On Monday, Sept. 19, UC Riverside Chancellor Kim WIlcox informed Associated Students of UC Riverside (ASUCR) President Shafi Karim, Executive Director (ED) Laurie Sinclair and Financial Operations Manager (FOM) Theresa Perez that Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs (VCSA) James Sandoval will assume complete oversight of ASUCR’s ED position, effective immediately. In addition to the change in reporting structure, the letter also confirms that the Chancellor’s office will fund 50 percent of the salaries and benefits for the ASUCR ED and FOM going forward.
This change, while yet to be agreed upon by the senate, officially puts UC Riverside’s student government in accordance with the eight other UC campuses, all of whom have a reporting relationship with administrative officials.
The decision from administrationcame after a separate request for investigation based on a request for financial payment to former ASUCR officers led to a comprehensive audit investigation of ASUCR’s internal structure conducted by UCR Audit and Advisory Services. The scope of the investigation included but was not limited to, interviewing university and campus officers and personnel, reviewing various university policies and reviewing the ASUCR ED’s current and revised job descriptions.
The audit, for which a report was completed on Tuesday, September 13, revealed ASUCR “control weaknesses as well as non-compliance with University policies.” It particularly cites that the now-former ASUCR reporting structure, in which the ED (a UCR employee) reported directly to the ASUCR president (a non-UCR employee), was not in accordance with university and campus policy. It was also found that, within this same structure, the FOM had a dual-reporting relationship to both ASUCR and the VCSA, a line-of-command implemented in 2010. With this latest change, the FOM will fall under complete oversight of the ED.
The audit report cites numerous UC Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations and Students (PACAOS) in an effort to uphold this decision. Policy 60.67, in particular, states that a university’s Chancellor is “responsible for the fiscal soundness of student governments,” something ASUCR was not in accordance with.
ASUCR’s ED is responsible for overseeing the programs and operations of ASUCR. The ED also holds general oversight responsibility over UCR’s Graduate Student Association and the Highlander. This role is not expected to change despite being under the purview of the vice chancellor. Though, only now do decisions have the ability to be handed down directly from the VCSA.
In the letter, Chancellor Wilcox acknowledges that the university is “fully committed to preserving ASUCR’s autonomy as a governing body and control over its daily operations.” President Karim is admittedly hesitant to suggest the change immediately threatens ASUCR’s freedom for self-governance, though he notes that “in the future, this change can affect the autonomy of ASUCR, but it depends on how it’s implemented.” How it’s implemented, Karim says, “is based on the guidelines set by the executive cabinet, senate and administration.”
In October 2015, Chancellor Wilcox made a similar effort to implement VCSA oversight of ASUCR, only that was handed down without a comprehensive audit and met with immediate pushback from former ASUCR President Ashley Harano. President Karim is hesitant to take legal action in this instance, but it is an option that has yet to be formally discussed amongst the senate.
Sandoval was expected to speak about the change in a closed session at ASUCR’s inaugural State of Association meeting held Wednesday, Oct. 5. The session has since been postponed to Wednesday, Oct. 12, prior to the second ASUCR meeting, which will be held in the senate chambers and open to the public starting at 6 p.m.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article falsely claimed that former ASUCR President Ashley Harano took legal action against similar efforts from the VCSA last year. The Highlander regrets the error and the correct change has been made. This story is developing.