New legislation to be debated by the Council at the final budget meeting Thursday
Not 15 minutes before last Thursday’s UCSU Legislative Council meeting, student legislators received a startling surprise: a new amendment had come to the table.
The contentious Fair and Equal Access Bill has found a home in an amendment to the 2007-2008 Appropriations Bill, which is the bill concerning the budgets appropriations of the various UCSU cost centers.
Though not identical to the Fair and Equal Access Bill, this Fair and Equal Access clause similarly attempts to grant the Interfraternity Council fraternities the same student discount rates for facilities use as are granted other student groups on campus that are still associated with the university.
Legislative Council President and co-author of the amendment Joe Martinez is of the opinion that the entire situation is being blown out of proportion, and is simply a contractual disagreement. However, he does admit that the original bill may have been a little over the top.
“I felt like the other bill just focused too much more on the fraternities themselves,” Martinez said. “It was a little more hard-line than it needed to be. So through the legislative process we decided to do something that was a little bit more compromising but still accomplished everyone’s goals.”
The amendment no longer holds the cost centers “hostage,” as was the fear of many students and UCSU employees.
“The Fair and Equal Access Bill would have, if the cost centers had not complied with the bill, not permitted them to have their budgets heard before legislative council,” Martinez said. “So by putting this as an amendment to the budget, we will vote on the budget, it will be approved, the cost centers will know what they are getting next year, that money will never be put in jeopardy.”
However, while the amendment loses the portion that was the source of much debate, it gains another very controversial purpose.
The debate has moved beyond the simple matter of fraternity recognition to an argument over the 1985 autonomy agreement with the Chancellor’s office. The amendment essentially gives the Chancellor’s office 10 days to dispute its effects, or the cost centers must comply. Furthermore, if negotiations with the Chancellor’s office were to fail, the amendment contains provisions to use $15,000 in student fees to procure legal aid in an appeal to the university Regents.
UCSU will only dismiss the Fair and Equal Access Amendment with the explicit disapproval of the Regents.
Legislative Council Senator from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Veronica Lingo, is outraged at what she finds to be a blatant disregard for the autonomy agreement.
“I think the amendment as it stands is illegitimate,” Lingo said. “It is an illegitimate action, on behalf of student government to try to create a back door behind negotiations with administration. Since both our constitution and our autonomy agreement both say that the Chancellor and the rule of the administration come first and foremost this action would be illegitimate against both. Many provisions, our own laws, our own past precedent have been ignored in this administration.”
Martinez, however, does not believe that the situation will continue past the Chancellor’s office.
“If we have a disagreement with the administration, we are going to try and negotiate it out with them and come to a resolution,” Martinez said. “I am confident that we will be able to work this out with the Chancellor, here on our own campus.”
Despite Martinez’s hope for success, there remains a significant amount of stress surrounding the autonomy agreement.
John Henderson, director of Greek life, feels that an undue amount of stress is being placed upon UCSU and the autonomy agreement through the actions of a certain portion of Legislative Council.
“I do believe that this is an opportunity for the Regents to say, ‘This is a reason why we need to get rid of the autonomy agreement, we should not allow $30 million of appropriations decisions to be left to a representative body that has a small group of people enacting their own agenda,'” Henderson said. “We are really lucky, on this campus, to have a UCSU that is entrusted with so much authority. I think this an abuse to use (their authority) this way though. It still looks like a small interest group is making a calculated decision to get what they want.”
The Fair and Equal Access Amendment will come up for discussion during the upcoming Legislative Council meeting this Thursday. It will be the final hearings for the 2007-2008 budgets, and another chance for the Greeks to be heard, and Fair and Equal Access legislation to be passed.
Martinez is hopeful for the approval of this amendment by Legislative Council.
“There are a lot of people on council or at least maybe a handful of people on council, and maybe some of the community that are just not supportive of the fraternities,” Martinez said. “They don’t want to do anything that seems to be a favorable gesture towards them. If people were honest when they say that putting cost centers in the middle is their issue, then I’m confident that the amendment will pass. If people really are harboring some animosities towards the fraternities and that is the real reason they are not supporting the legislation, then it may not pass.”
Lingo is certain that this new form of the Fair and Equal Access Amendment will fail.
“We had a majority on the council, not including the president who is very obviously with the Greek agenda, to fail the Fair and Equal Access Bill as it was,” Lingo said. “So I have no compunctions saying that (the amendment) will fail.”
Contact Campus Press staff writer Brandon Springer at Brandon.email@example.com.