dollars unaccounted for.
The 2.7 million dollars in funding were achieved through years of advocacy dating as far back as 1969, when then-USAC President Rosalia Munoz passed the first iteration of the Special Education Monetary Funds that currently supports the CRC and SIOC. This quote from the original Statement of Understanding (SOU), signed by Antonio Sandoval in 2002, specifies “… USAC shall, upon approval of this Statement of Understanding, delegate responsibility for and authority over all SEMF monies to the CRC in order to assure student representation and participation in the administration and appointment of the SEMF. This responsibility and authority shall be subject to oversight by the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, or his/her designee. Such oversight shall be limited to ensuring compliance with University fiscal policies and fiscal guidelines. Neither the Vice Chancellor nor the chosen designee shall act, with respect to such oversight, without first consulting and working with the CRC.” This agreed upon SOU provided the framework for how the CRC and eventually SIOC are to run in terms of student-access projects, hiring staff, and launching retention-based services. By limiting these organizational powers without USAC approval, through the implementation of the Operational Budget, the administration has committed a violation of it’s own policies that borders on an outright abuse of power.
The history of the work put forth in expanding the CRC and SIOC budgets are illustrated in USAC’s recently published “Resolution Detailing Student Response to Administrative Overstepping of Student-Initiated, Student-Run Projects.” For the second time, USAC has been forced to withhold all SEMF funds until CPO complies with their request to provide a copy of itemized expenses from the years where the funds were unaccounted for. Thus far, there remains no official commentary from either CPO director Antonio Sandoval or the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor in regards to these discrepancies. The lack of accountability reflects the importance of having student approval in who is in charge of overseeing student-run affairs and emphasizing open and consistent collaboration with us, the students, before principal changes to policies are made.