A proposed revision to the University of California’s policies on campus activities, organizations and student government has some students feeling censored by University administration.
While the suggested changes to UC’s general campus policies are broad, student groups, such as the UC Student Association (UCSA), are mainly concerned with two specific revisions to the policy. The first revision would change current policies to reflect student governments as extensions of UC. Essentially, that change would forbid student government from participating in political campaigns because UC is a state sponsored entity, and state money cannot go towards funding candidates or proposition campaigns. The second revision would prevent registered campus organizations (RCOs) from soliciting student lock-in fees to fund their programs.
A group of UC students created UCFreeSpeech, an organization working with UCSA oppose the revisions. The policy changes, according to the group’s website, stipulate that student government may not use money from student lock-in fees to campaign for or against any candidate or proposition. For example, UC Berkeley student government’s use of $35,000 from its funds for the “No on Prop 54” campaign last fall would be illegal under the new policy.
“[UC Berkeley] even fronted us money for buttons and tees for our [“No on Prop 54″] campaign on this campus,” A.S. External V.P. of Local Affairs Logan Green said. “The legality of it is questionable, you can run an informational campaign, it could be heavily slanted, but you cannot include things like ‘vote no’ on an issue or person.”
In its argument against the policy changes to student government, UCFreeSpeech quoted another part of the current student policy that states “positions on issues taken by student governments shall not be represented as or deemed to be official positions of the University.”
UCSA and UCFreeSpeech’s second point of contention is that proposed policy changes would prohibit RCOs from securing campuswide lock-in fees. RCOs at UCSB range from the Gaucho Locos to the Ski and Snowboard Club to the Mathematics Student Association. None of UCSB’s groups, however, have their own external lock-in fees. The organizations rely on A.S. funding or voluntary pledges. Only university departments, such as Transportation and Parking Services, Student Health Services, and Campus Learning Assistance Services, have their own lock-ins.
Green said the A.S. base lock-in fee is $10 per undergraduate student, which funds the organization itself. In addition, Green said groups like A.S. Program Board and the A.S. Isla Vista Tenants Union that belong under the “A.S. umbrella” have lock-in fees that bring the total A.S. fees to $50 per undergrad.
If passed, this policy revision would still allow groups to solicit funding from A.S. Finance Board, but registered student groups could not ask the student body to support them through separate mandatory lock-in fees. Green said this is because even if the majority of students approved of a group’s mission, the voice of the minority would not be heard.
“American Students for Israel, for instance – if that group ran a referendum [to put a proposal on the election ballot] for a mandatory student fee and the majority of students voted in favor, it would still discriminate against the Palestinian minority voice that may be opposed,” he said.
Student groups with suggestions on the policy review had until March 26 to submit their input to UC administration, and UCSA submitted a statement of principles signed by students and student government leaders, said Fernando Ramirez, A.S. Finance Board chair. Ramirez said he was unsure what impact student contribution would have made.
“The policy is going to the regents, then to the [UC] Office of the President,” Ramirez said. “I know the UCSA submitted their letter, and I guess they’ll take our input into consideration whatever that means.”
Ramirez said his biggest problem with the revisions is the vague language used, which would leave room for the gently worded policies to potentially be used against A.S. groups.
“The policy revisions are really vague and I think they did it on purpose,” Ramirez said. “Some students are overreacting and saying we should take action, and some are underreacting because interpretations are so varied.”
Ramirez said that regardless of the unspecific revisions, “it is clear that students won’t be able to lobby on issues that affect them and won’t be able to get A.S. funds.”