The Associated Students Legislative Council voted unanimously last night to extend the due date for A.S. budget proposals, discussed issues related to the upcoming election and heard the plans of a new committee chair Monday night.
The council discussed updates to the A.S. Elections Code, as well as the impact of new UC policies that will significantly increase the cost of campus-based student fees. Newly appointed Academic Affairs Board (AAB) Chair Michael Friedman discussed his agenda briefly, after which Leggies took action to extend the deadline for budget proposals to compensate for technical difficulties.
The upcoming A.S. budget process involves requests by various boards and committees for next year’s funds, provided through the $9.10 A.S. per student per quarter lock-in fee. A.S. Finance Board will discuss these applications at its next meeting Monday, but the process has been delayed due to computer problems, said Aaron Jones, A.S. student government adviser.
Because of a technical glitch, members of A.S. have been unable to reach budgetary requests submitted by boards and committees, all of which were supposed to be due Wednesday. Finance Board Chair Aseye Allah said she would like to have the deadline reset for this Friday, to allow adequate time to prepare for Finance Board’s Monday meeting.
The council, however, unanimously voted to extend the deadline until Saturday at noon.
A.S. Internal Vice President Adam Graff said “return-to-aid” would be a major issue in this year’s elections. Due to changes in the way the UC Office of the President (UCOP) funds student aid, any campus-based fees up for reaffirmation, as well as new lock-in fees, will be taxed a surcharge, the total amount of which has yet to be determined.
Currently, the University takes a percentage of students’ system-wide fees to pay for the financial aid of qualified students. When system-wide fees began increasing to meet the budget deficit caused by lack of California state funds, UCOP decided to give a percentage – around 20 or 30 percent depending on the year – of the revenue from the fee increases back to financial aid.
In previous years, the amount of return-to-aid money given to each of the UC’s campuses covered a percentage of the cost of attending a UC, including system-wide and campus-based lock-in fees. However, in November, the UC Regents decided to exclude campus-based lock-in fees from its calculation.
The Regents’ reasoning lay in the fact that each campus has a different total cost for lock-in fees. UCSB lock-in fees, such as the $3.33 night and weekend parking per student per quarter lock-in fee, currently cost each student $852 per year. The amount increases each time a new lock-in fee is approved by students during the spring elections. However, campuses such as UC Berkeley pay $148.25 in campus-based fees.
Making campuses with low lock-in fees pay for the financial aid of those with higher was deemed unfair. Therefore, each individual UC campus must now take at least 25 percent from lock-in fees for the financial aid needed to pay for its campus-based lock-in fees.
To ensure that student services paid for through lock-in fees are not affected, whenever a lock-in fee is reaffirmed – a process done every four years – the total cost of the lock-in fee will increase by an agreed-upon percentage to make up for the money taken out.
For example, if a lock-in fee costs $6 and the target amount to give to financial aid was 33 percent, the cost after reaffirmation would increase by 50 percent, raising the fee to $9. However, the student service would still receive only $6 because the extra money would go to financial aid.
It remains undecided whether the percentage given to financial aid will be the minimum 25 percent, or 33 percent, as recommended by the UC Students Association – a UC-wide student lobby group.
One leading proposal is to let students vote whether 25 or 33 percent of lock-in fees will be returned to student aid funds. If 25 percent is chosen, lock-in fees would increase by 33 percent, while they will increase by 50 percent if the 33 percent option is chosen.
“Fees are going to be raised – it’s a question of how much,” Graff said, “There’s no precedent for this.”
Updates to the Election Code were also on Wednesday’s agenda.
“We’ve made some changes, but not very drastic ones,” Justin Pabian, Elections Committee chair, said, “We did a lot of clarifying, fixing things in the code that aren’t clear now.”
Pabian also said his committee is coming up with its own “nonpartisan” shirts to remain as unbiased as possible during the elections.
Amelia Holstrom, the bill’s author and off-campus rep, said the changes were fairly routine.
“We update the Elections Code every year,” Holstrom said.
The changes include increased fines for misplaced signs, Rep-at-Large Ryann Gastwirth said.
“Increased fines means less people breaking the rules,” Gastwirth said.
Friedman also presented his ideas to the council, including a way to collect student complaints about any issue concerning academic departments.
“I’m going to set up a hotline,” Friedman said, “Hopefully the dots will start to connect if there are problems.”
Friedman also said he was concerned with the quality of UCSB’s humanities departments.
“Humanities – that’s where the whole McEducation and McLecture problem is,” he said.
Although he did not elaborate on specific plans, Friedman suggested the school should capitalize on its alcohol-centric culture.
“How much money is being spent on alcohol?” Friedman said, “There’s 20,000 wallets in I.V., and we can tap into that. … We need to start cashing in on alcoholism and social drinking.”