GUSA holds preliminary discussion of Cultural Advisory Board
Last night, GUSA held a preliminary Cultural Advisory Board town hall meeting in the social room of the Healey Family Student Center. The discussion was attended by representatives of multiple cultural groups who posed many questions about the potential Board’s organizational structure, funding allocation, and intended purpose.
“Last spring, we sat down with a lot of cultural groups on campus to hear concerns about we could better serve them,” GUSA Vice President Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) said. “We heard a lot of concerns about programming, academic issues, and institutional barriers—but one common theme … was regarding funding. One of the ideas we came up with was the possible creation of a Cultural Board which would serve the interests of the cultural groups on campus.”
The development of the CAB is part of the GUSA Multicultural Council initiative that “aims to create a constant and direct line of communication between cultural groups and the GUSA executive as well as to promote cross-cultural interactions between the entire cultural community.” A common grievance among cultural groups on campus is the one-size-fits-all funding policy. Ideally, this new Board would be conducive for interest specialization, institutionalized University support, and funding transparency.
Over the summer, these concerns were discussed with Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson, who was then charged to create a Cultural Board Working Group. Although a draft constitution for the CAB has already been created, Jikaria explained that the next goal for this initiative is to present a tangible proposal for the creation of the Board to Olson later this semester.
While cultural groups currently get their funding from either SAC or CSJ, according to the draft charter, the Cultural Board would serve as the new “primary funding and advising body for groups that promote identities and their heritages.” The general consensus of the group representatives was that there is both a lack of transparency and uncertainty regarding how funding decisions are presently being made.
One of the major sources of contention, however, is that, while the CAB would possibly lead to a re-allocation of funds, the total amount of money available to the groups as a whole would remain the same. “Don’t count on more money going to cultural groups,” GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Shepherd (MSB ’15) said. “But do count on better communication from the Advisory Board.”
While many of the representatives in attendance acknowledged a need for greater advocacy and better communication across cultural groups, not all of them are convinced of the benefits of switching to an entirely different funding system with the CAB. For Vice President of the Taiwanese American Student Association Timothy Yim (SFS ’17), one major concern is that the new council cannot fully be differentiated from existing multicultural organizations for advocacy or communications, such as the Students of Color Alliance, as well as the additional implications of funding re-allocation.
“Generally we came in thinking that if they are having a separate board, that would maybe indicate better access to funding, because, obviously, additional access to funding is what every club is looking for on campus,” Yim said. “But if the pie is the same, by simple economic principles, if they give us more funding from this, because we are a smaller club, someone else is getting less.”
A full copy of the constitution draft is below.
Photo: Kenneth Lee/Vox Populi