A.S. Seeks Input for Committee

The new A.S. Council met with students in two open forums to brainstorm ideas on forming a committee to create a new fee referendum for student services.

The second forum was held Tuesday; the first was held Friday of fifth week.

Facing a freeze on increases in spending and severe funding cuts for the 2001-2002 school year, members of student organizations such as the Food Co-op, sports club teams, KSDT and the college councils came together to voice their opinions, debating whether a representative structure or consensus was the best way to handle the formation of next year’s referendum.

In light of the recent defeat of this year’s Campus Life Fee Referendum, A.S. President Jeff Dodge called the first meeting to discuss a way in which a committee could be formed that was more representative of the opinions of the student body at large. The goal was to eventually garner the necessary support for a fee increase.

“”A lot of people took issue with the fact that the structure of the [previous] committee was decided completely by the administration,”” said A.S. Commissioner of Services and Enterprises Colin Parent.

As a result, debate at the meeting centered on what would be the most effective way to represent the concerns of all students affected by a fee increase.

Due to the representational voting nature of the previous committee, many present found the meetings harsh and divided.

“”‘We have the majority, therefore we can continue,’ makes for a hostile environment,”” Dodge said, remarking on the fact that a number of votes on the committee ended up being split 11-6. “”It’s difficult to get a correct representation.””

The general consensus was that those represented on the previous committee were the most active students at UCSD, and thus the most likely to favor expansion of student fees to increase funding for programs in which they have vested interests.

“”It’s important for people who are not involved with anything to come to the meetings,”” Parent said.

He also noted that many of those affected would be the least active students, who would see little potential benefit in raising their fees to support services and organizations they do not use.

“”The problem is in the demographics — the colleges get five reps, but where do low-income people come in?”” said Gordon Chang, a member of the UCSD Green Party. “”They might be working when the committee meets.””

Chang mentioned the fact that those on the committee have a vested interest in raising fees, a sentiment not necessarily shared by the rest of the campus.

“”It’s a socioeconomic thing,”” Chang said. “”Differences in programming between the five colleges doesn’t necessarily mean different viewpoints on a referendum.””

All agreed that the priority is developing a process where all voices in the campus community are heard.

As a result, one of the first suggestions raised was that the new committee operate by consensus in open meetings, thus allowing every student an influential say and preventing railroading by majority.

However, those in attendance saw flaws with such a system.

“”I’m scared that an active group could send a overrepresentation of members, stopping any positive things,”” said Muir College Council Chair Liz Erwin.

Others agreed and felt that consistent and active participation in any group involved in forming the new referendum was a must for voting, whether by majority or consensus, if anyone was allowed to help create the new referendum.

Otherwise, a sports team or fraternity with a vested interest could stack a particularly crucial meeting.

Kris Bohling, vice president of the Graduate Student Association, supported membership that was completely open to the community at large so no voice could be excluded in a consensus decision.

James Lynch, of University Centers Advisory Board, disagreed.

“”We can’t have a committee of 20,000 — it’s absurd,”” Lynch said. “”I say we have a representative body — one group, one vote.””

Debate hinged on a crucial question — how to determine what constituted a demographic in need of representation if a representative committee were formed.

While a myriad of campus organizations is given a definitive number of representatives, students not involved would be underrepresented.

Suggestions for resolving this problem ranged from selecting random students to participate on the committee, to town hall meetings to make committee members accountable to the voice of the campus at large.

Another meeting is planned for 2:30 p.m. Friday at the International Center.

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