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Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Not unexpectedly, the University has moved to prevent direct spending on Ballot Initiatives. The ASUC is defining this as the University fearing the political power of the students, when it's actually the University fearing the lawsuit power of the Pacific Legal Foundation.
Indeed, I think it's most accurate to see this move as an attempt to have it both ways. The University appears to be trying to cover its legal butt while keeping open the valves of student political participation. This isn't to say that the University is being altruistic-- more likely their fear of student movements is still ingrained-- but the effect is the same for students.
The most important thing here is how limited this move is-- the University could've tried to limit political spending entirely or instituted oversight Committees over ASUC spending. A ban on direct spending is easier to circumvent then a new bureaucracy would be, leaving open a wide range of political activity. After all, the ASUC can still simply fund front groups that perform the actual lobbying.
Most interesting is the careful legal definitions that the University is trying to craft.
“University resources should not be used to directly impact the electorate on how they should vote, but rather communicate student concerns to the Legislature,” Smith saidMore worrying is this redefinition of the ASUC as simply an arm of the University. Alarm bells ring! An arm of the University is subject to the whims of the Chancellor. This is far more dangerous then a narrow spending restriction.
“UC systemwide policy means the ASUC is an official unit of UC and is subject to the same funding restrictions,” said UC spokesperson Hanan Eisenman.In essence, the ASUC has won, but somehow fails to see it. They essentially preserved the right for student lobbying. They escaped significant regulation. And the University found a way to stay out of ASUC affairs while still staying clear of legal threats. They even got paid for the now-illegal spending they already committed-- an implicit admission by the University that its rules were unclear enough to be successfully manipulated.
And yet we're going to risk everything for a right-- to directly fund ballot initiatives-- that feels essentially meaningless to me. All we need to do, in the very rare case of Prop 54-esque initiatives, is start a bullshit student group. That's as effective! It's no wonder that the GA and ASUC officials are complaining about this on symbolic grounds.
The university could face a lawsuit from the ASUC, on grounds of alleged free speech violations.If we win, the University will once again face legal threats. And they will most likely go to plan B, which is direct oversight of ASUC spending.
The University is happy to stay out of ASUC affairs, so long as they're assured that they won't be dragged into legal entanglements. Instead of accomodating this relatively simple need, the ASUC keeps choosing to see the University as a simplistic, anti-student monstrosity.
This is part and parcel of a general UCSA/ASUC policy that relies on lawsuits and threats instead of negotiations. Granted, the University is unresponsive to student negotiation requests. But in the long run, this strategy is bound to fail.
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