Student Voice, Student Power, Student Action. This is the motto of the Student Union Assembly (SUA), which on Nov. 8 amended its budget. The amendment to the budget prompted some members of the organization to speak out.
SUA, which functions as the the official student government body at UC Santa Cruz, has operated since 1985, and was created to serve the student body as a collective group. SUA is run entirely by students and is made up of six chairs, six at large representatives, 30 college representatives and four advisory members. The SUA is funded largely through Measure 8, a voter-approved measure that takes a $7 fee out of each student’s university fees.
“We get a third of a million dollars every year from the students, and that’s a third of a million dollars the students are saying, ‘you know what you are doing, SUA you know how to best spend this money, go ahead and spend that money,’” said Justin Riordan, Kresge parliament representative and SUA assemblyman.
SUA’s operational budget comprises Measure 8 funding and is supplemented by carryover, which goes to the general fund. Carryover, according to Riordan, is the accumulation of funds that go unused by SUA-funded organizations, which is then transferred over to the next budget.
Among the criticisms that have emerged following the recent amendment is concern over former SUA chair Tiffany Loftin’s decision to not hire a treasurer. Current SUA chair Amanda Buchanan said this led to the projection of these funds to be far greater than they were in actuality, leaving SUA with an unbalanced budget.
“For the past two years, carryforward on the budget was $150,000, and then for this year it was actually around $60,000,” she said, “So she assumed the carryforward was the same as last year’s, even though we had spent a lot more this year.”
Due to this error, the budget for this year had to be amended. The 2011-12 overall budget had to be cut from a proposed $457,242.48 to $397,230.30.
The cuts were absorbed in a number of places. Spending on conferences dropped from a proposed $120,000 to an amended $94,566.00. Office supplies were cut from $12,000 to $7,000. A proposed $1,000 office furniture expense and $1,452 in ethernet charges were also removed.
The areas SUA chose to absorb the cuts were criticized as well.
“We cut money from the conferences, I would say that’s one of the only things that the SUA does for the student body directly,” Riordan said. “We take these students to student conferences, we teach them how to lobby, we take them to Sacramento, these are a thing that we do directly for the student body, and that’s where we cut from first, not the SUA staff.”
Riordan and dissenting Kresge parliament members said cuts could be made elsewhere in SUA, most notably from the parking budget. According to Riordan, $3,366 was allocated to purchasing the permits, most of which went to the purchase of three “B” permits. These permits allow access to virtually every parking location on campus, and are unavailable to undergraduates.
“We should be thinking about where we want our priorities — is refusing to cut from parking in relation to cutting from the conferences an appropriate use of funds?” Riordan said.
Riordan said elimination of the all but one of the “B” permits and trading in the other three for “R” carpool permits would allow SUA to send more individuals to conferences, and therefore better serve the entirety of the student body.
The SUA general body agreed to keep “B” permits in a vote totaled 3-30. Buchanan acknowledged that while they are helpful to officers in times of voter registration, changes to this budget could come in the foreseeable future.
“B permits gives us specific access college-by-college,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a cut from “B” to “R” in spring, but we need to do that math to see what it’s worth.”
Transparency, or lack thereof, within the financial realm of SUA is also an issue that has prompted Riordan to speak out. Much of this has to do with the perceived ambiguity of spending by the organization.
“I don’t know what [funding] has been spent on for the last couple of years,” Riordan said.
Doug Baker, Kresge parliament and SUA member, agreed SUA lacked transparency.
“We do not get any paperwork or notification,” he said. “The only way we can find out is by asking them what they are spending on.”
SUA Chair Buchanan said providing both the student body and SUA general assemblymembers prompt and accurate expense reports is now a higher priority, and is being addressed, as the newly hired treasurer will be in charge of updating SUA expenses.
“That’s a huge priority of mine, I’ve charged the treasurer to give monthly reports to the body and that they are published online,” Buchanan said.
As the year comes to a close, SUA hopes to begin 2012 on a positive note, moving toward becoming a more transparent and fiscally sound student-led organization.
Looking forward, Buchanan said she feels hopeful.
“We are trying to catch up, and we are trying to implement all these things,” she said. “Spring will a good time to evaluate, and see how far we have come and how can we institutionalize some of the things that we have required this year.”