Warning: This Ballot Box Could Cost You Money

    Illustration by Adam Peltier/Guardian

    As students sign on to cast their TritonLink votes in the
    A.S. Council elections this week, they will also be answering two survey
    questions.

    But be wary, Tritons. What smells and looks like a survey on
    the usage of higher activity fees is being talked about as an inevitable fee
    referendum. And by the looks of the recently needy council, made even more so
    by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue’s unwillingness to lend
    financial aid for the new Sun God Festival, students are facing the herculean
    task of funding the entirety of yet another faltering student-interest issue.

    We saw the exact same maneuver from administrators unfold
    last year, when they forced students to swoop in to save a sickly athletics
    department with a fee referendum. This year, protest erupted concerning student
    oversight of RIMAC Annex, a facility funded by student fees.

    Students lack fundamental control over their referendum
    monies, a fact that makes this week’s survey all the more frightening. If we
    register our opinion as to how to use higher activity fees, how extensive will
    our control of those funds be?

    As it stands, students are left in the dark for much of
    referendum expenditures. Councilmembers’ requests to track the use, or even
    planned use, of last year’s athletics referendum have turned up empty.
    Meanwhile, flap over the RIMAC Annex has forced councilmembers to ask for a
    right they should have always had: the right to know where their money is
    going.

    If a larger festival does end up costing students more
    activity-fee money, elements from the A.S. Council’s recent amendment must
    accompany it. Without illuminating the procedures behind referendum funds,
    students will end up with another muddled debacle on their hands.

    Students paying more fees need to know where those fees are
    being spent. Together, the survey questions and amendment makes referendum
    structure more flexible. With the survey, students can specifically determine
    what money should be spent on, while the amendment ensures that the money goes
    to those areas.

    It’s a sad revelation to know that students will undoubtedly
    see this year’s survey manifest itself in a future referendum. The bleeding of
    students for funds must stop here, or else we could see any number of
    student-related issues needing student funds. Will students soon have to
    shoulder other slumping nodes of campus such as mental health and campus
    parking?

    The prospect of seeing any glimpse of financial danger
    partnered with a student fee referendum is not only scary — it’s costly. And
    administrators need to realize that this is a cost to students who are already
    facing rises in college registration fees.

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