As the entire UCSB campus has been made duly aware, Associated Students is in a budget crisis. After the approval of this year’s budget, the miserable failure of both A.S. initiatives and a substantial loss in stocks, a great wail arose from the halls of the Associated Students building and has continued to resonate throughout campus. The organization, for all the students are aware, is dead in the water due to lack of funding and an inability to snap itself out of its own self-pitying reverie and do something meaningful.
There are groups within Associated Students that are quietly continuing business as usual and doing some commendable things on behalf of the community. Shoreline Preservation Fund is such a group that refuses to quit working. In 1999, students overwhelmingly voted to give $3 per quarter in lock-in fees to an organization within A.S. dedicated to “preserve, protect and enhance the terrestrial and marine habitats associated with the shoreline of the University of California, Santa Barbara.” Every Monday night, the SPF board meets to hear grant proposals and create projects, which will balance education, access, preservation, research and restoration of our coveted shoreline. Student groups needing money can clean up a section of the beach and get up to $500 for their organization. SPF has also funded projects to test water quality, protect the nesting grounds of plovers and has various internship and educational opportunities for student and community members.
Possibly the most amazing thing about SPF is that it does all this within the budget allotted by lock-in fees. Instead of wildly throwing money at every quasi-environmental proposal that swings by, the board considers every single request for funds, making sure it pertains to the SPF mission statement and would benefit the students in some respect. The board, thanks to the diligence of Grants Manager Scott Bull, knows at the end of the day where every single cent it spends has gone.
The SPF board is by no means a group of hippie environmentalists. Rather, the board is composed of students and graduate students with backgrounds and interest in environmental issues and who have a very good grasp of scientific method. Grant proposals and projects will never be funded if they only vaguely pertain to the mission statement or if they present faulty research methodology.
Shoreline is proof that the existing structures of A.S., such as lock-in fees, enable the organization to continue functioning even in times of “dire budgetary crisis.” SPF is in many ways supporting the larger entity of A.S. to the tune of about $9,000 in recharge fees imposed by the A.S. administration, despite the fact that SPF handles much of its business internally and requires very little from A.S. administration.
The difference between SPF and much of A.S. is that, through careful budgeting, planning and adherence to its mission statement, Shoreline was simply able to organize and function at a level unfortunately not consistent throughout the rest of the association.
The presence of boards like SPF indicates that the failure of Associated Students to function properly cannot be blamed solely on budgetary issues. One must question why the rhetoric of a broke and failing organization continues to spread at such an alarming rate. The UCSB population needs to be aware that some facets of Associated Students continue to function and should be celebrated for their ability to make every student cent matter.
Sarah Hooper is an off-campus A.S. representative.