Keep Your Eyes Peeled — the Hits Aren’t Over Yet

Rebekah Hwang/Guardian
Rebekah Hwang/Guardian

Next quarter, your education is going to cost more. A lot more. A small group of important people in suits made that decision for you last month.

As expected, this made students angry. They protested. They cried. They made a lot of Facebook groups. As also expected, the increase passed anyway.

It’s always frustrating to look back on these periods of tumult and realize how futile our efforts sometimes are. No matter how outraged we get, how much of a ruckus we make or how often we walk out of class, rarely are we able to prevent the passage of major university policy.

But there are some things we can influence a lot more readily. Starting in January, the A.S. Council — your elected student representatives — will be debating a series of student-fee referendums. Two of these are designed to bail out failing campus enterprises. The other is meant to bring you a football team. There might even be a few surprise proposals along the way — we’ll just have to wait and see.

The difference between this type of fee increase and the one dealt by the UC Board of Regents, however, is that referendums actually afford students some say in the matter at hand. You get to vote. You get to decide.

That doesn’t mean you should wait until Spring Quarter rolls around to have your voice heard, though. There’s a lot to be done in the meantime.

Most importantly, it will be crucial to ensure that the council comes up with referendum language that allows students new degrees of control over the operations they would be funding. This concern will be most apparent in the council’s discussion of the transportation and Loft referendums — both of which could easily leave students monetarily shafted if certain necessary precautions are not taken.

The Loft, in particular, merits a closer look. This is the second year in a row now that campus officials have tried to implement a student fee to fund the fledgling nightclub. And, for the second year in a row, many students are rightfully skeptical about the proposal. The fact that the university built a performance venue without the foresight to secure it a funding source should raise all kinds of questions.

Many councilmembers, unfortunately, appear ready to throw together a hasty referendum that would ask students to pay for the Loft without gaining any significant degree of control over its operations. Fortunately, A.S. President Utsav Gupta has outlined an alternative proposal, one that gives students power over the venue’s annual budget and significant oversight into Loft spending. Here’s hoping the rest of the council catches on.

The transportation referendum will require the same sort of checks and balances — that is, if the council even agrees to sponsor it. Not much has been discussed so far, but the core issues remain the same: If we’re going to be paying for the campus shuttle service, we better make sure we have some say in how it runs. It’s all too easy to buy into the “If you don’t fund us, we’re going to cut service” mantra currently being espoused by transportation officials. Rather than let panic take hold, let’s make sure our councilmembers take a calm, collected approach to this issue while maintaining the goal of student empowerment. They need us. We have the upper hand.

In general, the university doesn’t like the idea of ceding control to students. Our campus officials will likely resist providing us with any real sort of governance. With that in mind, be wary of “governing boards” and “oversight committees.” These tend to be largely symbolic and almost entirely ineffective (see: Athletic, Recreation and Sports Advisory Board). The key is to establish a student majority on these boards. Which we now have the opportunity to do.

There’s certainly going to be a lot to talk about next quarter, and every student would be wise to take part in the discussion. This is your university, after all. More importantly, it’s your money.

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