Graduate Student Fee Referendum Fails

The Graduate Student Association’s fee referendum failed when voting closed June 4, because it did not receive the required 20 percent vote participation.

The lack of publicity and problems with academic departments over personal access code numbers are the alleged causes of the referendum’s failure. The referendum would have added $5 to graduate student fees to help fund GSA activities.

GSA Vice President of Finance Frank Chang said the ramifications of the failure could be disastrous.

“”If we don’t do this, a lot of programming will be cut,”” he said. “”There will be cuts across the board and we don’t want that.””

Chang said that one of the main reasons the referendum failed is that the GSA had little time to publicize it.

“”It was a really rushed thing,”” Chang said. “”We couldn’t advertise this until after the student life referendum was over.””

The voting for the referendum ran from May 22 to June 4.

Computer problems were also cited by Chang as a cause of the referendum’s failure. Chang said that many graduate departments make their students change their PAC number every quarter and, as a result, each student must talk to his advisor to get a new number. Many of the 3,500 graduate students did not obtain new numbers, and therefore could not vote on the referendum.

“”Unfortunately, we experienced some problems with PAC numbers and StudentLink that we were not aware of when we decided to run an electronic ballot,”” said outgoing GSA Vice President of Finance Jenn Whiles. “”Consequently, we were unable to achieve the 20 percent voter turnout required to make the vote valid.””

However, many graduate students said they did not vote because they were uninformed. There were few posters around campus and very little information on them, according to Chang.

“”I got a notice from the GSA saying when the vote was and to vote ‘yes,'”” said graduate student of economics Jocelyne Arnott. “”But there was little information on what this was about.””

Chang said the referendum was not administered before the Student Life Fee Referendum because Vice Chancellor Joe Watson would not sign it if it passed.

According to Chang, if the graduate student fee referendum had passed before the student life referendum earlier this quarter, the graduate students might not have voted, knowing they already had increased funding on their own.

Chang said that Watson, fearing that the Student Life Fee Referendum would not receive enough student votes to pass, said he would not allow the graduate referendum to take place earlier.

Watson was not available to comment on these claims.

As a result of the referendum not passing, many programs that the GSA normally funds, including many undergraduate programs like the DJs and Vinylphiles club, will have to be cut.

In 1994, the GSA passed a similar referendum, which resulted in a large budget surplus. However, every year since, the amount of money spent on funding organizations, paying a business manager and other expenses has gone $12,000 over budget.

After next year, the surplus created by the 1994 referendum will be down to $4,000 and the extra $12,000 needed to maintain the GSA budget will cause a deficit of $8,000.

However, many graduate students have begun to doubt the need for the extra spending on undergraduate activities.

“”There is no specific reason to support that,”” said economics graduate student Bolong Cao. “”Even if there is, who can guarantee that expenditure will benefit us?””

Others feel that the portion of the $12,000 that goes to graduate student programming is wasted money because the popularity of these activities is very minimal. Some say the money spent on such activities as Spring Fling and Blue Mondays at the Pub should be decreased because most graduate students are too busy to take part in them.

“”No one I know goes to GSA events anyway, so the GSA probably has too much of our money already,”” Arnott said. “”Why not spend it on activities for [undergraduates] who can actually participate in them?””

Currently, the GSA is planning a new referendum to be voted on in the fall.

“”We are going back to the drawing board and trying to make it so that we can have another computer election in the fall,”” said Lynn Peterson, director of Graduate Students Student Activities. “”Hopefully we can have all the graduate students vote this time.””

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