Three referendums placed on 2014 elections ballot

Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

Deck: With the ASUCR elections right around the corner, UCR students will decide the fate of three referendum items surrounding ASUCR, campus diversity and the environment.

Last Wednesday, senators unanimously voted in favor of placing the Green Campus Action Plan (GCAP), Highlander Empowerment Student Services and the ASUCR fee referendums on the 2014 elections ballot during their meeting on Wednesday, April 10. The voting student body — at least 20 percent — must vote in favor of each referendum (by a simple majority) come elections week (April 21-25) for them to be implemented in the 2014-15 academic year.

Fifth-year public policy major with concentrations in environmental policy and international law Alyssa Gray provided a general overview of the seven ethnic and gender student programs — six of which are located in Costo Hall and one in the HUB — listed in the Highlander Empowerment Student Services referendum. She concluded that the main goals of the referendum were to increase funding to student-led initiatives, and provide additional services and resources such as: free printing, library materials and textbook funding through the programs.

“The gender and ethnic programs have been amazing,” said M.E.Ch.A. co-chair Victoria Tinoco. “Even though you may feel like you don’t identify with any of these programs, it is more than that. You’re here to represent others. So even though you might not visit these facilities, others might.”

If the referendum passes, students will pay a $14.00 fee per quarter — $3.50 would go toward financial aid for UCR students and $10.50 would be divided among each department evenly. Since ethnic and gender departments are currently funded through a student service fee — a UC systemwide mandatory charge to all registered students — and administered by the Student Services Fee Advisory Committee (SSFAC), the additional funds from the referendum would be handled by the same committee.

UCR students currently pay $324 per quarter in student service fees to support over 20 different departments and resources on campus, including the seven gender and ethnic student centers.

SSFAC Chair Liam Dow and Vice Chairman Lazaro Cardenas explained that the student services fee has not increased since its implementation. “As the school continues to grow,” Dow said, “We have less and less funds to allocate and are experiencing tough budgetary decisions with very small amount of money.”

Dow furthered that the committee will not reduce payments to the seven departments but explained that the referendum would alleviate the limited funding stream and allow ASUCR to build on the availability of more funding.

President Sai Patadia held the concern that if the referendum were to pass, then it may potentially lead to a reduction in SSFAC funding. “I know there is set permanent funding, but will temporary funding be pulled out if the referendum passes because there is additional funding?” he asked Dow.

Dow said that temporary funding fluctuates at different requests from each ethnic and gender student department. “We’re not saying that we’re not going to fund the temporary funding,” he said. “It just means there will not be as high of a need for the amount of temporary funding as before.”

Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center Director Nancy Tubbs gave an example of where temporary funding could still be used: “The Middle Eastern Student Center (MESC) which needs to catch up with all the other centers and even though we split the referendum equally, I think all of us in the departments realize the highlighting of MESC for they can have the funding they need for staffing and programming.”

The next topic slated for discussion was the ASUCR Fee Referendum, which seeks to increase student funds to ASUCR from $12.50 to $17.00. ASUCR Finance Committee Vice Chair Brandon Chan explained that student fees currently support clubs and organizations, grants, internships, senior barbecues, snack wagons, 24-hour library hours during finals week and projects such as the food truck festival. According to the referendum, ASUCR has not had a fee increase since 1984, which passed and provided the senate with an additional $0.50.

ASUCR’s 2013-14 contingency budget, according to Chan, used $4,950 in the fall quarter, $13,000 in the winter quarter and $9,000 for a barbecue taking place this quarter, which leaves ASUCR with a fund of $6,150. Chan additionally pointed out that with the pending spring allocations of the food truck festival (which has a projected cost of $4,000), the vice president of external affairs budget ($10,000) and executive vice president budget ($2,000), that leaves ASUCR contingency with a deficit of $10,000. “The solution to this,” Chan said, “(is) the approval of the ASUCR referendum on the ballot.”

Chan said if the referendum passed, it will go to fund the diversity council, additional student jobs and events, new leadership training and student conferences at ASUCR.

Lastly, Vice President of Campus Affairs Johnny Ta, along with members of campus organization Sustainable UCR presented the GCAP referendum that, if passed, will charge students a $2.50 fee per quarter starting in the summer of 2014. The referendum will give 5 percent of funding back to financial aid scholarships, provide over 20 new student jobs through the Office of Sustainability and year-long internships to students involved in LEED, a third-party certification program for the design, construction and operation of eco-friendly buildings. Funds will also support the R’Garden and waste efficiency and give $5,000 for large-scale, student-led sustainable projects and $500 for smaller outreach and educational funds relating to sustainability.

“In my experience working on this referendum with this committee, there has been a lot of amazing things done, and if we get this referendum passed again there’s only more that we can do,” said Sustainable UCR exiting co-chair and fourth-year psychology major and environmental science minor Yassamin Kavezade. She explained that the organization was created through partnerships with other groups in 2010 to address the urgent need to combat global climate change.

“The point was to get students involved and because of it has helped us establish our office of sustainability through a grassroots summit,” said Kavezade.

 

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