For this edition of 10 questions, The California Aggie spoke with ASUCD Controller Paul Harms to get a feel for the day-to-day operations involved in handling the association’s budget.
Harms, of Fremont, Calif., will start his fourth year at UC Davis in the fall, and is currently in his second term as controller– only the second person to hold the appointed position twice in the association’s history.
What exactly are your duties as ASUCD controller?
Throughout the year I monitor ASUCD’s finances to make sure the association stays on track. This is important because it’s student money – it’s given to ASUCD by all the UCD undergrads. We’re expected to spend students‘ money wisely and not waste it.
My primary duty in the spring quarter is drafting the ASUCD budget, which was $10.7 million last year. That covers all ASUCD units including Unitrans, the Coffee House, Classical Notes and Tipsy Taxi.
I also meet with unit directors to see if they have any issues – financial or not. My position is primarily a financial position, but I’m really the only business director for ASUCD who’s a student, so I help the unit directors with any issues that they have.
I’m sort of the liaison between the political side of ASUCD and the commercial and programmatic side of ASUCD. A lot of information is filtered through me.
Why did you get involved in student government?
I decided to get involved with student government the summer after I graduated from high school. I really wanted to get involved with something on campus.… I felt like I really wasted my freshman year in high school not being involved in anything. [So] I wanted to get involved [in college] right off the bat, as soon as possible … I narrowed it down – I either wanted to work [for] The Aggie or student government.
The controller position looked exactly like what I wanted to do with my life after college. I also saw the position as a way for me to do public service.
For my freshman year, I interned for the controller, and I was later assistant to the controller. I was also chair of the ASUCD Internal Affairs Commission.
What is the time commitment for the ASUCD controller like?
It’s usually more of a time commitment in the spring. Writing the budget is a very long process. It’s about 30 hours a week in the spring. It’s 10 to 15 per week over summer, and about 20 hours a week for the fall and winter.
How long does it take to draft the ASUCD budget?
It takes all of April, and about half of May to draft the budget. The budget hearings – where the budget is approved, occurs late in May. The approval process takes about two-and-a-half additional weeks.
What is your role in ASUCD Senate meetings?
I have a role when the Senate is talking about financial matters – I’m the Senate’s top financial adviser…. I tell them how much money they have to spend for the year, [and] I tell them my professional opinion on any spending matters.
If the matter doesn’t involve finance I’ll either stay out of the debate, or, if I feel really strongly about the matter, sometimes I’ll air my concerns, but I’ll just be speaking as a concerned student.
I don’t have to go to the senate meetings…. Past controllers haven’t, but I always felt that [attending Senate meetings] was something my predecessors weren’t doing very well.
Is the summer pretty slow as Controller?
The summer is slow in some ways, because there aren’t as many people around; a lot of our operations shut down. On the other hand, there’s still a lot of work to do – our fiscal year ends on June 30.
A good part of my summer goes to writing an annual report on the association’s finances. I also work on special projects over the summer. This summer I am working on a report on increasing [ASUCD] advertising revenue. I’ll also probably end the summer having written three or four senate bills.
What’s your favorite thing to eat in the Coho?
I like the carne asada sandwich. I also like the pho, and the lemon poppy seed cake. I eat there probably at least 20 times a week [laughs].
What is your major? Why did you choose it?
My major is managerial economics. I chose that major because I’d like to work in finance or business management. I’d like to get a Master‘s in Business Administration, and managerial economics is the closest thing Davis has to a business major.
I’m a German minor because I like German literature. I thought I should do something with the humanities or I’d just be an economics robot.
What’s your favorite class?
I like medieval German literature and also marketing; I thought marketing was really interesting as well.
What should a student do if they are interested in working in the financial side of ASUCD?
First of all, they could contact me, I might be able to hire them as an unpaid intern and give them a special project to work on. They should also look into joining the Businesses and Finance Commission or the Internal Affairs Commission. Those jobs are posted on the ASUCD website. [asucd.ucdavis.edu].
This interview was conducted by ANNA OPALKA. She can be reached at email@example.com.