After an entire decade of absence, UC Davis is finally considering rejoining the University of California Student Association (UCSA), an entirely student-run alliance representing all ten UC campuses. The association serves as a voice for students by advocating policies to ensure the best quality and affordability in higher education.
With discussions between ASUCD and UCSA already under way, the main questions now are related to membership costs.
“UCSA is the sole entity responsible for representing UC students to everyone,” said ASUCD Office of Advocacy and Student Representation Director and second-year sociology major Harley Litzelman. “The UC student opinion, position, tactics [and] strategy are centered on the actions of UCSA. When we are not apart of UCSA, we are not doing our duty as student leaders to fulfill the ASUCD constitution. It costs something, [but] everything costs something.”
This cost is the $35,000 required fee every year for a UC campus to be a member of UCSA and gain access to the resources provided through the membership. The association granted UC Davis a fee waiver to allow a trial period of membership.
Although the original waiver was set to expire in May, the UCSA board recently voted to extend ASUCD’s waiver for membership into next year.
“I felt that a little extra time [is needed] for [ASUCD] President Watson and ASUCD to look within its own organizational resources to make ends meet,” UCSA Board of Directors Chair and UC Berkeley senior political science major Kevin Sabo said. “Everyone at the board recognized the really important role Davis has had [this year]. They’ve been really active and great members of the board, so we felt that Davis seems to be making an honest commitment in the long term.”
This commitment would entail UC Davis rejoining UCSA and budgeting for the membership fee in some form.
“[The fee waiver extension] means that ASUCD and UC Davis students can remain represented in UCSA and in all of their lobbying efforts and programs,” ASUCD controller and third-year political science and economics double major Francisco Lara said. “It also shows UCSA is willing to work with UC Davis in order to form a partnership – [it proves] this is an organization that really wants to work with us within our constraints in order to represent us.”
The decision on this extension has allowed more time for UC Davis in deciding whether the $35,000 annual fee is worth the benefits.
According to Sabo, the fee breaks down to $1.30 per student annually.
“We can’t really quantify the benefit of being in UCSA, but the important thing to remember is that [by being a member] you have access to things you only get through membership with UCSA. There are a lot of avenues that have opened up for [UC Davis] students,” he said.
Sabo, who has been involved in UCSA for almost two years now, ensures that the $35,000 is being put to necessary use. The fee is divided into different cost categories including campaigns, voter registration, staff salaries, maintaining UCSA’s office in Sacramento, memberships in other national student associations, facilities and board traveling.
“For example, back in March, the Santa Barbara graduate students wanted to get more information about what was going on with the budget update, so UCSA flew me down [there] to meet with [them],” Sabo said. “It’s very much focused on getting students to where they need to be. It’s quite an expensive budget, and we spend time on our financial board every month, so we’re definitely staying on top it. This past year, before we had our final budget, we did a lot of trimming things down.”
Third-year international relations and philosophy double major and ASUCD president Mariah Kala Watson ensures that ASUCD cannot and will not factor the UCSA membership into this budget cycle, however beneficial it might be.
“UCSA is something that I feel is extremely valuable,” Watson said. “If [we had] a budget, [like] say four years ago, where I was in the financial position to be able to invest in something that I thought would benefit the student body, UCSA would be [it]. UCSA just seems like one of those things we always should’ve been invested in, especially when they restructured – they’re a lot more professional, a lot more reputable and [we] can really depend on them.”
Lara said that he is more focused on the amount of money that ASUCD would have to cut or reallocate in order to fund the $35,000 rather than the merits of rejoining.
“We’re restrained by the fact that we have to cut so much money, and we’re not in a position to pile on $35,000,” Lara said.“[UCSA] was trying to change the way student government pays for it, so [that it would come] from a different pool of money that isn’t student government, [but that is] just a proposal.”
ASUCD is currently considering two possible ways of reallocating the funding for UCSA for upcoming years. As it stands constitutionally, students cannot be charged for UC Davis’ membership in UCSA. However, officials can make a formal amendment to the ASUCD constitution in order for each student to be charged $1.30 each year. The alternative would be to build the membership cost into a different and existing subset of money, such as the student service fee.
Whichever way ASUCD decides to approach this situation, Watson and others still believe that UCSA campaigns and policies are worth taking into consideration.
In the past, UCSA has campaigned for topics related to sexual violence, taking apart the “school-to-prison” pipeline and voter registration, but it has also been a driving force in the prevention of the five percent proposed tuition increase.
“Coalitions in communities amplify what individual voices and individual efforts can do,” Sabo said. “[UCSA is] able to amplify that voice on a student level. We’re able to accomplish extraordinary things.”
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