A.S. Council supports fee referendum

    The A.S. Council passed a resolution urging students to vote in favor of the University Centers Expansion Referendum at the council’s May 7 meeting. Appointed Special Elections Manager Gabe Grossman, along with members of the A.S. Elections Committee from the A.S. general elections, will oversee the special elections for the expansion referendum, which will be held from May 12 through May 16.

    Tibora Girczyc-Blum

    The referendum calls for a $39 per-quarter fee for the expansion of Price Center and renovation of the Student Center.

    After over an hour of discussion centering on the appropriateness of the council taking a stance in an election that they are involved in running and whether or not this presented a conflict of interest, the council voted to approve the resolution 13-6-2. The resolution was submitted by University Centers Advisory Board Chair James Lynch.

    From the outset of the discussion, A.S. President Jeremy Paul Gallagher urged the council not to pass a resolution because he felt that the council should remain neutral. Shortly before the vote, he reiterated his position and mentioned that using his presidential power of veto against a “”yes”” vote was an option he was thinking about.

    Councilmembers argued both in favor and against the resolution, not on the grounds of the referendum’s merits but on the appropriateness of the council to promote a vote one way or the other.

    “”I think it’s perfectly fine that we take a position as a body,”” said Eleanor Roosevelt College sophomore senator Max Harrington. “”Resolutions don’t have to be unanimous and it doesn’t mean everybody on A.S. supports it.””

    Other arguments in favor of voting on a resolution included reference to past A.S. resolutions advocating to vote in favor of the athletic referendum.

    “”We were not running the athletics referendum,”” Grossman said. “”I don’t think it’s appropriate as long as we are the ones putting this forward.””

    Revelle College Council and Sixth College Council had previously approved resolutions in favor of expansion. The A.S. Internal Committee had also approved the resolution 9-0-1.

    Committee members will join Grossman in duties such as overseeing polling booths throughout the week of voting. Any grievances during the Special Elections will be heard by the A.S. Elections Committee with Grossman presiding.

    Additionally, any appeals to the committee’s decisions will be addressed by the Campuswide Judicial Board. The current A.S. Election Bylaws pertaining specifically to special elections and current Campus Policies will also be used as guidelines during the referendum.

    “”We need to make sure that the university or any other student governing body present materials without bias to try and get the opinion of the students,”” Grossman said prior to the council passing the resolution. “”It’s important that students determine this election.””

    The A.S. Council and the Graduate Student Association Council had initially appointed Grossman as elections manager and passed a joint special elections bylaw. The bylaws would have formed a new elections committee. However, GSA Council rescinded its approval of the bylaws, saying that it conflicted with its constitution, making the mechanics of the elections unclear.

    However, according to A.S. President Jeremy Paul Gallagher, it has been determined that the special elections will be run by Associated Students.

    “”Any rumors that the referendum will be run by administration are false,”” Gallagher said. “”The Special Election will be run by A.S. and is 100 percent student-initiated.””

    However, one of the many issues regarding the expansion fee referendum is whether the project itself was student-initiated and student-controlled.

    According to a Vote No on the Expansion Referendum campaign Web site, the expansion and renovation project was actually initiated by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson four years ago. The group also states that many student recommendations were ignored throughout the creation process of the referendum wording.

    “”The student input toward the referendum is only circumstantial,”” said Jennifer Cohen, a core member of the Food Co-op and advocate for the Vote No campaign. “”There was no contract made until the building is completed and no contract on what will be done with the money.””

    The Vote No campaign is comprised of people from the Food Co-op and other interested students from various organizations.

    A.S. University Centers Expansion Task Force Chair Garo Bournoutian refutes the claims that the referendum was initiated by the administration. According to Bournoutian, the task force charter to create the expansion referendum was drafted by former A.S. Presidents Jenn Brown and Jeff Dodge. He also states that the referendum is the result of student surveys.

    The task force is made up of student representatives from various groups including A.S., Greek, Student Affirmative Action Coalition and religious organizations.

    “”As for this referendum ‘not being student-initiated,’ I would say that is a flat out lie aimed at misinforming voters,”” Bournoutian said. “”Everyone on the task force truly believes this is something students want — we have worked on this project for over a year, all without having been paid or given any other motivation.””

    The referendum will ask students whether they support the $39 per-quarter fee, which will be assessed for fall 2007, when the project is expected to be completed. Some of the features of the expansion for the Price Center include additional study lounges and 84 student organization offices and retail services, such as a full-service bank and hair stylist. Expansion will also include a student-run recruitment and retention center, which would place Student Affirmative Action Coalition organization offices adjacent to the Cross Cultural Center.

    Renovation for the Student Center includes the expansion of the General Store and of Soft Reserves and Lecture Notes. Student organization offices in the Student Center will also undergo renovations.

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