“I am Cindy Lopez and for the last…well since 2006, I’ve been the assistant director for Budget & Finance.”
Interviewed by: Christine Hoang
When did you first come to UCSB?
Sure, I came here in the year 2000, started in Late January of 2000 and I came into the AS Administration office, the same office but I started as just an administrative assistant and I would cut checks and just learned a little about Associated Students because I haven’t been at UCSB before. Then in 2002, I went downstairs to the AS Ticket Office and that year we changed a lot stuff down there. They used to have a lot of all the notes and all the readers, sold in publications and then the Ticket Office only sold tickets. So what they did was combine everything else into the Cashier’s Office so that there was no money over there in the publications office because they do not have a secure room, so its not locked in the back. They were not supposed to have cash there. They were just adhering to University standards so they changed a lot of stuff. So I went down there to start running the ticket office and I did that for a few years and in early 2006, I came up here in the current position that I have.
Wonderful, that’s great! So you’ve been at UCSB for a while, what is your favorite aspect of UCSB?
I think being on a college campus because when I started here, my kids were in 9th and 10th grade, so I lived up in the Santa Ynez Valley, kind of in a small area not a lot of diversity or anything, so I came down here and I actually got an idea, first of all, of what college life is because my kids were going to be going to college at some point and its been a long time since I’ve been in college. So, it’s kept me in touch with what college students are thinking because college students kind of get involved with everything that is going on in the world and its just a really great age because they leave home and then they come back and then they kind of devote their own ideas instead of growing up, or their parents ideas and its an independent thing. I just being around college age students, I find. They keep me young, keep me interested…in world events, in national events, more so than if at home, taking kids to soccer practice or whatever you’re doing.
Same thing, I think that UCSB is a great campus for ideas and people just learning to be who they are. I understand that you manage the finances and budgets for Associated Students, if you could maybe elaborate a little more about your job.
Alright, so basically, I do manage the budget, so that goes all the way from format. I help the students formulate the budget, Finance and Business committee in the Senate. They formulate the budget for the next Senate school year and to manage it, I have to make sure…we have so many different student fees and they all have to be kept separate. I have to make sure that they each have their own separate account and that they’re all the right charges go to the right account so keeping that sorted out making sure what’s allocated to each different area is put into the right accounts. Then the whole financial aspect of Ekta makes sure that everybody who’s spending money by using the requisitions for AS or following policy and making sure we have all the correct backup and we’re following AS policy and university policy. I also I have to bring the fees over from the university so when students pay they pay in the BARC office, so we have a university account all the money’s there so I’m in charge of keeping track of it bringing the money over into the our AS accounts because AS has our own bank accounts which is unusual on campus everyone else has to have all their money in the university accounts. so we manage our own which is very unusual for on campus, so I keep track of that.
Is there a reason why it’s a separate bank account rather than with the university?
We’re allowed to, so other departments would like to but they won’t let them because we’re student government in regental policy, we are an exception, so we’re allowed to have some financial autonomy.
“Is there any message or anything that you would to send out to the students and UCSB?”
I understand that as students, we pay student fees and that it parts of it goes to different departments, but I know that you know a certain amount goes to AS, how do you think student fees have changed over the years: increase, decrease and just overall how they’ve changed over the years?
When I first started, I’m trying to think how much the student fees were they were $56 per student that was it, now they’re in the hundreds. I know we get 210 per student, but with the fact that return to aid and all the other fees on top I’m sure it’s 300 or 400 something per student, back then it was 56 so we got a lot less money, we had a lot fewer boards and committees we had a lot less going on, we had fewer staff, we were actually more in a financial bind where we had to be super careful about everything that was spent and students really didn’t get to do as much because we didn’t have the funds for it. Then it was still pretty tight and then in 2006, the students passed The Students Initiative in a special election that added a hundred dollars per student to the already $56, so it became one hundred and fifty six dollars that that came in, what that did is it increased our base fee so that’s the undesignated portion that comes in that amount has to pay for everything. In AS, that does not have a lock in. That initiative also increased a lot of the lock-ins. So they were getting more money to do more stuff and when we had a larger base fee we could pay for all of our budgets that didn’t have lock-ins much easier, we didn’t have to recharge the lock ins like we used to do just to have funds for our infrastructure, so that was a huge difference and all of a sudden we were flush with money, so when you have a lot of money you don’t quite know what to do with it right at first so it took a couple years to really grow into that and start using the money. That’s when the bottom line was formed that’s when SIRRC, Student Initiated Recruitment Retention Committee was formed and I’m probably leaving out a whole bunch more, but we started up the AS Media Center we took over those offices. When students had ideas and let’s do this, we had funds to develop new programs and then AS expanded, widely, quickly and then about 2008-2009 all of a sudden we started to feel a crunch because we started using all our funds and we felt we didn’t have any money again because everybody got used to spending a lot of money on a lot of different things. We had students going to conferences which they hadn’t been able to do before, we had a newspaper, we had just so much more going on, so then little by little we’ve added a few more lock-ins, the Bottom Line, we added an AS Food Bank, that got a lock in, Worms got their own lock-in, the Compost area, Queer Commission got a lock-in. I know there’s more that I’m not thinking of but we added enough lock-in so that money was locked in, so now we are fairly flush with our budget now. I feel we have a lot of money but I know at some point we’ll expand our programs to where maybe we feel we won’t again.
