Council Needs to be More Expedient in Deliberations

First things first: A.S. Council still has not voted on whether to put the University Centers’ referendum to raise student fees on a ballot, even though it was supposed to last spring. Like many other campus institutions (shout out to Transportation Services), UCEN is in poor financial shape. Due to rising operational and maintenance costs, UCEN has already cut Price Center East’s hours to midnight from Fridays to Sundays, left many facilities vacant and closed the Crafts Center for the 2012–2013 school year. A November 2012 University Centers Advisory Board survey of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students found that most were in favor of raising student fees $13 per quarter to support the upkeep of UCEN. This beat out the option for further cutbacks to Price Center and Student Center with no fee increases.

Council is only being held back by having to negotiate with the Graduate Student Association over the referendum’s wording. Council needs to set its foot down and not let GSA demand unfairly large concessions for graduate students so that the UCEN referendum can stand a chance of being on the spring ballot. While getting it to a vote on the floor is important, Council also needs to go further and ensure that undergraduates will receive a good return for hiking up tuition. Concessions from UCEN should at least include giving their undergraduate advisory board more power, promising not to bring another referendum for a decade and guaranteeing that there is a 24-hour space in Price Center. If put on the ballot, students should vote in favor of the referendum because if UCEN doesn’t get additional funding, further cuts may include closing the Crafts Center permanently, shutting facilities over the weekends, taking away event and concert funding, decreasing the number of computers in computer labs and further delaying building maintenance. Increased funding would not only help UCEN sustain itself as it is now, it would also assist it in future expansion.

Council also needs to be more proactive in reforming its slates. On Jan. 23, Campuswide Senator Brad Segal proposed an amendment to the election code that would separate college council elections from campuswide elections. In the past decade, joint A.S. Council and college council slates, or superslates, have monopolized elections: The bigger the slate, the higher its chance of winning. This is especially unfair to students who aren’t currently affiliated with A.S. but want to run, since they have no chance of putting together a slate that can compete with an A.S. Council insider’s superslate. TIDE, the election slate that current A.S. President Meggie Le ran on last year, won 60 of the 92 positions that it campaigned for in part due to its sheer numbers — the more people on a slate, the more money it is allowed to spend. Reform is necessary to shift students’ focus more on the campaigners’ ideas and less on the name of the slate.

Unfortunately, A.S. Council once more wasted time in enforcing change. While most councilmembers were on board with the proposal at first, many changed their minds after Campuswide Senator Caesar Feng suggested that it take effect for the upcoming election. Slate politics may have played a part, because many of the councilmembers who voted to table the amendment are running in the upcoming election and would have been negatively affected.

When both the UCEN referendum and slate reform are discussed again, A.S. Council should stop squandering time and strive to make decisions efficiently.