Views Differ on ASUC Funding

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After six weeks of delays, the ASUC Senate Finance Officer recently reported the senate has at least $105,000 in its contingency fund this year - an amount most senators heralded as enormous compared to years past.

But with the newfound money comes concern that the senate has no solid plan for allocating it. The funds are discretionary, meaning they can be used to sponsor student groups and campus activities, such as last year's spring concert.

Some senators said they fear the large amount of money and few restrictions on its use could lead to major spending fiascoes. Many cited last year's long-delayed ASUC Master Calendar. A glass-encased bulletin board on Upper Sproul, some ASUC officials have said they consider the underused calendar a waste of the $13,000 allocated to it.

While many in the senate finance committee said they believe they are spending conservatively this year, a few bills up for approval this week would give large sums of money to unorthodox proposals.

For example, Student Action Senator Cara Kim has proposed giving $28,800 to the Rally Committee to print 7,200 blue T-shirts for the Big Game. A $6,000 proposal to fund recreational activities for ASUC senators, sponsored by Kim and Executive Vice President Alex Ding, has also raised eyebrows.

Cal-SERVE Senator Evora Griffith said these two bills are an example of the senate not helping stage events or provide student groups with funding.

"This is not what we're here for - I don't feel that is right," said Griffith, who is serving her third year on the finance committee. "I wish student groups could know they can apply for funding, or even senators can become more innovative and do things that deserve more utility than the Master Calendar, which was a waste of money."

Griffith, however, agreed the senate has funded good projects in the past, such as a planned ASUC all-night rave, a voter bounty program that gives money to student groups to register voters and last year's spring concert.

Former Cal-SERVE Senator Arian White called the proposed funding for Rally Committee T-shirts "irresponsible," since the group received a $10,000 increase in their budget last year.

"I realize it's an extreme amount of money to Big Game shirts, but it would represent a unified color and unified stance (at the Big Game)," Kim said. "Cal Athletics deserves it, as they are students too, but (the pursuit of) outside sources of funding have not been exhausted."

The bill to fund recreational senate activities could relieve political tension by allowing senators to meet in a more social environment, according to its supporters. It would fund projects such as holiday banquets, senate outings such as paintballing, camping, and going to baseball games. Some contest potential increased camaraderie among senators is not worth the price.

"The bill funding social activities for senators could be another example of how the ASUC spends disproportionately on itself," White said.

But other senate finance committee members said they have been fiscally conservative this year.

"I have been impressed with our ability to screen bills with a fine-toothed comb," said Student Action Senator Justin Christensen, who serves as vice-chair of the finance committee.

As an example of fiscal responsibility, Christensen referred to a bill funding the Labor Coach student group, which trains students to coach pregnant immigrant mothers. He said the ASUC saved money by donating rooms for the student group rather than providing more money.

"By catching that, we saved several hundreds of dollars that could be used for other student groups," Christensen said.

Kim said the entire committee is conscious and "realistic" about its spending, and last year it was expected bills would be slashed considerably before final approval.

She pointed out that the senate puts on many programs that do not spend money on the ASUC.

While Ding said the ASUC has more money this year, he warned there may be an inclination to spend more of it.

"We need to make sure what we spend money on helps accomplish our original goals," he said.


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