How do you feel about the campus life at UC Irvine? If you are like most Anteaters, you will say that we need more school spirit and more major activities like big concerts, impressive speakers and fairs on Ring Mall. ASUCI heard you, we agree with you and we want to make a change. We propose the UCI Stimulus Package Referendum to make UCI, well, fun. This fee of $25 per quarter would provide additional funding to ASUCI, cultural events, club support, volunteer events, civic engagement activities, Greek life and student media. All of this money would go to student activities and services and provide a shot of adrenaline to campus life at UCI. Essentially, for the cost of dinner and a movie you can fill your social calendar with things to do.
Students often bemoan the lack of big name concerts, the scarcity of school spirit and the absence of activities on the weekend. What UCI students don’t know is that they pay a fraction of the student activities fees that other campuses have, and thus ASUCI has a much smaller budget to work with. We currently pay $54 annually in Associated Students fees, but the average Associated Students fee for the eight other undergraduate student governments is $101.88. One of the reasons UC Santa Barbara is able to have its vibrant campus life is that students pay over $400 per year in student activities fees. UCI is capable of having the same level of campus life as UCLA or UCSB, but students simply need to be willing to pay a little for the experience. Imagine if you didn’t need to go all the way to Newport to eat, drink, dance and play; instead, in your own backyard you will find parties, tailgates, major music festivals, cultural performances, leadership retreats, service activities and more.
ASUCI is not the only student service that needs additional assistance. There are over 400 clubs at UCI and there is less than $10,000 dollars to support club fairs, officer training and leadership development. That’s less than $25 per club! UCI also has a vibrant tradition of cultural programs, but these events are dependent on ASUCI for significant financial support. Greek life does not receive a dollar for leadership workshops, marketing or educational programs. Many of UCI’s student services are significantly underfunded compared to our UC counterparts, and for a small cost to students, these events could be dramatically improved.
You may wonder why ASUCI would propose raising fees during a time when the economy is struggling and tuition is expected to go up next year. While we are sensitive to increasing college costs, we cannot stop progress simply because this is a bad budget year. Fees have been going up for years and will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. In principle, ASUCI is vehemently opposed to increased student fees, but it is important to distinguish between the two types of fees. First there are the Educational and Registration fees, which are set by the UC Regents and have been increasing steadily for the last 20 years. Then there are the campus-based fees, which are self-imposed fees assessed by the students in campus elections. To my mind, a $25-dollar fee that the students vote to contribute toward a pool of money that will go directly toward their own personal college experience is entirely different than a several hundred-dollar fee increase assessed by the Regents with little value to educational quality.
It is also important to note that the collective buying power of the entire student body is far greater than that of any individual student. Think about what your $18-per-quarter ASUCI fee buys you right now. Students get a major concert, five free movies, 10 comedy shows, free food and much, much more. The concert alone is worth at least $20, movie tickets are about $10 a piece and you can’t attend a comedy show for less than $5. In summary, for $18, students receive a value in excess of $100 per quarter. The UCI Stimulus Package will provide a significant amount of additional funding for student life each quarter. More activities on campus will provide more cost-effective entertainment, which is especially important as the students’ disposable income decreases.
Students have the right to exert control over their college experience and prioritize those services and programs that are most valuable to them. ASUCI is not mandating a tax on the students. Instead, we are simply posing a question: Do you care enough about your college experience to pay for it? Do you want larger concerts, more tailgates and athletic events, more free movie and comedy nights? Do you want increased support for student organizations and cultural events? If you answered yes to any of these questions, vote yes on the UCI Stimulus Package.
Megan Braun is a fourth-year history and philosophy double-major. She is also the current ASUCI president. She can be reached at email@example.com.