ASUCD? What does that mean? If you are new to UC Davis, this is a question that you too may soon be asking about this acronym.
ASUCD, or the associated students of UC Davis, is like your high school’s student government – only bigger and with more people, jobs and money.
Students pay a portion of their tuition each quarter into ASUCD. Totaled, they’re working with about $8.2 billion. Some of that money goes out to the various ASUCD units like UNITRANS or the refrigerator rental service offered in the dorms. Some of it stays in their reserves, ready to be allocated by way of legislation.
Almost all of it, ASUCD officials say, gets back to the students in some way or another.
“On top of providing the students services such as funding to campus organizations, the association also gives the students the chance to serve,” said senator Previn Witana, a senior biology major. “This can be anything from commissioner, senator, court justice, or even an intern for a senator.“
However, it takes a lot of governance to handle that amount of money.
To start, ASUCD functions much in the same way that the U.S. government does. It has an executive, legislative and judicial branch. It holds elections twice a year, one in the fall and one in the winter. It has a constitution. Candidates run under political “slates,” or parties and often those slates debate over crucial ideas and issues within the student body.
The executive branch consists of the president and vice president, whom students vote for in winter elections. The legislative branch is a 12-member senate, six voted on in the fall, and six in the winter. The judicial branch interprets the ASUCD constitution, and consists of eight justices and one judge.
Commissions are also part of the legislative branch. There are seven total commissions and they meet once a week to plan and vote on bills to send to senate.
“Commissions are a really great way to start off your involvement in ASUCD,” said Dana Percoco, a junior political science and communication major and chair of the External Affairs Commission. “You get to work with other commissions and see all the positions available – maybe even work your way up to chair.“
Though commissioners vote on bills, they do not get a final say. Senators vote on bills at senate meetings, and the president has the power to veto any decision made by senators.
One way to understand the workings of these branches is to attend a senate meeting, held every Thursday night at 6:10 in the Mee Room, on the third floor of the Memorial Union. There, senators and commission chairs meet to discuss bills, appoint new members of the government, and gather information about the student government and student body as a whole.
“It really helps to go to the meetings because when you see what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis, you can get an understanding of the dynamic of the table,” said senator Erin Lebe, a senior political science and sociology major. “[When students] go to meetings, they can find out where student money goes, why certain items are allocated money and why some things aren’t.“
Meetings are conducted like a town hall meeting, using Robert’s Rules of Order.
Many students may find ASUCD difficult to penetrate, seeing it more as a clique or private club than a service.
“I know that without [ASUCD] a lot of things wouldn’t be possible, but I also feel like I could never be a part of it,” said Kim Loan Tran, a junior managerial economics major. “Maybe if I wanted to join, I would have to have an insider’s edge, or know someone. And if I did join, I think it would be a lot of hard work.“
In response, members of ASUCD stress that it is, in fact, for everyone.
“We kind of get a reputation for being secretive, but we’re always trying to see that change,” said President Joe Chatham, a senior international relations major. “There’s really something for everyone, no matter what you’re interested in.”
One way the organization has made an effort to communicate this, and make themselves known to students, is with their Outreach Assembly: a unit specifically designed to bind the void some students feel between ASUCD and the rest of the campus. The unit will be making dorm-calls to as many dorms as they can this year, educating them about the services available through ASUCD.
“My hope is that when people know about ASUCD they will be interested in what is going on and they will vote and be active in the process,” said Taylor Fleshman, Outreach Assembly speaker and junior international relations major. “People are allowed to talk and ask questions and request funding. It’s a way to show that you really care about your school and want it to be its best.“
Elections this year will be held mid-November and are usually marked by Facebook group invitations for senatorial candidates and debates in the MU and in the dorms.
“One of the greatest aspects about ASUCD is that it puts the power for change in the hands of the students and enables any goal or program a student envisions to come to fruition,” said Trevor Taylor, a senator and senior political science and history major.
To get involved with ASUCD, visit their website at asucd.ucdavis.edu or contact officials at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at email@example.com.