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Friday, December 3, 2021

ASUCD no longer member of UC Student Association with no plans to rejoin

UCSA cites $15,000 fee in decision to no longer recognize ASUCD as member in good standing

The UC Student Association has voted to no longer recognize ASUCD as a member in good standing with the association until ASUCD pays the full amount of the $15,970.78 debt it owes UCSA in full. ASUCD President Michael Gofman and External Vice President Edgar Masias-Malagon said ASUCD was not consulted in this decision, a claim UCSA officials deny.

UCSA has also suspended ASUCD’s attendance privileges at UCSA’s four annual conferences, “including the upcoming 2019 Student Lobby Conference, unless payment of past due invoices are received before the first registration deadline,” a UCSA press release states. ASUCD’s privileges will be re-established once the full payment is received.

Although the debt will be paid back in full, according to Masias-Malagon, ASUCD will not rejoin UCSA in the foreseeable future. UCSA advocates and lobbies on behalf of all UC students and is comprised of student leaders from different UC campuses.

Masias-Malagon estimated the membership fee for UCSA was around $40,000, an amount ASUCD is unable to pay. ASUCD, unlike other UC associations which are funded primarily by student fees, with money flowing into savings and expenses, is run more like a “traditional business,” Gofman said.

“They don’t have a CoHo, they don’t have Unitrans, they just have money flowing in,” he said. “We have to balance our income flows. Most of our expenses are salaries because we have so many student workers. Our budget overall may be significantly larger than most other UC’s if not all of them, but in terms of how much of that money is moveable, it’s the smallest.”

UCSA, informed of ASUCD’s financial restraints, gave ASUCD a 90 percent waiver. So instead of a $40,000 membership fee, ASUCD’s fee was reduced to $4,000. That amount, however, does not include the fees of attending UCSA conferences.

According to the press release sent by UCSA announcing its decision and detailing ASUCD’s debt, the outstanding $15,970.78 debt owed is comprised of the 90 percent subsidized yearly dues, $4,400 of registration fees from the UC Student Lobby Conference and $3,960 of registration fees and $3,612.18 of lodging fees at the UC Student Organizing Summit.

“UC Davis has failed to pay or respond to requests about payment for the small portion of their total share that ASUCD representatives previously promised to pay,” the UCSA press release stated. “We regret to have to take interventive measures at this time, but can no longer responsibly cover ASUCD’s financial commitments.”

Masias-Malagon said the full amount owed would be processed and paid to UCSA by Feb. 15. An email that same day from UCSA President Caroline Siegel-Singh said that ASUCD “has arranged to pay back three of the four invoices but is still attempting to continue to negotiate down their 10% dues contribution.”

The press release from UCSA sent to The California Aggie and others on Feb. 10 was the result of a decision made at the mandatory monthly board meeting which took place at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 9. Masias-Malagon said no UC Davis student was able to go because of “midterms, papers or conflicting events occurring that weekend representative.” He said he  messaged UCSA’s executive director the day of the meeting, saying the money would be received in full by Feb. 15.

While Masias-Malagon said UCSA’s decision to essentially censure ASUCD was done in a “really shady way” in his opinion, and while Gofman said the decision came as a complete surprise, Siegel-Singh said ASUCD “was notified several times since August of this year that there were outstanding debts.”

“The ASUCD representatives chose not to attend the mandatory monthly board meeting […] without any notice that they would not be there,” Siegel-Singh said. “It was unfortunate that ASUCD reps missed this meeting because a mid-year budget review including what to do about outstanding debts was on the agenda. Had they noticed their absence in advance, we may have been able to make arrangements to include them in discussion.”

Masias-Malagon acknowledged that UCSA was not notified. From his perspective, he thinks one reason why the decision was made so hastily was because UCSA was trying to make an example out of ASUCD to other UC campuses that might also have outstanding debts. Siegel-Singh said, however, that ASUCD “is the only association still in debt for over 90 days.”

“We did feel that it was important for students to know why they would not be able to participate in upcoming statewide conferences like the Student Lobby Conference (SLC) and Students of Color Conference (SOCC) if ASUCD does not arrange to pay all of their debts,” she said, explaining why a press release was sent out regarding the decision.

Although ASUCD will again be in good standing once the money is received by UCSA, ASUCD’s constitution does not allow UCSA to be recognized as a partner if it falls into bad standing and voting rights are lost. So the moment the UCSA decision was made and letter was sent, Masias-Malagon said, ASUCD effectively withdrew its membership.

“We didn’t actually take the active step in leaving,” Gofman said. “That being said, now that we’ve left, I do not foresee us rejoining, at least not in the foreseeable future.”

A discussion over whether UC Davis students care about being a member of UCSA has begun following these recent events. Both Masias-Malagon and Gofman said they feel students have little awareness of UCSA and the work it does and most likely feel indifferent about whether or not ASUCD is a member.

Siegel-Singh said whether or not campuses choose to be members, UCSA is still recognized by the state and the UC Regents as the official voice for all UC students.

“UCD students still benefited from the fee rollback we won last year, from expanded housing projects to keep pace with enrollment, and from additional mental health counselors we advocates for,” she explained. “We will not change our advocacy to say that these wins should only go to our dues paying members. UCD should engage in UCSA because our advocacy is more informed and effective if we work together.”

Both Gofman and Masias-Malagon also said, however, that students do care about attending UCSA conferences. ASUCD does not have to be a member to continue sending students to these conferences. Siegel-Singh added that UCSA subsidizes the cost of conferences for dues-paying members, “so the cost for UCD attendance will go up if they do not choose to participate.”

Paying the full debt to UCSA means spending the entirety of the budget Masias-Malagon oversees. And because it appears as if UC Davis students will not be able to participate in either the upcoming Student Lobbying and Students of Color conferences, Masias-Malagon said he plans to organize UC Davis’ own Students of Color Conference to make up for missing UCSA’s.

“It’s disappointing as an EVP to have to go back to your students and say, ‘We can’t attend this conference,’” he said. “At the end of the day, we just can’t afford it. At this point moving forward, the money will be paid and we’ll be in good standing, but I don’t see, at least this year, returning back to UCSA. That’s a discussion maybe we’ll need to be having with the next EVP in the fall.”

Currently, UCSA and ASUCD officials are parting ways, but “parting on a good foot,” Masias-Malagon said.

“We want to be able to part ways and have the ability to come back,” Masias-Malagon said. “But this year, we just simply can’t afford it. We put all of our pennies in one project and that’s it.”

Written by: Hannah Holzer — campus@theaggie.org

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