During every election cycle at UCSB, students are inundated with an immense amount of information. While standing in support of healthy dialogue as a learning process, we as the 2012-13 A.S. Executive Officers have decided to submit comment with respect to A.S. matters in pursuit of providing correct information to students.
What follows includes responses to assertions made regarding the capacities of A.S. process and personnel, our shared concerns that we have been obligated to address together this year and, for the first time in A.S. history, a collective endorsement across party lines of the presidential candidate we believe most qualified to continue addressing such concerns, all of which we feel compelled to vocalize amongst a sea of rhetoric.
In terms of student fees and all other money students put into the university, fees paid quarterly to Associated Students are not part of the academic tuition you pay each quarter. A.S. fees are directed to A.S. and include services across a wide spectrum, while tuition is directed to the University of California. Therefore, a reduction in “student fees” (fees that go to A.S.) does not constitute a reduction in tuition. In fact, a reduction in student fees limits the availability of services. The only time fees can be reclaimed is when an individual deems that a specific A.S.-sponsored activity has contradicted the individual’s ideological/political/religious beliefs, and the individual completes the paperwork necessary to reclaim the fees he or she contributed to that specific activity, per Smith v. Regents. The amount of return an individual may receive rarely exceeds six cents historically and is usually designated based on specific events. The notion of returning “unused” student fees to individual students at the close of the academic year is not a viable possibility. We want to make clear that referenda dollars voted on by the students is a rare moment when students actually have a say in where their fees are going, especially compared to the University’s past negligence in terms of making your tuition distribution transparent.
The accusation of “corruption” within the Executive Board was related to the tuition assistance that A.S. executives receive, which this Executive Board, for the first time ever, advocated to cut such honoraria — making it the only board to do so and puts action behind words. Such accusation, we believe, is damaging and based on misinformation that does more harm than good to students. Tuition assistance for A.S. execs is meant to retain the A.S. values of accessibility and inclusivity by preserving the opportunity to serve in exec positions to be available to all students regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds. As the result of economic realities and the time-intensive nature (40+ hours per week) of executive positions, some students would not have the ability or time to balance a part-time job and hold an exec position were it not for tuition assistance. In addition, many students are not able to serve as elected officers not because they are not qualified but because they do not have the economic privilege to do so, especially in light of increasingly burdensome tuition.
To ensure accountability, A.S. already has checks and control points in place for addressing and adjudicating internal matters of corruption or frivolous spending. These mechanisms take the form of Judicial Council, Senate ratification and advice available from A.S. staff, just to name a few.
Lastly, we would like to take corrective action with respect to an incident that occurred this year involving the misuse of Associated Students resources for personal and academic purpose. Toward the end of November, a student that was not elected or appointed impermissibly used the A.S. name in an effort to collect data for a class project. This effort constitutes false pretenses, fabrication of an A.S. committee and the subsequent deception of the entire undergraduate and graduate student population at UCSB. In response to this incident, and in an attempt to ensure this type of abuse never occurs again, the A.S. Executive Officers chose to endorse the only candidate for A.S. President that, in our collective opinion, demonstrates the integrity and trustworthiness that is vital to fulfilling the mission of Associated Students: Megan Foronda. However, this decision ultimately rests with the student body.
Foronda has proved her thorough knowledge of the internal processes of A.S. and has extensive experience uniting, rather than dividing, students. She understands the power of student voices and listens to their concerns, breaking away from the exclusive nature that A.S. seems to take when individuals focus on themselves and pursue their own agenda. Megan has always supported a wide variety of students, whether that be through allocating resources toward a diverse array of events or being the only presidential candidate that has substantially planned and organized large-scale events and spaces in which students can critically discuss relevant issues at the university, especially those that critique Associated Students. She has also been involved in effectively teaching students about the California budget crisis in relation to the privatization of higher education which, in a climate of constant attack on affordability of tuition, is ever-important.
As the elected representatives, we think it is necessary to bring a healthy dose of constructive criticism, desperately needed for a governing body often marred by party politics and rhetoric that clutters the Association with negativity, hostility and discomfort. We, as individuals from all parties and nonpartisan backgrounds, felt it necessary to convey facts to the student body amidst quite a bit of misinformation out there.
Associated Students is more than elections, and elected representatives are only a portion of what A.S. has to offer. The President, as the Chief Executive Officer of Associated Students, is your official representative on campus, systemwide, local, state and federal matters, which only increases the need for a president with a solid plan and a demonstrated ability to effectively and responsibly use resources. In short, Megan Foronda is the only presidential candidate that resembles this type of leader and the goals, aspirations and integrity Associated Students needs.
It is our sincerest hope that you continue to remain critical of your elected student officials and engage in healthy, open and honest dialogue regarding issues that pertain to you. Whomever you vote for, we hope you vote and question information being presented to you. We thank you for your thoughtful consideration in reading this message and wish you a truly enjoyable Spring Quarter.
The Executive Officers have all decided to endorse individually, and our titles are used for identification purposes only.