So what types of organizations didn’t previously didn’t have a lock-in fee?
So Finance and Business Committee used to be called Finance Board, never had its own lock-in, so whatever was left over when we allocated all the money in the budget to everybody, whatever was left over, that was what they had to give out to student groups: all the OSL organizations. Some years, it was a lot. At some point, one year it was down to ten thousand dollars or something which isn’t very much money to give out for all the events that the students want to put on. So they got their own lock-in, so that they always had three to four hundred thousand dollars to give out to student groups. That was really big, it was really good for all of the OSL groups because they knew there would be money here if they came and asked for money for an event, that was really helpful. Again, Program Board has increased their lock-in so they can do more programming. They’ve started doing Halloween and Deltopia concerts during those times of the year to keep students out of IV, that was kind of requested by the Chancellor, so they started doing more. As I said, Worms, the Composting Program, USSA, so that’s a lobbying lock-in for students to lobby for what students all over the country need. Queer Commission, AS Food bank, CFF Community Financial Fund was a new lock in once we got the lock-in and then we had to create the program because it wasn’t really specified in the lock-in except that it was a community financial fund, so we created that program once the lock-in had passed and I know there’s some more, I think we did the bike circle over there by KCSB be that was a lock-in only for three years to fund that because it was a really dangerous area the way it was, there was a lot of bike accidents so AS funded the new circle that’s there, it’s much safer. A lot of groups have gotten increases, Legal Resource Center has gotten an increase, I can’t think of all the rest of them now I know there’s more, the Bottom Line they got their own lock-in after a while after they’ve been around for a while too.
I know you’ve been around UCSB for a while and you’ve seen a lot go on, I’m wondering if you have any experience with student activism or what types of things have you seen in the past?
In fact, I remember Mahader, the very first year I was here, he was the AS President. So we knew who he was and he came back and as a Special Project Coordinator, that’s when they started doing Living History which was awesome. But I do remember one year for quite a few years in the early 2000s, our students were protesting the raising tuition every year it seemed, the tuition went up it went up astronomically at that time so our students of course we’re fighting against that and they had a couple huge protests, I remember one day they went out and actually closed the freeway, Highway 217 and they marched all the way down and just walked in middle of the freeway.
Oh, they did that?
Well not legally yeah, this is stuff that when they decide to do it work we try to advise him not to if it’s something that puts them in extreme danger. I think one year and I wasn’t here then, they wanted to shut down 101 as a protest. They advise, please don’t do that, the 217 was caught on a day where not a lot of people were coming to and from campus it might have been one of those Monday holidays or something so there wasn’t a lot of traffic, so they got through and got it shutdown and then I think the police came and kind of helped them shut it down just to make things safer. I remember that, that was a big one. There’s been a lot of them throughout the years it’s hard to remember them all. A lot of stuff that’s been going on in the nation oftentimes the students here will also you know in solidarity have some kind of a rally or something going on it’s been a lot of really great speakers here I haven’t heard too many of them, but I’ve heard a few, but yeah and then there’s some times there’s some really controversial speakers that will come in that the students protest against. In fact the interesting part is, I remember when David Horowitz came and spoke here and he had just taken out an ad in the Daily Nexus, a full-page ad basically saying that all Muslims were terrorists. So the students first were upset that the Daily Nexus even took the ad then when they were here and so then the College Republicans brought him here and they came to ask for funds from Finance and Business Committee, who didn’t want to give them funds, but there’s a regental policy on viewpoint neutrality that you can’t refuse to give someone funds just because you don’t agree with their speaker that’s if the free speech thing, so they ended up funding them partially. The Muslim Student Association was very upset they came to Senate and were very upset about that that was a huge thing that was one of my first years I worked with Finance and Business Committee and at that time I kind of agreed with the students who said you know we don’t fund hate speech and the Muslim students actually felt they weren’t safe with him on campus. But there’s that fine line about are you really safe are you not safe, did he say I’m gonna come shoot you or is he just talk about you in a way that you don’t feel safe so that was the first time? I remembered that I know that happened again last couple of years when they brought Milo I think came and spoke here and then there was oh who was the last I can’t remember his name, but he spoke against the Black Lives Matter movement so that and again, Finance and Business Committee can’t say we’re not going to fund you because we don’t agree with you, so they’d fund them and then the students would get upset at them because they funded it. That’s always very contentious and we’ve had quite a few years where our students want to divest from any companies that work with companies working in Israel so we have a big divestment meeting, usually it’s at the Senate meeting we often have over 200 students coming in to speak for and against and then they vote. At the end of the night we’ve never voted completely to divest, most of the campuses haven’t, but it’s a huge very controversial thing and usually the Senate meeting will go all night long.
