Last year the UC Irvine community celebrated the first annual Peter’s Parade—or at least attempted to. With only 15 student groups participating out of over 400 and garnering less than 100 onlookers on a campus of over 27,000, Peter’s Parade was hardly a celebration of anything. So what does this tell us? UCI student life could use a hand, and as students, we must rely on ourselves rather than wait on outside aid that may never arrive.
ASUCI’s UCI Stimulus Package Referendum offers UCI students a chance to do just that. Aiming to improve the college experience for as many students as possible, the referendum is both inclusive and transparent enough to justify an increase in student fees.
ASUCI’s Stimulus Package Fee Initiative gives the breakdown as a $15 fee increase to ASUCI fees and a $10 fee increase to be dispersed among student groups, with the implication that it be used only for programs or events that involve or invite the entire student body.
Knowing that students currently only pay $18 per quarter for ASUCI services, a $15 dollar increase may seem steep. Yet, beneath the surface, one notices that ASUCI has not been allowed to increase its student fees, even to account for inflation, since 1997. Furthermore, it should be acknowledged that the average UC schools spend on such costs is over $100 each year. UC Santa Barbara even tips the scale by charging $400 in student government fees annually. With such information on hand, a $15 per quarter increase seems minuscule in comparison.
Looking through the microscope even further at these numbers, we see that if we were to adjust the 1997-established $54 per year fee for inflation, fees would need to be raised to $71 per year. This would be a little less than $24 per quarter. ASUCI would logically need a $6 increase to stay abreast of inflation, so why the need for the other $9?
Because, as Stimulus Package Fee Initiative author and ASUCI President Megan Braun stated, the 1997 fee was enacted before a 2001 state referendum requiring 33 percent of all fee increases to go back into financial aid. That means $5 of that $15 ASUCI fee increase is instantly funneled back into your (or your peers’) financial aid, along with the $10 Student Activities fee. So the Stimulus Package Fee Initiative is mostly adjusting for expenses with a modest $4 advance per student just in case it takes another 12 years to adjust funding.
So that brings us to the Student Activities Fee. As has been said, $3.33 of your $10 would be instantly redirected, but that’s unavoidable for any fee increase. The remaining $6.67 per student is broken down into a series of percentages: 20 percent will go to Greek Activities and Leadership, 20 percent will go to the Multicultural Programs Committee, 30 percent will go to Student Media and 10 percent each will go to Campus Organizations Support, Community Engagement Activities and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Support respectively.
Admittedly every proposal has its drawbacks and the stimulus package is no exception. After all, as active as it may be, UCI’s Greek body is a minority that hardly warrants receiving any privileges at the expense of the entire student body. Additionally, Greeks pay their own fees for their own events. Why give the Greeks extra money to spend?’
The answer is that at least in theory, the Greeks would not be spending the money on themselves alone. According to the specific guidelines of the Student Activities Fee (which we advise everyone to examine and is available on the ASUCI Web site under the “Spring 2009 Elections Candidates and Statements” page), the Greeks would be required to spend the money on events open to the greater UCI community and make a “good-faith effort” to integrate them.
In pursuing this endeavor, the Student Activities Fee would establish a Student Activities Committee to verify that all your money is being distributed according to the allocations established in the guidelines: ultimately, each subdivision that receives allocated money forms its own subcommittee, and each of the subcommittees must check and balance each other. The final budgets drawn up by each subcommittee would need to be approved by a panel of representatives from each subcommittee, representatives from ASUCI along with the ASUCI president and the Dean of Students before receiving funding.
Braun intended the language in the guidelines to be consciously general and non-specific, mostly because this referendum is the first of its kind at UCI. This could result in poor spending of your money, as the system is worked out and methods of accountability become concrete. Fortunately, the guidelines are amendable (though the percentages allocated, along with the ASUCI fee increase, would be concrete), and a call for change in the guidelines can be made at any time during the year. If all parties in the Student Activities Committee consent to the change, then the guidelines could be amended in about two weeks.
While there is potential for shortcomings in the general guidelines, the ASUCI fee increase is fair and would still keep UCI around $25 below the average of student government fees across the UC system. In addition, with funding from the state being cut every few months, levying small fees on the students is likely the only realistic option available to maintain and enhance ASUCI’s benefits to the student body, as well as supporting campus organizations to enrich campus life.
The New University endorses the Stimulus Package, but if it passes, it is up to UCI students to get involved with the Student Activities Committee and ensure that your money is being put to good use.
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