Graduate Student Association Referendum: vote YES
The question of whether to vote in favor of or against the Graduate Student Association fee increase puts graduate students in the middle of the same debates taking place at an undergraduate level. The campus, due to the disproportionally high volume of undergraduates relative to graduate students, concerns itself much more with its younger population than it does with its soon-to-be professionals. However, this vote proves that the interests of each group do not stray so far from the other’s. So, the UCSD Guardian Editorial Board urges graduate students to vote in favor of the referendum, but we do so with a few cautions.
The issues of diversity and basic needs inform our decision to encourage graduate students to vote to increase the Graduate Student Association fee. The funding that comes out of this fee will go toward Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion outreach programs and basic needs resources. Inclusion of students from a diverse background is especially important at the graduate level since people of color and queer people are widely underrepresented. As a prominent research institution, UC San Diego can be a significant stepping stone to address “a national need for minority scientists in the fields of biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and health services research,” among other fields. The fee would also expand funding to tackle food and housing insecurity at the graduate level. Funding from this fee increase would expand the operating budget of the Triton Food Pantry, which hosts hundreds of graduate students each quarter.
Although the fee increase expands these very practical endeavors, it could also create issues within the GSA. That nearly half of the funding from this fee is slated to cover staffing is both a positive and a negative. The GSA would decidedly benefit from staffing a full-time employee whose sole job is to represent and lobby the interests of graduate students. But when the issues of diversity and basic needs are still contested, it becomes necessary to prioritize these causes over others. To that end, the Guardian Editorial Board confidently endorses the fee increase but also urges the GSA to be transparent with its budgetary choices and active in its efforts to accurately address the needs of the most at-risk of its members.
Transportation Referendum: vote YES
The transportation referenda brings into the fray the most widespread issue among all of the referenda in this election cycle. Over 60 percent of UCSD students live off campus, so the issue of transportation affects more students than not. Not only do the shuttle routes serve as the only means for many students to reach the campus, it also provides each commuter student a means of reducing their carbon footprint by reducing the number of cars on the road. To deny this resource to students is to reduce accessibility of higher education, so the Guardian Editorial Board urges all students to vote in favor of continuing the current Metropolitan Transit System with the increased fee.
Given the rise in tuition and fees that have occurred with increasing frequency over the last several years, the impulse to object to another fee is understandable. In the case of tuition, for example, there are a whole host of state and federal funding options that went ignored before deciding to raise tuition. This is not the case with the transportation referendum. Alternative transportation options have become increasingly prevalent on and around campus in past years, but the most reliable infrastructure for transportation is currently offered to students in the form of a convenient sticker on their university ID cards.
It is true that plenty of students do not use the shuttle system; in fact, the majority does not. However, those students who do not rely on this current system have other options. The referendum is not meant to cater to these students, though the option is still open to them. Voting to continue the current system is a vote that reaffirms the campus’ responsibility to extend access to higher education to any student who has is accepted here. To that end, the Guardian Editorial Board encourages UCSD to vote with its most vulnerable members in mind, passing the referendum.
CALPIRG Referendum: vote YES
CALPIRG has a reputation that speaks for itself; the organization helped secure textbook funding, aided the plastic bag ban, and fought against bee-killing pesticides, among other things. Though many think of it as an organization solely devoted to environmental issues, CALPIRG addresses a whole host of issues within and without the campus. The Guardian Editorial Board believes its track record qualifies the organization to remain on this campus and to continue offering students an easy way to lend a helping hand to many of the causes CALPIRG already supports.
It is true that CALPIRG is a lobbying group that uses the funding that it receives to pay operating costs. However, the choice to fund CALPIRG, unlike many other fees, is entirely voluntary. So, a student can individually decide whether the platform that CALPIRG espouses falls in line with their own. CALPIRG differentiates itself from other lobbying groups in that it does not stand to profit from its work. But realistically, the referendum is not asking if CALPIRG should be funded, or if CALPIRG is a good organization. The true issue of this referendum is whether CALPIRG should have the ability to seek student funding, just like every other campus group. CALPIRG may not look like some other student organizations but represents the interests of many students on this campus; if it did not, students would never have donated to the organization in the first place. Anyone who thinks that CALPIRG does not put an immense amount of effort into their lobbying campaigns for student issues has clearly never been on their emailing list.
Though CALPIRG should be more transparent by revealing its budget and by informing students how to withdraw support after an initial pledge, the Guardian Editorial Board is more than happy to push for a legacy of activism. To disavow this organization by removing its primary source of funding is to reduce the potential UCSD has to influence substantive policy change in the coming years.