In a time of budget cuts and fee hikes, it’s more important now than ever to know what you are voting on this week in the Campus Election. Departments have invested a lot of time and money into making sure you at least know about their proposed fees or fee reaffirmations through ads in the Nexus, banners on the sides of buildings and students trying to get your attention while walking across campus. I can tell you right now that I don’t want to steer you in voting “yes” or “no” on specific fees. I just want you to take a second to think about what a single vote means in the bigger scheme of things on our campus.
Looking through the specific language of any of the referenda fees will expose important details that often get overlooked in campus elections. Most students read the title of the fees, which sound pretty good in almost every case, and simply vote “yes.” Looking a little deeper will reveal that if approved, many of these fees will exist for up to 30 years without being voted on again. This is no small investment from the students. Unlike the majority of the Associated Students and Student Affairs fees up for reaffirmation, some of these new fees would continue to exist even if students 20 years from now didn’t like the way the money was being allocated.
Another important idea to think about is the statement we, as a student body, make when we vote “yes” on any lock-in fee. At first glance it would seem like we are basically saying that we agree to pay more to receive something new. Sounds good right? Let’s go a little deeper. After looking at the language in many of the proposed new fees, you will see that the money collected will actually go toward capital improvements on campus. This begs an important question: are we receiving something new, or fixing something that the campus failed to maintain in the first place? An interesting example is the proposed Recreation Facility Enhancements fee. If passed, part of the money would go toward repairing the Rob Gym roof, which has been on the campus’ radar for years; this is not something that occurred overnight.
This is the same for the proposed D.A.R.E. fee that would replace the existing campus pool. It’s terrible that the pool wastes as much money and water as it does, but just because it hasn’t been a campus priority for the past 50 years doesn’t imply that students should be the ones to fork out the money. By voting “yes” on fees of this sort, students are saying that we are here to pick up the slack when the university fails to manage and or prioritize its money effectively.
The last point I want to bring up is that what you see outlined in the ballot language is what you get. Drafting the ballot language for a few new campus fees is an art form; you need to be as specific as possible, without making empty promises. I have overheard numerous students talking about how they are excited to swim in the new pool that the D.A.R.E. fee will help to create. After reading the ballot language you will see that nonathlete student use is in fact not outlined anywhere in the ballot language. I agree that it would be a great perk to allow all students access to use a facility they would be paying to have built, but in the budget climate the campus finds itself in, you can bet that this would be a low priority relative to what is explicitly called out in the fee’s ballot language.
It’s an upsetting realization that school pride indeed comes with a price tag. Students now more than ever before are holding the UC system financially together. It’s your call whether you vote to pass or fail the referenda fees on this year’s ballot; just remember that you are doing more than just voting when you cast your ballot. You are making a statement on what you feel students should be spending their hard-earned money on. It’s wrong that our governor has cut UC funding to the point where we, the students, are being put in a position to fund campus projects, but it should never be assumed that we will always pick up the tab.
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