Graduate students passed a resolution Wednesday night that could potentially hold back graduate votes in the Spring 2002 elections and invalidate the results of the election.
The Graduate Student Association authored the resolution, which said the GSA reserves the right to withhold electronic polling or official election turnout results if the Campus Election Committee does not change the current elections guidelines before the next election. An ad hoc working group reviewed current guidelines in October and November and presented revised recommendations to the CEC on Nov. 26.
Chancellor Henry Yang formed the Working group to review the campuswide election process after the GSA was concerned about issues regarding graduate student representation that came up in the Spring 2001 elections. Graduate students claimed that the Student Resource Building Fee Initiative – a fee to begin in fall 2004 that adds $33.33 per quarter – was passed without enough graduate support, yet all UCSB graduate students will still have to pay the fee. Of the 385 graduate students who voted, 44 voted in favor of the SRB.
The GSA also claimed that a sponsoring organization could get an initiative on the ballot without graduate student signatures on a petition.
The Working group changed this policy, and made a recommendation that would require sponsoring organizations to gather signatures from15 percent of the undergraduate and graduate population before an initiative could be placed on the ballot.
If the CEC follows the same guidelines this year, GSA President Shawn Landres said the GSA would engage in civil disobedience to get a fairer policy.
“They could try and have elections, but we would go to the Regents and say ‘No these do not meet Regential guidelines,'” he said. “We don’t think we need to go that far.”
The CEC postponed reviewing the recommendations because the members would not have enough time to revise and implement the recommendations by the Winter Quarter deadline, according to a letter from CEC Chair Sarah Thibodeaux to Chancellor Yang. One recommendation would require a six-week approval process for petitions, which are due on February 6, 2002.
According to the letter, “many of [the recommendations] either affect the election timeline in a manner that would make their implementation for the 2002 election impossible, or they propose such a radical departure from current practice they require more time to evaluate.”
CEC representative Alan Levy, a physics graduate student, said the CEC discussed the 15 percent requirements and counting the percentage of voter turnout differently, but was waiting for a recommendation from the Working group. The CEC could still change the election guidelines before the 2002 Spring elections, but wanted to get the rules in place before student groups start petitioning for initiatives, Levy said.
“The way the CEC runs creates an atmosphere that is very difficult to get anything accomplished,” he said. “Despite two months of arguing, the result is almost no progress.”
The Women’s Center and the Disabled Students Services are planning to put an initiative on the ballot this Spring.
The Working group also recommended that the CEC implement guidelines that would limit the funding academic departments and administrative units could spend to $2,000.
According to the recommendations, “One of the problems with the existing elections process is that administrative units and departments with ‘deep pockets’ can overwhelm opposition to their proposed referenda with enormous campaign spending. The Working group believes that the unlimited use of university funds in campus elections is unfair.”