Endorsement: Activity Fee Referendum — NO

Calling this year’s ballot measure a “programming referendum” is like renaming the federal income tax the “national security fee”: It’s disingenuous and attempts to hide the true heterogeneity of the uses of the students’ money.

As its supporters argue, the referendum — amounting to a 72 percent increase in student activity fees — would indeed raise hundreds of thousands for the A.S. Council’s programming office, which puts on events like the Sun God festival and FallFest. However, it would also almost guarantee that thousands appropriated for the office from the current activity fee would be funneled into other uses.

In other words, though the referendum would provide funds for the programming office, only a fraction of these would be new.

It may be true that the time for higher general fees has come. But such an increase must be openly debated on its own merits; a stealth tax that attempts to capitalize on the popularity of the student government’s best-known department is surely not what real democracy is all about.

The council’s arguments to justify more fees, to date, have fallen short. Though council members, including A.S. President Christopher Sweeten, have said that more money would allow the student government to do bigger and grander things, no one has offered concrete specifics for what to do with the extra money. Given the council’s history, including the unexpected carry over in the beginning of this year, a windfall of money without an accompanying blueprint would likely be spent to increase the size of current programs, not create new ones.

Two of the justifications used by referendum supporters similarly make little sense. Other major UC campuses, they argue, have student governments that control far larger budgets; however, at these campuses, the governments also do much more for the students, and exploit other revenue sources. While the relationship between more services and higher fees is largely a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma, it seems unlikely that UCSD administrators would permit the A.S. Council to take control of student-funded facilities — which UCLA student government currently has — or expand to the scale found on other campuses.

Finally, supporters point out that activity fees haven’t risen in years, and that the increase would simply make up for the loss of purchasing power. However, though campuswide fees have remained flat of late, individual college councils — Thurgood Marshall College, most recently — have been very active in introducing new fees and hiking existing ones. Before considering charging the students more, the A.S. Council must rethink whether it still makes sense to give more than $40,000 to college councils that can now afford to fund themselves.

As a matter of principle, this board has long stood against ballot-box budgeting; we similarly oppose the lock-in provision in this referendum, which would require the new money to be used on the programming office. Democracy works best when voters select representatives to reflect their preferences in the budget process; if they fail, voters simply kick the rascals out of office, and elect new ones. Relying on complicated voter-defined formulas, as the state of California has learned recently, is a recipe for disaster.

The interests of UCSD students may indeed be served by giving the student government more resources. However, this referendum is a terrible way to do it.

What It Would Do

Raise activity fees, creating new

protected programming funds

Why We Say “No”

Marketed ostensibly as the “programming referendum,” this

measure is a general fee increase in

disguise — and a bad one, at that.