An initiative asking students for $33.33 a quarter and $21.49 for Summer Sessions starting in 2004 is receiving an advantage because supporters of the proposal work for the Campus Elections Commission and Office of Student Life, the Graduate Student Association has charged.
If passed, the Student Resource Building fee would fund a building that would house student programs such as Campus Learning Assistance Services, Office of Student Life, Educational Opportunity Program and the Women’s Center. Plans have not been drawn out, but square footage has already been allotted to each organization, said senior political science major Sydia Lopez, who supports the measure.
The GSA, which wrote the con statement for the SRB measure, sees a conflict of interest in the initiative, Vice President of Academic Affairs Shawn Landres said.
Associate Dean of Students Joe Navarro, who works in the Office of Student Life and is an adviser for the Campus Elections Commission, said he does not see a conflict of issues and said he could be impartial on the issue.
Three years ago, students staged a walkout to demand that the university provide a space specifically for student services. They marched out of class and took over the chancellor’s office on the fifth floor of Cheadle Hall. An initiative went on the ballots in 1999 but was defeated by a slim majority, Lopez, a marcher, said.
“It seems like we asked for a lot of things and never followed through with them,” she said.
During the 1999 elections, Navarro was involved in the commission’s decision to change the voter sliding scale after election results had been tallied. For an initiative to pass, it must have at least a 50-percent-plus-one vote if the percentage of voter turnout is equal to or greater than the average turnout of the previous five years. Chancellor Henry Yang, in consultation with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young and the elections committee, decided to include graduate votes in the average, lowering the necessary percentage needed to pass a campuswide measure.
For an initiative to go on the ballot, petitioners must gain signatures from 15 percent of enrolled students including graduates or undergraduate students. A ballot can conceivably gain the required percentage without any graduate signatures and pass without any graduate votes, Internal President of GSA Jessica Winston said.
“We feel concerned that we were left out of the process and that we don’t really have a voice in the process,” she said.
GSA is also worried that graduate students will have to pay fees for a building largely beneficial to undergraduate students. Graduate students work in the CLAS and EOP buildings, but instigating a fee would force these students to pay for their own office space, Landres said.
“The proposed building is much more an undergraduate building than a graduate building to the extent that graduates are often employees of CLAS and EOP,” he said. “Passage of this initiative would mean they are paying for their own work space.”
The proposed building would set aside space for an extended graduate lounge, Winston said. It would also house the Orfalea Family Children’s Center Satellite, which, Winston said, many graduate students use.