UCSB students attended a three-day-long “Students of Color Conference” at UCLA, after students planning the trip struggled to attain funding when some student government officials said money was being allocated unfairly.
The Students of Color Conference (SOCC) is an annual UCSA event in which students are able to host workshops, listen to speakers and discuss ideas with their peers at other UC campuses. The UCSB Student Commission on Racial Equality (S.C.O.R.E.) sent a delegation of students to the conference — led by Hani Tajsar, a fourth-year Middle Eastern studies major, and Navkiran Kaur, a third-year sociology and Black studies double major. The trip received $7,000 from Associated Students Finance Board for attendees to go to the event, but then struggled to hold onto the funding when other A.S. officials questioned how S.C.O.R.E. was selecting which attendees were permitted to go.
According to Kaur, S.C.O.R.E. asked elected A.S. officials to pay from their allocated budgets to attend the event. S.C.O.R.E. received too many applicants than could be accommodated so the organization asked A.S. officials to pay since they have access to funding that is not available to other students, Kaur said.
“We wanted elected officials to pay because that way we would have been able to take more first- and second-year students who wouldn’t have had the means to go, otherwise, on the trip with us,” Kaur said.
According to Kaur, A.S. Attorney General Sawyeh Maghsoodloo said the blocked funding for the delegation was based on discrimination.
“The Attorney General said that S.C.O.R.E. was discriminating against people in elected positions by making them use their funds to pay for the conference, but the Finance Board ended up disregarding that,” Kaur said.
According to A.S. President Jonathan Abboud, Finance Board asked Senate to make a final decision or come to a compromise. In response, the students came to a compromise by adding A.S. Senators to the waiting list for the delegation and giving some Senate funding to those who did not get off the waiting list. Abboud, Maghsoodloo and another A.S. official attended the conference using funds from the A.S. Office of the President.
Maghsoodloo commented on the negotiation in an email, stating Finance Board “broke financial policy with their selection process, so there was a compromise resolution to erase those harms caused by the exclusion of all elected officials from the conference delegation.”
Abboud conceded that S.C.O.R.E. was justified in asking elected A.S. officials to use other funds, but expressed discontent with the fact that S.C.O.R.E. made this request after applications were already submitted.
“It was retroactive. It was after the applications were submitted,” Abboud said. “I feel like if they had been more proactive and said, ‘Hey, Senate, we’d really appreciate if you paid for whoever applied from Senate,’ that would have been the best way to go about it.”
Apart from funding issues and in regards to the conference as a whole, Kaur said the event was necessary for students who did not feel comfortable expressing their voice in a normal campus setting.
“At school, oftentimes, there is no space to express yourself,” Kaur said. “At the conference, students were empowered to share their ideas and share whatever was on their minds.”
As with every annual SOCC conference, UCSA stages some sort of action, protest or rally. This year, UCSA transformed its F.I.R.E. (Fighting Incarceration, Reclaiming Education) campaign into an I.G.N.I.T.E. campaign (Invest in Graduations, Not Incarceration, Transforming Education).
According to Kaur, a major focus of I.G.N.I.T.E. is to reexamine the way prisons are structured in the United States. She said a large and concerning discrepancy exists between the funding allocated to education and the funding allocated to prisons.
“In the past 20 years, California has built 22 prisons but only one university,” Kaur said. “Most of the people incarcerated in these prisons are black and brown people. We need to shift our focus so that we can get these people out of prisons and back into school, so they can have a future.”
Mohsin Mirza, second-year sociology major and a member of S.C.O.R.E. who attended at the conference, echoed Kaur’s statement. He also said a key aspect of SOCC is the workshops and caucuses they hold for attendees. This year’s workshops aimed to highlight the associations between social justice struggles that are otherwise viewed as irrelevant.
“A major focus in many of the workshops was connecting the struggles of people of color,” Mirza said. “One workshop connected the Philippines to Gaza to Latin America. Another dealt with the issue of decolonizing textbooks.”
Mirza said the conference allowed students to attack some of the issues they currently face, but in a safe setting.
“Students of color are often silenced and their issues are tossed aside or completely ignored,” Mirza said. “Going to conferences like this helps the general UCSB community because it can help us address some of the problems we have.”
—Tiana Miller-Leonard contributed to this article.
A version of this story appeared on page 1 of the Wednesday, November 20, 2013 issue of the Daily Nexus.