Yeah, I’ve seen the articles and the photos of people just speaking to 2 a.m.
All night. I came back one time and I come in at 7:30 I came in and the meeting was still going. It is a fairly active campus. I went one time with a group of students up to UC Berkeley. We all took a bus all night long, got there at 6:00 in the morning to protest at a regents meeting and pretty sure it was because of tuition being raised. So our students went up there and there’s actually more UCSB students in the protest and than there were Berkeley students at the time, so UCSB at that point was very active in all of that. We had a couple students who really got everybody going and organized these trips to go up and do a protest yeah there’s been a lot of stuff going on and I’m sure I’m not barely remembering very much of it.
It’s different as a staff person because you’re watching it happen and we often will attend it you know to support our students who are doing the protest, but I remember one when our students, they block off the road and then the police come and then one time somebody got arrested, the students sat around the car so that the police car couldn’t drive off, so you say you’re worried about the students, you know you’re a UC employee. You’re supposed to try to protect them on the other hand, also they have a right to be protesting what they’re protesting. It’s kind of an odd position to be in.
AS operations, how has it evolved over the years within finances and budgeting? Has it always been a committee or how is it changed?
Well we’ve had different student leadership, sometimes our leadership is more conservative, sometimes it’s more liberal and it kind of just goes that way. I think right now because we do have a lot of funds to give out our students are able to be more active and they’re able to participate in a lot of different things which is great so regardless of the leadership there’s just opportunities for students to become part of a group and to kind of steer it in whatever direction they want to go in. There’s just a lot of opportunity to do stuff there’s opportunity to go on trips to go to conferences. We’ve had students go to Norway for the Power Summit, they’re really fascinating things. Our students have gone to Washington DC, most years to do lobbying with their representatives there. They’ve often lobby in Sacramento, there’s all kinds. Now we have the alternative break that happens with CAB twice a year where they’ll go. I think they just came back from Florida helping out with where the last hurricane was so it’s a very wide variety of stuff that students can become involved in. Which it’s really there’s more and more opportunities as we keep expanding to get involved and we employ 300 students, 3 to 400 students we give them employment and they’re doing work in the AS Food Bank or they’re working in the ticket office or they’re working in the media center or stuff where they’re actually learning really good job skills.
And again you know having money gives an opportunity to students depending on what they want to do with it and again we’re a student-run organization so staff people we kind of we might have some ideas and feed some ideas to students but mostly it’s students coming up with their own ideas of you know, you know Community Financial Fund was a student idea. They went for a lock-in and got it and then as staff we kind of help develop the program with a student board. So it’s always in collaboration with the student ideas and stuff to do that.
I’m kind of curious about aspect of funding new organizations, is it just they just go to the finance committee or has the process changed?
It’s pretty much been the same throughout the only thing that really changes is how much money finance and business committee has to give out. You know, back when I started they didn’t have much they give a couple hundred dollars to groups here and there to go do their funding. Now they have it they have a lot of money three to four hundred thousand every year to give out, granted there’s a lot of requests for funds but they’re able to give out money every year to different groups for there things. We went through a time when s didn’t have much money to give out all of our student groups are spending a lot of time doing fundraising selling food at the MCC and there was so much fundraising activity to try and fund enough money for all of their events because we didn’t have the money to give out and then there’s less fundraising when we have more money to give out, I notice that a lot.
Is there any message or anything that you would to send out to the students and UCSB?
Just get involved, get involved and it seems to me that there’s a place not even necessarily in AS, but in some organization on campus where they would find a lot to do and I think it’s really important to do some of those extra activities rather than just go to class. You can learn a lot in class, but sometimes it’s those outside activities that you can do that really enrich your whole time here because you’ll get your degree, but sometimes all the activities really make the experience so much better and you just learn so much more different kind of knowledge.