Muir Barely Passes $4 Fee Increase

    John Muir College students voted Friday to pay an additional $4 per quarter in activity fees, beginning March 2010.

    Roughly 29 percent of the increase will go toward financial aid for Muir students. The remainder will fund Muir College activities like Muir Musical, Muirstock and the bi-quarterly N.E.R.D. LAN Party.

    The referendum included a clause barring the Muir College Council from raising fees again until 2013.

    Councilmembers made a similar bid to raise fees last year, but the referendum — included on the 2009 A.S. election ballot — failed.

    The first proposal would have only raised the fee from $7 to $10, but included a clause that raised fees by $2 every two years until 2014.

    Despite an extensive informational-poster campaign led by the MCC, the Spring Quarter referendum didn’t get by student voters, and only made the 20-percent voter participation requirement by 1 percent.

    This year’s referendum passed with 1,008 — or 24 percent — of Muir students turning out to vote.

    According to MCC Financial Advisor Frank Chang, a main contributor to the passing of this year’s referendum and the failure of last year’s was the level of campaigning by both the MCC — which oversees funding for the entire college — and Muir Residential Council, which puts on many of the major events for Muir residents.

    Because the MCC must remain officially impartial on issues like these, the council ran an informational campaign. Representatives in the Muir Quad encouraged students to vote, and reminded them of the upcoming ballot deadline.

    “MRC decided to run the pro campaign for the referendum that MCC couldn’t,” Lagano said. “MCC had $75 for a pro campaign and $75 for a con campaign, so we took what MCC gave us and made fliers and put them up all over school.”

    The council omitted the annual $2 increase clause from this year’s referendum. According to Chang, due to a drop in the council’s reserve funds — from $18,000 at the start of last Spring Quarter to around $8,000 now — running the referendum, even without the clause, was critical if the MCC wanted to continue funding student events as pricey as Muirstock.

    “Historically speaking, we’re supposed to put money back into our reserves, from our revenue, but we haven’t been able to do that in the past four years because of the amount of money that we aren’t getting from A.S.,” Chang said.

    In 2005, the A.S. Council declared financial independence from the six college councils, agreeing to fund all campuswide student activities and leaving the colleges to finance only internal events and organizations, like Marshall College’s annual music festival Marshallpalooza or Muir’s Weekends at Muir.

    A.S. President Utsav Gupta said the split was due in part to a convoluted funding-request process.

    “I remember, when I was a first- year, going around to seven or eight different bodies just to ask for funding for one event, so it did make it a lot harder to actually throw an event,” Gupta said. “So, the deal was that college councils would no longer have to fund all-campus organizations if they didn’t want to, and A.S. would pick up all of the funding for all-campus student organizations.”

    The elimination of this funding prompted the college councils to begin raising individual activity fees.

    Now that Muir’s referendum has passed, MRC co-chair Robin Sablove is optimistic about the council’s ability to better fund student events and organizations.

    “MCC used all their money.” Sablove said. “So if the fee increase hadn’t occurred, they wouldn’t have any money to give us… like, [Muir Theatre] will now be able to get those lights to put on their production, or an organization will be able to get that funding they need, now that MCC will have money for us to request.”

    Readers can contact Hayley Bisceglia-Martin at [email protected].

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