Debate addresses fee ref

    Representatives from the pro and con sides of the Price Center and Student Center Expansion Referendum debated the issue on May 13.

    Kimberly Hughes
    Guardian

    The referendum, which is being voted on until May 16, asks for students to support a $39-per-quarter fee for the expansion and renovation of the University Centers. Some of the main issues that were brought up included whether the referendum process was student-initiated and democratic, whether an expansion and renovation of the university centers is necessary and what an expansion would mean to student organizations.

    Interim Commissioner of Student Advocacy Brie Finegold argued the referendum’s drawbacks.

    “”It’s a lot of money and could have been done a lot cheaper by a lot of different ways,”” said Finegold in her opening statement. “”We should use the space that we already have better and figure out how much more we need to fit the need of a growing school and expand that way.””

    University Centers Advisory Board Chair James Lynch, who spoke in support of the referendum, focused on the issue of population growth and stated that the existing University Centers will not be able to accommodate students in the future.

    According to Lynch, the population of UCSD will grow to up to 30,000 and, at the moment, there are only 17 student organization offices for over 372 student organizations.

    “”Restaurants are extremely crowded and it is almost impossible for student organizations to have meeting spaces at any time of the day,”” Lynch said.

    Audience members were also allowed to ask a question for each side to answer. Each side was asked to elaborate on the issue of student control and whether the referendum written by the University Centers Expansion Task Force was student-initiated.

    “”The process has been entirely student-controlled from the origins of the task force, when former A.S. Presidents Jenn Brown and Jeff Dodge submitted a charter to A.S. Council,”” Lynch said. “”Then a group of all students put together the referendum.””

    Finegold refuted Lynch’s argument by first stating that the Price Center expansion was initiated by administration.

    She also stated that after previous fee referendums for expansion had failed, there were threats to cut other programs for students which led to the creation of the task force.

    “”While the decision to start the task force that wrote the referendum was made by A.S presidents, it was under threats of losing other services,”” Finegold said.

    Another issue raised was the creation of the referendum itself and whether the processes used were democratic. Lynch stated that through approval by governing bodies of Associated Students and the Graduate Student Association, the referendum is in fact democratic.

    “”In terms of it being democratic, this was approved by both the A.S. Council under their rules, and the GSA Council under their rules. That’s democracy in action,”” Lynch said. “”In terms of direct democracy, this is what this referendum is all about. Every individual student in this campus has the opportunity to vote in this election.””

    Finegold also discussed the process of writing the referendum and whether students truly had an opportunity to vote for student control and for a referendum.

    According to Finegold, there were talks, which were shut down, within the A.S. Council trying to make it so that students could vote on whether they would like a referendum and whether they would like to control the money from the fees.

    “”Democracy is the ability of ordinary people to make change and to participate in decision making; that’s what the point of a referendum is,”” Finegold said. “”In terms of the process of writing the referendum, there wasn’t the everyday student that was making it. It was students in position of power on this campus.””

    Both participants also addressed the issue of which specific student organizations would receive offices from the referendum. Finegold said that there are no guarantees as to which student organizations will receive an office because only non-legally binding recommendations have been made to set aside blocks of offices for certain groups.

    Lynch stated in response that the recommendations made by the task force included an increased amount of office space for Greek, religious and multicultural student organizations. He also said that specific numbers of offices have not been guaranteed to certain organizations because there are also no guarantees whether specific student organizations will exist in the future.

    The debate was organized by members of the UCETF to encourage students to vote and inform them about the different perspectives regarding the referendum.

    “”In terms of the information that I had, I was biased in one direction,”” said Revelle College sophomore Aman Bagla, who attended the debate. “”I didn’t really know the negative side, and hearing the debate made me aware of the issues that were actually against the referendum.””

    After the debate, Finegold challenged Lynch to a boxing match. Lynch declined, saying that the issues with the referendum were not worth having anyone get hurt.

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