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Archive for the ‘Higher Education’ Category

Open Letter: Restore Funding To Media Organizations At UCSD

In Higher Education on December 3, 2015 at 8:05 am

Attached below is the open letter calling for the UCSD student government to reverse its decision to defund student-run on-campus media organizations as sent to the UCSD Chancellor and the UCSD Associated Students President on Dec. 3, 2015 (followed by the text as formatted on WordPress).

If you would also like to add your name to this letter, please feel free to sign and include your UCSD affiliation as a comment at:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/UCSD-media-org-funding

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UCSD Open Letter Final

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Dear Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and AS President Dominick Suvonnasupa,

 

As UCSD alumni and former campus leaders, we have an obligation to speak out and defend the vital role that media organizations have historically played on UCSD’s campus. We are deeply concerned by the Associated Students at UCSD’s recent decision to vote to defund registered media organizations on campus. 1

 

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are critical to maintaining an open, healthy, and free society. At UCSD in particular, on-campus media organizations have a long and rich history of holding those in positions of power accountable, including the administration and the student government. Pledging to fund academic publications—as Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary Ratcliff has done—is insufficient and fails to maintain funding for creative and news media organizations on campus, many of which have existed for decades.

 

We remember when ASUCSD voted in 2010 to stop funding all on-campus registered media organizations in a well-intentioned—but misguided—attempt to prevent the publication of offensive content and silence dissenting voices. 2 After months of sustained pressure from passionate UCSD students and San Diego residents, the student government restored funding, realizing that the effects of trying to censor speech were ultimately more detrimental than the speech itself. 3

 

Five years later, UCSD is again at a crossroads. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Decay of SunGod

In Higher Education, Investigative Reporting on May 14, 2012 at 6:39 pm

A Tale of Privilege, Patronage, and Prejudice

Alec Weisman, California Review Editor-in-Chief Emeritus ‘08-‘11

The Sun God Festival is the highlight of most UCSD students’ college careers. It is a time to let loose, have fun, and de-stress from the rigors of the quarter system. Yet it is also a time for the UCSD Associated Students (AS) to take credit for an event that has been progressively declining since at least 2008. The Sun God Festival is also the time of the year that reveals the intricacies of student government and shows the full extent of the perks that they receive.

After 2007, the Sun God Festival went from a campus wide de-stress celebration to a caged and heavily policed event isolated at RIMAC. Prior to the caging, the UCSD AS spent $200,000 on the Sun God festival. After the restrictions, the AS spent $550,000 on the event. Students now pay around $15 in student fees for the Sun God festival even as they receive a smaller return on their investment, with the money being used less efficiently. Some exceptionally poor decisions by the AS have included their erection of a fence around the dance tent and their inane purchase of a giant inflatable Sun God that cost $5,000-$6,000.

In addition, Daniel Watts, a former candidate for AS President in 2005, discovered that AS had a private Sun God guest list for former AS members as recently as 2011. According to a public records request, this guest list composed several former AS members, celebrities, University affiliates, and sponsors.

According to Oliver Zhang, the AS Associate Vice President of Concerts & Events (ASCE) responsible for the 2012 Sun God Festival, a guest list is industry standard and is “consistent for all ASCE shows throughout the year.” Although the Sun God guest list has included more than 500 people since 2007, Zhang explained that the 2011-2012 AS worked “to keep the guest list as modest as possible” in order to “make our events as accessible to students as possible.”

This is not the only privilege that AS has given itself. The UCSD AS pays themselves more than $100,800 in stipends for AS cabinet members and office staff. These stipends have more than doubled since 2006-2007, when AS Cabinet and AS Office stipends were only $47,250.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Higher Education

In Higher Education on February 26, 2012 at 12:15 am

How Entrenched Interests at UCSD Distort the Facts to Raise Student Fees
Alec Weisman

Washington DC – Two new ballot initiatives at the University of California, San Diego are in the works that if passed would raise student fees by $534 per year, an increase of more than 150 percent. The high stakes of these two referenda have prompted entrenched interests at UC San Diego to spread misinformation, half-truths, and factual distortions in an attempt to pass their fee hikes.

The most contentious of these referenda, the Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) Student Activity Fee Referendum, seeks to move UCSD from NCAA Division II to Division I. To do so, UCSD needs to increase the athletics budget by $13 million to be competitive, according to a $28,000 UCSD Feasibility Study commissioned by former Associated Students (AS) President Utsav Gupta and Vice Chancellor Student Affairs Penny Rue. The study was carried out by consulting firm Athletics Staffing & Consultants and released in March 2011. This referendum requires undergraduate students to pay an additional $165 per quarter, which will generate around $11 million for the athletics annual budget if enrollment remains the same. The fee would go into effect as soon as UCSD is accepted into the Big West conference, which must happen by September 30, 2014 or else the results of this referendum would be nullified. The vote will be held on Tritonlink from Monday, February 27 and continue until Friday, March 9.

UCSD moved to Division II in 2001, however, its top sports, fencing, men’s volleyball, and water polo, already compete at Division I. After less than three years at Division II public debate had already begun to ask if UCSD should join Division I, although prior to 2007 UCSD did not even offer athletic scholarships. These scholarships are estimated to compose about a third of the ICA operating budget if the referendum is approved.

The distortions begin with the “Pro Statement” on the referendum itself. It reads, “The Division I and Student Scholarships Referendum will raise nearly $8,000,000 per year in scholarships, $3,000,000 of which will go to student grants and aid, not just to athletes.” However, only about $6 million will actually be raised from this new referendum, while the remaining $2 million comes from the $119.78 per quarter ICA Student Activity Fee that students already pay.

