The Associated Students Legislative Council challenged University regulations Wednesday night by passing resolutions to use $1,000 of A.S. funds to oppose Proposition 76 and to use an as of yet undetermined amount to hire legal council for a possible lawsuit with the UC Office of the President (UCOP).
The council approved the resolutions because several of its members said Prop 76 — which will appear on the Nov. 8 Special Statewide Election Ballot — would directly harm university students. Such a move would violate guidelines set by the UCOP and the UC Office of State Governmental Relations, which state that University funds may not be used for campaign purposes in connection with ballot propositions. Off-campus representative and co-author of the resolution Joel Rodriguez said he thinks the policy infringes on students’ rights.
“I know the current UCOP policy is very restrictive for student associations [wanting] to organize for their rights,” Rodriguez said. “Right now student associations are not allowed to use compulsory funds to any campaign that supports or opposes state propositions.”
Internal Vice President Adam Graff said A.S. was prepared to go to court to settle the issue of whether student government was allowed to use student fees to pay for campaigns supporting or opposing propositions. External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Felicia Cruz said the expenses from legal aid would come from the A.S. executive officers budget or possibly Business Services.
According to UCOP regulations, student government officials may oppose or support propositions as long as they are not using University funds or resources. They may however, “use its resources to objectively evaluate a ballot measure’s impact on the University and higher education.” This might include spreading literature about a given proposition that details both sides of an issue.
Graff said it is important for A.S. to tell students to oppose Proposition 76 because, if passed, it would give the governor too much power.
“Prop 76 gives the Governor the legal right to line item veto anything in the state budget and it’s UCOP’s policy that prevents us from taking action and telling students to oppose prop 76,” Graff said.
Graff also said the proposition could allow the governor to cut funding from higher education.
“The passage of this [proposition] does not guarantee [Gov. Schwarzenegger will] cut funds on education, but based on his past record we have every reason to believe he will do so,” Graff said. “We are taking this action to make sure that does not happen. This [proposition] sets a bad precedent in general, regardless of who is in the governor’s mansion. It allows the governor to circumvent the legislature, effectively eliminating the checks and balances that our constitution provides for our state budget.”
Rodriguez said he thinks Proposition 76 would negate previously passed state propositions.
“I know there were previous propositions passed by voters that made it so California had to reduce its spending on education during periods of recession,” Rodriguez said. “But [the state] also had to increase educational spending as required during years where there is a surplus [in the state budget] to make up for what they have been missing during the years of recession. Prop 76 limits that.”
He also said Leg Council had the authority, given to them by students on election day, to approve the anti-Proposition 76 resolution.
“All of our candidates – not just those according to [A.S.] party lines – submitted their qualifications during last year’s elections,” Rodriguez said. “Students entrusted us to make these decisions. It’s critical because it’s a matter of students paying more [for higher education] in the future.”
Off-campus Rep and co-author of the resolution Howie Baker said the passing of the resolution was necessary because higher education was already too expensive.
“I think it’s reasonable seeing how much student fees have raised and I think it’s in the best interest of the students,” Baker said. “I think this is something students would want. This idea has been around for a while. There’s only so much we can do when we can’t campaign or inform students. If students don’t understand the issues, then we are greatly limited.”
Off-campus Rep Raymond Meza said he was pleased with the Council’s unanimous decision to approve the resolution.
“I think this is one of the best resolutions I’ve seen in the two and a half years I’ve been here,” Meza said. “I think it really boils down to the fact that education is our right to defend when attacked. The UC Office of the President has let the quality of our education decrease while the costs have increased and financial aid has also decreased.”
Before the meeting was adjourned, University-Owned Housing Rep. Felix Hu made a motion to allocate $1,000 from the Leg Council budget to a campaign against proposition 76. He said he made the motion to attract attention from UCOP.
“The $1000 was chosen as the amount allocated because it was an amount we could afford without spending too much,” Hu said. “A lower number might not make as much of an influence with UCOP.”
However, Graff said the money will not necessarily be spent.
“Allocation does not guarantee spending,” Graff said. “We are not actually going to spend the money because we cannot legally allocate money to this. Earmarking the funds is in of itself a violation of the policy and we are doing so to provoke an action from UCOP.”
Graff said the Council had been planning to take these actions for three weeks and said he was proud of the council’s efforts.
“We are breaking UCOP policy,” Graff said. “I just have to say how impressed I am. I’ve never sat at or chaired at a council that has ever done something like this.”