SUGB, SUA Oppose OPERS’ Funding Plan

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Members of the Student Union Governance Board (SUGB) have mobilized in response to the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports’ (OPERS) plan to use the Student Life Facilities Fee Reserve Fund to finance a projected $2 million renovation to the swimming pool filtration system.

SUGB chair Jhordy Gongora and vice chair Ray Lebeau spoke to the Student Union Assembly (SUA) on Tuesday night to advocate for the reserve fund to be split 60-40, with 60 percent going to OPERS and 40 percent going to SUGB. SUA then unanimously passed a resolution in support of that division of the funds.

The reserve fund is an accumulation of money gathered from the Student Life Facilities Fee (SLFF) — a $30 fee that was implemented in 1987 to finance the construction of the Student Media Center, the Redwood and Student Union buildings, and the first facilities at OPERS. The reserve is currently worth about $3.5 million and the committee overseeing it, jointly staffed by SUGB and OPERS, has not convened in over three years.

“During the years that the committee was being used, there was a really collaborative approach between us and OPERS,” Gongora said. Changes in OPERS’s staff led to breakdowns in communication and other frustrations that resulted in the separation of the two bodies’ funding streams with Measures 65 and 66.

Neither measure addresses the issue of how the reserve fund will be allocated between the two groups. The 60-40 split advocated by SUGB is modeled after the distribution of facilities and maintenance funds generated by the SLFF. No such split was ever formally codified for the portion of the fee that feeds the reserve fund and that ends this year.

SUGB has attempted to reach out and convene the reserve fund joint committee during its three-year recess. Its most recent attempt was last year, when OPERS proposed a 90-10 split of the reserve fund. Those efforts were unsuccessful, and no formal decision was ever made.

While the two bodies can convene the committee if each party agrees to, the committee is generally called to assemble through the Dean of Students’ office. Final decisions, including to reconvene the board, must also be approved by the executive vice chancellor.

“There was an effort to reconvene this committee, and there wasn’t a response,” said SUGB vice chair Ray Lebeau. “I’m hoping that there’s still knowledge about this committee that once existed, and that OPERS acknowledges that.”

On March 15, SUGB released a letter addressing the Division of Student Success, dean of student services, OPERS and the Interim Campus Provost Herbie Lee demanding the committee reconvene by April 14. They also requested access to accounting for the SLFF reserve, including any expenditures within the last three years and information for any reserves connected to SUGB facilities.

The letter emphasized the importance of transparency and collaboration between administration and students spaces.

“It has to do with respecting student voices,” said SUGB chair Jhordy Gongora. “We see administration saying they support us, and then they either don’t demonstrate that support, or our voices aren’t respected during our processes.”