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Popping the UCSD Housing Bubble

In Higher Education, Investigative Reporting on January 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Los Angeles – The University of California, San Diego Housing, Dining, and Hospitality (HDH) Services has made more than $250,000 in profit over the past five years through unused dining dollars, according to data released through a California Public Records Act Request. In addition, data also revealed the price per square foot for UCSD residence halls far exceeds the surrounding community.

A total of $286,421 unused dining dollars have returned to the HDH since the 2006-2007 academic year. The largest inflow of unused dining dollars occurred in the 2008-2009 academic year, when the HDH received $68,722. This increase in unused dining dollars corresponds to a mandatory meal plan increase of $650 for all students living in the dorms. In the years since, the price of many goods in campus dining halls have been inflated dramatically, which has reduced the amount of unused dining dollars received by the school from the 2008-2009 peak by more than $20,000 and $15,000 in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years, respectively.

This is profit for the self-supporting department of Housing, Dining, and Hospitality Services, which operates without any state funding and relies on students who choose to live on-campus to be conveniently located close to their classes. Although HDH claims that its meal plan is intended to be flexible, plans are not refundable and do not carry over to the next academic year. Therefore HDH keeps all dining dollars that are not used by students. Only in “unique circumstances,” such as withdrawal and participation in a Study Abroad program, can students recover a portion of their unused dining dollars.

This profit from dining dollars has been used by HDH on projects that include a fully vegan restaurant called Roots in Muir College, Meatless Mondays (where the dining halls provide vegan-only grill options), Farm 2U (where local farmers sell their goods on-campus), and cage-free eggs. However, student opinion has been repeatedly ignored in the development of these programs, as shown by a 2009 study sponsored by The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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ASUCSD To Vote on Abandoning Their Resolution of Neutrality

In Higher Education on November 30, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Alec Weisman

According to Samer Naji, the Vice President of External Affairs for the Associated Students at the University of California, San Diego, due to complaints and “various concerns raised about the Occupy Resolution, the External Affairs Office decided to draft a different resolution directed mainly towards our campus.”

Therefore, instead of passing a resolution to support the occupy movement, they decided to focus their efforts on passing a resolution in support of Reclaim UCSD.

However, the AS office of External Affairs does not stop there. Instead, their new resolution decides to overturn their former Resolution Upholding Commitment to the Principles of Community that was passed last April. The new resolution states: “LET IT BE RESOLVED, the ASUCSD shall rescind their decision to maintain neutrality in regards to world events and political issues and instead shall take a more proactive approach to allow the association to partake in relevant political affairs that deeply impact students and are significant to their student lives.”

UPDATE AS OF 8:15 PM: Language of the Clause Currently Reads: ” LET IT BE RESOLVED, the ASUCSD clarifies that the wording of the “Resolution Upholding Commitment to the Principles of Community,” does not require the ASUCSD or the external office to maintain neutrality in regards to world events and political issues that deeply impact UCSD students and are significant to their student lives.”

This clause effectively overturns AS decision to remain neutral regarding world events and national political issues. Sadly this clause in the current resolution is completely unnecessary. The Resolution Upholding Commitment to the Principles of Community only restrains AS from remaining neutral on “divisive external political issue[s].” Although divisive, Reclaim UCSD is an on campus issue and does not fall under the purview of the Resolution Upholding Commitment to the Principles of Community. Therefore, the AS Office of External Affairs is effectively trying to once more assert itself as a partisan organization by seeking to repeal the Resolution Upholding Commitment to the Principles of Community.

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Boulevard of Broken Promises?

In Higher Education on November 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Alec Weisman

Update 1/6/12: This article was reposted on Larry Elder‘s website on January 5, 2011 and Larry Elder interviewed me about this story on 1/6/12.

On April 13, 2011 the Associated Students at the University of California, San Diego voted to endorse a principle of neutrality on political and divisive issues and refrain from passing resolutions.

Yet this promise has faded quickly, with the announcement that the AS Vice-President External Affairs Samer Naji will be introducing a resolution on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 that will explicitly announce the Associated Students support for the Occupy movement.

Although I am generally sympathetic with some of the goals of the Occupy movement, such as their concern that big business is in collusion with government and that bailouts for banks are wrong, yet other claims, such as debt forgiveness for all and “magic” money for every pet project they could imagine are hollow demands and are stupid. In addition, the recent acts of violence in Washington DC, Oakland, and San Diego (among others) has slowly eroded their positive attributes.

In addition, the resolution conflates the recent protests that have been met in some cases with what could be characterized as “excessive force” in the UC System with the Occupy movement at large. The resolution opens with statements claiming: “reckless greed committed by Wall Street firms and Executives,” “corporations prey[ing] on the hopes and aspirations held by millions of people with the simple and selfish aim to maximize profit,” “these corporations are responsible for the eviction of millions of people from their homes due to predatory lending practices.”

Most concerning of all however, this resolution calls upon the “Associated Students [to] provide support for protests and or occupations, should students decide to set up an occupation on campus.” This means that the A.S. will be using your student fees to bring the Occupy movement to UCSD and then proceed to disrupt traffic and interrupt classes and speeches. If members of A.S. want to use their stipends to cover the “Occupy Movement,” then that is their prerogative. But it is a shame that the Associated Students at UCSD continue to try to misrepresent more than 23,000 undergraduates, display their biases in a official capacity, and for revealing their belief that they know whats best for you.

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