The $100 per student per quarter fee increase known as Students’ Initiative passed yesterday by a narrow margin of 30 votes – but opposition to the initiative is still brewing.
The final vote count came to 2,148 in favor, 2,118 against and 160 abstentions. The voter turnout was 24.4 percent of the student body, or 4,426 students. According to the Associated Students Constitution, which was rewritten last spring, the initiative needed to pass by a simple majority, 50 percent plus one, and 20 percent of the student body needed to vote in order for the election to count.
However, former and current A.S. members, students and a campus organization still in opposition to the initiative’s passage are tentatively organizing a “rollback” campaign for the spring 2007 election that would bring fees back to where they are now, said Eva Kilamyan, former A.S. Legislative Council member and third-year political science and women’s studies major.
Initiative supporters hugged and hollered in the MultiCultural Center yesterday afternoon when A.S. Executive Director Don Daves-Rougeaux announced the initiative’s passage.
“[I’m] ecstatic,” said Raymond Meza, A.S. Legislative Council member and fourth-year political science major. “In the past six years no initiative has passed like this and we have worked really hard to get it to pass. We were definitely conscious that it could go either way so we kept that in mind.”
The funding, which comes to about $400 per year with the 25 percent return-to-aid surcharge, distributes the funds among 29 student services organizations on campus, including Campus Learning Assistance Services, Recreational Sports and A.S.
The organizations say the funding is necessary to counteract recent cuts in university funding. According to the initiative’s supporters, the money will replenish drained funding resources as well as be used for new services for students.
CLAS Acting Director Lupe Navarro-Garcia said her organization decided to join the fee initiative because CLAS would otherwise be down in funding $100,000 next year. She said CLAS was already at its absolute minimum level of services. CLAS will receive an additional $6 per student per quarter.
As a result of the increased funding from students, which will start next quarter, Garcia said CLAS will maintain its current level of services at no cost to students, as well as add classes and longer hours of operation.
“A lot of staff members are taking a sigh of relief,” Garcia said. “We have been bare bones for so many years and staff took the brunt of that. It’s time to just grow as a department.”
Recreational Sports is also going to maintain its level of service at no additional charge to students, said Paul Lee, director of Rec Sports. Rec Sports will receive $11 per student per quarter from the initiative.
“I’m elated,” Lee said. “The reason is our programs will be available to all students across campus and the entire community.”
A.S. President Jared Goldschen said the narrow passage rate of the initiative signals a need for A.S. – and the other participating organizations in the initiative – to show students how they will benefit from the extra money they must now pay.
“Now we have a lot of work ahead of us; we have a greater responsibility to provide the services we promised,” Goldschen said. “It’s necessary for [students] to feel the benefits. We want to make sure those who voted for and against will still benefit.”
The 29 organizations receiving funding from the initiative will be up for reaffirmation individually in the spring 2009 election, Goldschen said. In five years, a 3 to 7 percent surcharge will be added onto the fees to account for inflation.
However, a group of students still opposing the initiative are hoping the surcharge will not be necessary, nor the need to pay the $133 extra per quarter. Kilamyan said she is in the process of organizing a campaign to erase the initiative. The referendum would be voted on in the spring election.
“We would be rolling back fees to where they were before the $100 increase,” Kilamyan said. “We wouldn’t force A.S. to pay its fees back; it wouldn’t affect Winter and Spring Quarters.”
Kilmayan said there was not much of a “Vote No” campaign because they did not have access to student fees to buy T-shirts, but she still believes there are more students against it.
“The fact that [A.S.] got everyone they knew to vote and it barely passed shows me more students are against it,” Kilmayon said.
Sam O’Hanlon, founder of the Facebook.com group opposing the initiative, said she was approached by a campus organization who was willing to provide funding for a “Vote No” campaign, but she declined because she did not want a group affiliation associated with the campaign.
“Our Facebook group has over 400 members,” O’Hanlon, a third-year biopsychology major, said. “If given enough time we could get a group together for the spring election.”