Fee Referendum Fails

Despite receiving the highest voter turnout in UCSD’s history, the Campus Life Fee Referendum failed to pass by over 750 votes, thereby eliminating the possibility of an annual student fee increase of about $210.

Friday afternoon, the A.S. Election Committee released the results showing that 2,739 students voted in favor of the fee increase, and 3,492 voted against it.

Of the school’s 18,600 students, 6,231 undergraduate, graduate and medical students voted last week contributing to a record 33 percent voter turnout.

“”There were too many issues being tacked onto it,”” said A.S. Services and Enterprises Commissioner-elect Colin Parent. “”It ended up making the whole thing controversial.””

The A.S. Council sponsored 12 voting booths across campus from April 23 through April 28 in an attempt to raise voter turnout to over 20 percent, which is the minimum percentage that would have enabled the fee referendum to pass.

Assistant Elections Manager Cristina Villegas said that a number of factors led to the record-breaking turnout.

“”It affected so many aspects of campus life so people wanted to vote,”” she said. “”The polling places across campus certainly helped as well. People were definitely voting with their wallets.””

Villegas said that while sitting at the polls she noticed most of the votes were in favor of the fee on Monday and Tuesday, but that the numbers drastically changed by the week’s end.

“”People who planned not to vote realized we had the turnout we needed so they went and voted themselves,”” she said. “”After everything that went down on Friday, I was not surprised [with the result of the election] at all.””

According to Joshua Cooper, the results are in part because of some A.S. Elections Committee members’ resentment toward the administration.

“”The failure of the Campus Life Fee referendum is a clear indication that students want direct control over student fees,”” said Joshua Cooper, one of the two Graduate Student Association representatives on the election committee.

“”They do not want to pay for administrative office space, they do not want to pay for the construction of more fast food chains, they do not want to make this university even less affordable for those who already can barely pay for it and they do not approve of the administration’s disregard for the democratic process at any stage of the referendum’s development.””

To make the election fair for both parties, the administration funded lobby groups for and against the referendum.

However, Villegas said that those against the fee referendum were able to present their views to the student body in a better fashion than their opposition.

“”The ‘no’ campaign was very well-mobilized and the ‘yes’ side wasn’t as well-organized,”” she said. “”There were also a lot of messages being spread by the ‘no’ side and things really got embellished by people.””

Villegas said one such rumor was that the administration would not increase financial aid accordingly so that the students would have to pay for the increase on their own. A.S. President Doc Khaleghi said this, in fact, was false.

“”It is certified in writing from the office of financial aid that this fee would be covered by financial aid for those who qualify for it,”” he said in a campuswide e-mail.

In addition, many students wanted a line-item vote for the election, as they felt they would be able to vote for specific things they wanted as opposed to turning down the entire referendum.

“”It is a shame that it had to be done that way,”” said Marshall senior Scott Dalva. “”I really wanted the Price Center expansion, but I really didn’t want the sports to get that kind of money. I wasn’t about to vote ‘yes,’ considering I was completely against a lot of it.””

Villegas said that although the election committee thought about making this a line-item vote, they decided otherwise thinking that this way was the most likely way the fee referendum would get passed.

“”People just have their own interests,”” she said. “”We were just afraid that the competing referendum would collectively fail.””

Regardless, the student body’s rejection of the referendum will affect other aspects of student life, which were previously unharmed.

Villegas said that after the election results had been posted, Watson said that he was planning on cutting all departments under student affairs such as the college councils, Student Health and Psychological Services by 10 percent to allow for spending on items he feels are important.

“”Everything under Student Affairs would be cut because the priority with Watson is with expanding Price Center,”” Villegas said. “”State funds can’t be used for the expansion because it is a nonacademic building.””

In addition, the school made a commitment three years ago to fund moving to Division II athletics and must abide by that promise. Without the fee referendum, the money for this needs to come from other places such as Student Affairs.

Cooper is opposed to this decision by the administration.

“”In order to find funding for campus improvement projects, it is the administration’s responsibility and clear ability to tap into the university’s enormous discretionary funds, solicit outside donations, seek funding at the state level and search for money sources other than students’ pockets,”” Cooper said.

The recent vote shows that a majority of the student body does not agree with the expansion as well, citing that the students have failed to pass a referendum two years in a row that would expand the Price Center.

For now, the opinion of the students has been heard.

“”This vote carries with it a message from the students: If you want to use our money, we are going to say exactly how it will be used,”” Cooper said.

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