Just imagine, for a moment, an Associated Students without the Legislative Council representatives. How would this change our student government structure? Can this possibly eliminate a lot of the bureaucracy? Would A.S. become more effective?
As the supreme policy-making body of our student government, the Legislative Council is comprised of 24 elected student representatives. The Council is apportioned into districts that include on and off campus, university-owned housing, and at-large.
This week, the Leg Council will consider a bill that would eliminate the six elected offices of Rep-at-Large. By eliminating these positions, A.S. would be downsizing its legislative size to 18 representatives to “save the Associated Students an estimated $7,000 annually and create a more efficient legislative council to serve you, the students.” I would like to applaud the authors of this bill for taking the first steps in restructuring our student government, but this is not the dramatic change our student needs.
Let’s eliminate district representation and, in place of it, have the chairs of the boards, committees and commissions as the new representatives.
1) Saves Money: Reps and chairs both get honoraria, or a quarterly stipend. By eliminating the reps, we are taking off 24 students from the honoraria payroll saving about $25,200 annually. The extra money can go back into the unallocated budget, allowing more student groups to be funded for their projects or events.
2) Greater Legislative Voice: This would give more legislative authority and power to the A.S. committees. For example, the Environmental Affairs Board chair could directly bring to the council a position paper instead of having to rely on its appointed Leggie to “author” the bill for them. (For those of you who don’t know, A.S. has 26 entities such as the Academic Affairs Board, Program Board and Shoreline Preservation Fund).
3) Provides Clearer Duties for Elected Representatives: By having the chairs as the representatives, our elected officials will understand the duties outlined before them instead of relying on the vague promises made during campaigns.
4) Less Confusion During Elections: Only the four candidates vying for executive office would run in the spring general election. This would narrow down the field so students can focus more on who is running for president and the three vice-presidential positions. Also, this would eliminate a lot of the trash created during elections such as posters, flyers and other paraphernalia.
5) Better Continuity for the Committees: This would make the continuity of A.S. committee leadership stronger. Right now, the president has the constitutional power to appoint all of the leaders of the committees. But by having committees elect their own leaders, we can ensure that our representatives not only understand their duties, but also have full-fledged committees to make them a reality.
6) Free-up Office Space: If you haven’t visited the A.S. office, it’s crowded! There are many committees sharing the same office space, but some committees do not have an official space. By freeing up the two Leg Council offices, committees would have more room to conduct their business.
7) Ensures Diverse Representation: Last, but not least, this would ensure diversity. There would be at least one elected official representing women’s affairs, disability status and students of color, while having representative experts in finances, business services and programming.
As a student who has served two terms on this council, I know the potential that the council has in making a difference in students’ lives. Simultaneously, I also understand the great amount of work involved in making a structural change in student government. So, I do not envy those doing the work that needs to be made for this restructuring.
But, here’s my warning flag to the authors of this legislation: downsizing the Legislative Council by six reps will NOT make the council more effective. The problem is in the way the council is apportioned. Eliminate district apportionment because it is redundant and already vested in our executive officers for the areas internal, local and statewide affairs. Furthermore, this change has the possibility of uniting the committees to work cohesively and make a change together, both through programming and now legislatively.
My proposal is not 100-percent foolproof – no specific structure of student government is. But through debate, this proposal can be enhanced to make our government one of the most effective in the UC system. But don’t take my word for it. The Associated Students of UCLA already operates similarly to my proposal.
I am urging our elected and appointed representatives to seriously consider the bill before them with a broader vision of change. For me, the method to make A.S. a more effective organization is to transform that popularly implicated word “representation” into a definition that includes action, clarity and, most importantly, results.
It’s time for a change, but is A.S. ready?
Mel Fabi is a senior Chicano studies and film studies major.