A bill to increase funding for community-specific graduation ceremonies did not pass at the ASUCD Senate meeting on May 9. The bill would have increased funding to ethnic graduation ceremonies by $1,300.
Senate Bill 94 was first presented to ASUCD on May 2, asking for $5,100 in grants to fund the graduation ceremonies. It was sent back to the Business and Finance commission for revision and debated again on May 9, after the amount was reduced to $1,300.
The $1,300 would have been added to the $4,000 of support ASUCD already gives to ethnic and Lavender graduation ceremonies. The bill needed a 2/3 majority to pass.
The senators who voted no on the bill were Tal Topf, Felicia Ong, Liam Burke, Ryan Wonders and Amrit Sahota.
Background of the bill
According to Alyson Sagala, ASUCD senator and author of Senate Bill 94, bills have been introduced every year for the past three years regarding funding for ethnic and Lavender graduation ceremonies.
Last year’s situation was unique, Sagala said, because an ASUCD unit had been dissolved and so there were unknown reserves available for the ethnic graduations. As a result, funding increased from $3,000 to $10,000.
This year’s bill had a similar request in nature and terms of funding. However, the situation was different.
“It’s a sad situation, in that they were only willing to fund these events because that money became available — which is completely unacceptable and they should be funded either way,” Sagala said.
There are eight community-specific graduation celebrations that were involved with drafting the bill: Black Graduation, Chican@/Latin@ Graduation, Filipin@ Graduation, Lavender Graduation, Middle East/South Asian Graduation, Muslim Student Association Graduation, Native American Graduation and Southeast Asian Graduation.
Sagala said the bill was created because funding was cut off from other avenues, which left a gap in funding that couldn’t be bridged with fundraising and other campus grants.
“… when [the bill] failed, the only argument was that there wouldn’t be enough money left in senate reserves for the rest of the year,” Sagala said. “The people who voted no essentially did so because they believe that ASUCD has no responsibility in supporting these events, which is absolutely not true.”
The opposition’s argument
The main arguments senators gave for denying the bill were the low reserves available to ASUCD and the timing of the bill.
Senator Felicia Ong said she voted against because she didn’t feel there would be enough money left in the senate reserves.
ASUCD controller Eric Evans said that there is currently $3,339 in the ASUCD budget for the remainder of the school year.
“I personally felt that a huge con to this bill was its timing in relation to how much money we have left in our senate reserve,” Ong said in an email interview. “Passing the bill would have about halved the amount left in our senate reserves, bringing the total to under $2,000. I personally believe that we should always save a little money in our reserves for unforeseen expenses, which is exactly what senate reserves are for.”
Senator Liam Burke echoed Ong’s reasons for denying the bill and said that he feels senate reserves were too low to make make large appropriations that are not vital to the operation of student services. He also said the bill was poorly timed.
“Graduations are fast approaching, and the time crunch is one of the arguments the proponents of the bill made to get the senate to pass it, but it’s a bad argument,” Burke said in an email interview. “If they knew they were going to need money — which they did — they should not have waited so long to come to us, since our reserves have now reached the point where any expenditure has to be heavily scrutinized.”
Representatives from the ethnic and Lavender graduation ceremonies said there has been a consistent struggle with ASUCD about funding for these ceremonies in the past.
“There have been problems with funding from ASUCD in the past. We’ve never really had a consistent amount,” said Linda Phan, representative of the Southeast Asian graduation ceremony and a third-year nutrition science and Asian-American studies double major. “The money we receive from ASUCD is never enough, and when we ask for more or ask for adjustments there’s always a lot of conflicts.”
Many of the representatives feel the main issue is that ASUCD does not see the importance of these ceremonies for the student body and therefore do not feel it is their duty to provide more funding. The representatives from the eight graduation ceremonies will attend the ASUCD budget hearings on May 18 and 19 to address this issue.
“It’s really been a debate about what senators from years past and present, what they feel according to their legislation, is appropriate for them to give funding to,” said Geetanjali Vij, representative for the Middle East/South Asian (MESA) graduation and a fourth-year religious studies and Middle East South Asia studies double major. “Essentially, the hurdle is not necessarily the availability of money or funds, it’s the justification of giving those funds.”
Many of the graduation ceremonies have been a tradition for many years. The Chican@/Latin@ graduation has been in place since 1984, and according to Dylan Stevenson, representative for the Native American graduation and a fourth-year linguistics major, the Native American graduation has been a tradition since the early 1990s.
Phan said they will be presenting a plan to show ASUCD they are fiscally responsible and hope to establish a solid, consistent amount that’s appropriate for the graduation ceremonies so future conflict can be avoided.
“Budget hearings are crucial and any support for ethnic and Lavender graduations will help us out,” Stevenson said. “We need to advocate higher allocations for our graduations so future graduates can focus on their academics instead of becoming involved in campus politics.”
Sadalia King, a representative from the Black graduation ceremony and fourth-year sociology major, said the budget hearing is an opportunity to improve things for future generations.
Ethnic and Lavender graduation representatives said these ceremonies are vital to the ethnic and LGBT communities at UC Davis. They receive a lot of support from those communities in the student body.
“For the senators who denied the bill, I would like to invite them to any one of the ethnic and Lavender grad[uations] we have,” Phan said. “I feel like we can talk and try to convince them of the merit of the graduating ceremonies all we want, but until the senators who said no on the bill actually see the significance of the graduating ceremonies, they are not going to fully understand.”
Sagala said that a “no” vote on this bill would not have a good bearing on UC Davis’ campus climate.
“A lot of the senators who voted no were voted into office by students in that room and we are going to prove that they need to give the appropriate amount of funding to these students so this no longer is a conflict,” Sagala said. “ASUCD’s decision not to fund these events has negatively influenced the campus climate here at UC Davis.”
PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.