Students Vote in Favor of UCEN Fee Referendum

Jacky To

A.S. Elections Manager Ryan Huyler announced that the UCEN referendum passed with 3489 votes for and 2306 votes against on April 14. As a result, quarterly student fees will increase by $14 starting next fall, with a 2.9 percent annual increase for inflation, in order to fund the ongoing maintenance and operation of University Centers spaces, such as Price Center and the Student Center. 

According to the referendum’s website, the fee increase will prevent UCEN from reducing its facilities to minimal operations, will finance repairs to those facilities and will renovate existing student-utilized spaces.

The UCEN referendum also requires that Price Center provide 24-hour access at least four days a week to computer labs, group-study rooms and commuter-student resources.

University Centers Advisory Board senior Claire Maniti, who helped lead the campaign to pass the referendum, told the UCSD Guardian that UCAB considered and examined dozens of different scenarios. In the end, UCAB determined that this referendum would be the best in terms of minimizing costs to students while being able to meet the price of basic maintenance and operations of these facilities.

“I understand the need to be very wary of raising any costs for students,” Maniti said. “At the same time, we have one of the largest student unions in the UC system but pay the lowest fees. That’s not sustainable.”

She also informed the Guardian that students must be the ones to provide the majority of the funding for the student centers. 

“This is a student union, which means that the student fee is the backbone of the budget here,” Maniti said. “We are ineligible to receive state funding and funding from other departments.” 

Maniti argued that if the referendum had not passed, it would have affected every member of the UCSD community.

“[People involved in] everything from the Student Activity Centers organizations to Greek Life to graduate [programs] should have a stake in this,” Maniti said. “None of the 600 people I’ve talked to have really argued effectively against the fact that the fee needs to be pegged to inflation to support facilities that are the backbone of so many communities.”

Furthermore, UCEN spaces make a large impression on incoming students.

“Every student who gets a tour of UCSD is going to see Price Center and Original Student Center and see that there’s stuff to do here,” Maniti said.

The last time that the UCEN referendum was on the election ballot was in 2013 when it proposed to increase student fees by $11 with a maximum annual increase of 3 percent. According to Maniti, students ended up voting against it due to a well-organized but misleading con campaign. 

“A graduate student ran a very intense con campaign in which he had a website with a lot of inaccurate information,” Maniti said. “Unfortunately, because that was the loudest voice, that was the one that people heard.”