In a meeting that ended in closed session, Associated Students Legislative Council announced a major breakthrough concerning financial aid and approved a position paper supporting affordable education.
Internal Vice President Adam Graff said he recently met with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young who, at Graff’s urging, then convinced top University of California officials to delay fee increases associated with the UC Return to Aid financial aid program for at least a year.
This past November, the UC Regents decided that a minimum of 25 percent of student lock-in fees must be returned to financial aid programs. Since this would significantly cut organizational funds, groups receiving a lock-in would need to increase the cost of the fee to maintain current levels of funding. The increases would come into effect at UCSB when students voted to reaffirm lock-ins during spring elections.
Graff said UCSB is the only UC campus that has to reaffirm lock-in fees. Students at other UC campuses will have the lock-in fee increase imposed on them this year without being able to vote on the matter.
The main problem with this difference lies in the fact that UCSB students would have the choice to either completely cut a lock-in fee or raise the cost, Graff said. Because entire departments are potentially threatened by this process, UCSB needs additional time to structure how it will respond to the new return to aid policy.
“Since Santa Barbara has this democratic system that allows fees to be reaffirmed, we were effectively punished,” Graff said.
Executive Director Don Daves-Rougeaux said he thought the strong, frank letter Graff wrote to Young was the basis for Young’s action.
However, Graff’s report was interrupted by several Leggies’ concerns regarding the recent A.S. Constitutional Convention, which was scheduled at the same time that many council members were attending the United States Student Association Legislative Conference in Washington D.C.
Off-Campus Rep. Joel Rodriguez-Flores said he was uncertain about whether the convention was the best way to empower students to speak about the constitution.
“It’s really a shame that most Leggies weren’t there,” Rodriguez-Flores said.
Nevertheless, Rodriguez-Flores said he did not regret going to Washington, since he said he believes lobbying has a tangible effect on student life.
However, Off-Campus Rep. Gina Fischer said she was still displeased with the scheduling of the constitutional convention.
“I never got a clear reason why it had to be that day when most of us were in D.C.,” Fischer said. “I’m so frustrated about this.”
On-Campus Rep. Nathaniel Wood-Wilde said he thinks the whole council should accept responsibility for the convention’s timing, as they were aware of the convention’s date far in advance.
“It’s not a lack of respect by [Graff] but a lack of responsibility by Leg Council,” Wood-Wilde said.
The council then agreed to finish the discussion later in the meeting after Graff’s report was complete. When the discussion period arrived, Leggies voted to conclude the meeting in a closed session, with 13 in favor, one against and three abstentions.
During the open session portion of the meeting, the council also unanimously approved a position paper authored by Rep-at-Large Raymond Mez, supporting an agreement with the University known as the Student Compact.
The Student Compact is a document developed by the UC Students Association that calls for affordable higher education, easily accessible financial aid and reaffirming barriers between university funding and the state’s general budget. Meza said he thought it was important for the Council to take action.
“Students and California families across the state are celebrating Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision to invest in the future of California by allocating $125 million to buy out the fee increases for next year at the CSU and UC,” Meza said. “It is now the time to seize the day and take the next step.”