Committee Noncompliant With UC Policy

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Analysis: Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review

University News Editor Mihir Zaveri speaks with Katie Nelson about the Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review.

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UC Berkeley's Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review is struggling to obtain an independent student voice to make recommendations for student service fee allocations to campus units and is under scrutiny by student government leaders who say the committee does not comply with guidelines set forth in UC policy.

The Guidelines for Implementing the UC Student Fee Policy, which were revised in May by the UC Board of Regents and are non-binding, state each campus's chancellor will consult and actively consider student recommendations on the use of fee revenues - a change that was to be implemented for the current academic year, according to the guidelines.

But the current committee in place at UC Berkeley - which was formed in 1972 and does perform audits on units funded by student services fees - does not yet have the power to make allocation recommendations due to a lack of communication between campus administrators and committee leaders.

Student service fees amount to $30 million each year from a semesterly fee of $450 and go toward funding non-academic units, such as child care, University Health Services and the Career Center.

While the other UC campuses have functioning committees that reflect the revised guidelines and have made recommendations for fee allocations to campus chancellors for years - with the exception of UC Merced, whose committee had its first meeting Nov. 10 - according to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande, because there have been no changes to student service fee levels since the policy was revised, there has been no reason for UC Berkeley's committee to review or recommend to campus administrators any fee allocations for different units.

Stephanie Wu, chair of UC Davis' Student Services and Fees Administrative Advisory Committee, said in an e-mail that UC Davis's committee makes annual reports to its Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Fred Wood, and oversees student service fee funding and how it is distributed.

"Our committee has been adapting to changes made to the systemwide guidelines for implementing the UC student fee policy," she said in the e-mail. "We have made it one of our priorities to ensure that information is accountable and transparent. Thus, we have been receiving financial information from the budget office in the new format for all campuses."

But UC Berkeley administrators have yet to meet with the UC Berkeley committee to work out some process to allow the committee to begin making recommendations. The committee has never made recommendations to senior administrators on how to allocate student service fee revenue.

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, representatives from Le Grande's office said the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees - a committee separate from the Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review, which includes students appointed by the ASUC, Graduate Assembly and the committee and is co-chaired by Le Grande - is reviewing the revised systemwide guidelines "to identify potential changes to Berkeley's structure and responsibilities for compliance with this policy."

While Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review Co-Chair Sameer Khan said the committee does not operate ideally, he said negotiations with administrators about potential changes to ensure that it complies with UC policy and guidelines have been lagging.

"Things go really slowly here and you sort of have to accept that," Khan said. "I'm not okay with the way things are, but there is no point in wasting energy. I realize this is a very bureaucratic place and that things are very decentralized."

Currently, the committee is composed of 13 members, one of which is a graduate student and the remaining 12 are undergraduate students. As per a 2003 Memorandum of Understanding between the ASUC and campus officials, the ASUC and Graduate Assembly Academic Affairs officers would be responsible for making all undergraduate and graduate appointments to the committee, respectively.

However, the committee was recently called into question by ASUC and Graduate Assembly leaders when they co-authored a senate bill earlier this month that intended to restructure the committee, address concerns that the committee is not representative of the entire student body - as is set forth in the May guidelines - and attempt to make the committee self-governed, rather than being overseen by campus administrators.

Former Graduate Assembly President Philippe Marchand said the current committee has only one graduate student member out of 13 members, which he said is not representative of the student population. As of fall 2009, graduate students made up close to one-third of the student body. He added that all of the members are self-appointed - with current members appointing new members - and that the committee is currently overseen by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer, weakening the committee's independence.

"To have unelected students making decisions on fees is troubling to us," said Danielle Love, the Graduate Assembly campus affairs vice president, at a Nov. 17 ASUC Senate meeting.

Khan said the committee wants to remain independent from the student government in order to take an apolitical stance when evaluating the distribution of student service fees. But Graduate Assembly President Miguel Daal said at the senate meeting that he thought the discussion could be focused on making the committee compliant with the guidelines.

"We believe that a committee that is composed by student governments can be apolitical if it is set up to be that way," Daal said.


Contact Allie Bidwell and Katie Nelson at [email protected]

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