The University of California Student Association is working this year to get money for student housing while lobbying against a state budget cut that would leave the UC with less funding.

The statewide student organization is lobbying for three major issues this year: improvement in the quality and quantity of student housing, divestment from prisons and investment in education, and admissions reform for both graduate and undergraduate students.

UCSA is currently lobbying for the improvement of student housing and supported a student-housing bill, AB 1611, which was signed by Governor Gray Davis in early September 2001. The bill was designed to enable universities to increase the amount of housing available to their students more easily.

“[AB 1611] authorizes non-profits to get low-interest loans from the state to do student housing,” UCSA Chair Kenneth Burch said, “so we’re working with the University to see that that is implemented effectively.”

UCSA also concerned itself with the University’s involvement with private prison labor and the state-prison-funding to education-funding ratio. As part of their campaign against the state-prison-funding to education-funding ratio, UCSA is trying to prevent Davis from cutting more money from the UC budget than from that of the state prisons.

“Our main focus [with the prison issue] is sort of this two-pronged approach,” Burch said. “The first is with the state legislature and ensuring our governor truly retains his three top priorities of education, education, education, and that he does more cutting from the prison budget than from the UC budget.”

The second prong of their approach includes lobbying the regents to adopt a policy that would ensure that none of the products bought by the University are manufactured in private prisons and that none of the companies that hold contracts with it are invested in private prisons, Burch said.

“Private prisons are dismal and a bad use of our money,” he said.

The UCSA’s third major issue is addressing admissions reform. It worked in close connection with the Committee on Educational Equality to ensure that comprehensive review had student interests in mind, Burch said. Representatives from the UCSA directly lobbied the regents, arranging for students to attend board of regents meetings to show their support for the reforms, and organized a postcard campaign in which hundreds of UC students asked the board of regents for a new admissions process.

Most of the UCSA’s goals for admissions reform were met with the recent adoption of the comprehensive review policy, but Birch said the UCSA would like to see more reforms in this area.

The UCSA is planning to call for reforms of the graduate student admissions process and is currently advocating the Optional-SAT I proposal, said Eneri Rodriguez, a member of the UCSA Board of Directors and the UCSB A.S. external vice president for statewide affairs.

“On top of the Comprehensive Review being adopted, now there has been a proposal to make the SAT [I] optional, and so this is something the UCSA is going to be mobilizing around for the next school year,” she said. “Specifically, putting pressure on the regents to make the decision to eliminate the SAT [I] from the UC system as far as admissions.”

UCSA is a coalition of 19 representatives from the undergraduate and graduate student governments on the 10 UC campuses. When it was first created in 1970, UCSA was little more than a council of student body presidents who met to discuss campus politics. Now, 31 years later, it is an influential group of student lobbyists chosen by their respective student governments to represent them and lobby the UC regents, the governor and state legislators for their issues.

“We advocate on behalf of, and educate and empower UC students,” Burch said.

“For common goals, [the UCSA] is an exceptionally useful means of focusing a large body of students to achieving a common need,” UCSB Graduate Student Association External President Edward Collins said.

In the future, UCSA plans to address hate crimes, graduate student funding, tuition costs and student group funding.

UCSA meetings, which are open to the public, are held once a month on different UC campuses.