ASUCI Election Spending Questioned
The Associated Students of UC Irvine has spent more than $15,000 in student fees promoting three ballot measures for this week’s election.
Since publicity campaigns are still underway, it is impossible to know what total expenditures will be by the time polls close on Friday, but it is estimated that so far, $7,000 has been spent on the Campus Activities to Revitalize Education referendum, $6,000 on Measure S and $3,000 on the Campus Events referendum.
To give some idea of how much of the ASUCI budget this constitutes, it is likely that by the time all expenditures have been counted, publicity expenses will exceed the $16,500 that was allocated for all alternative media publications this year.
The most visible means of promotion have been posters and fliers, but ASUCI has also purchased granola bars, candy, bracelets, T-shirts and notebooks, and rented a dunk tank.
ASUCI also spent thousands of dollars on advertising space in the New University, including three full-page ads in this week’s issue at a cost of $521.85 each.
All C.A.R.E. and iCE materials paid for by ASUCI were approved as neutral voter information. Some of the funds for Measure S were spent on explicitly pro-referendum advertising. ASUCI rules dictate that an equal amount must be set aside for advertisements opposing the referendum, although it appears that such funds have so far gone unused.
According to some students, however, the allegedly ‘neutral’ voter information may be biased in favor of the referenda, which would be a violation of the ASUCI elections code.
Fliers for the C.A.R.E. referendum make use of phrases like ‘Dare to C.A.R.E.,’ ‘Make education a priority, not a casualty!’ and ‘All this for only $6 per quarter!’
Fliers publicizing the iCE referendum also include phrases which could be construed to show pro-referendum bias. One flier reads, ‘iCE will provide major events for the benefit of the students’ and also provides an answer to the question ‘I don’t go to concerts, why should I pay?’
Like the fliers for the C.A.R.E. referendum, iCE fliers say that the measure will cost ‘only’ $6 per quarter.
Although ASUCI has circulated some fliers explicitly in favor of the Measure S referendum, even fliers that appear to be neutral have similar problems. One flier says that the $8 fee increase is ‘less than a movie,’ ‘what you would pay for one dinner,’ and ‘about three gallons of gas.’
Students surveyed seemed to think that at least some of the fliers in question were decidedly non-neutral.
‘The C.A.R.E. ad seems positive because of the color and the cartoon,’ said William Van Trump, ecology and evolution graduate student, referring to the ‘Care Bear’ motif on most of the fliers.
‘I think the Measure S and C.A.R.E. ads are positive,’ said Caitlin Sikora, a first-year dance major. ‘The ads advertise environmental issues, student convenience and community service.’
None of the fliers seem to contain any mention of possible objections to the referenda.
ASUCI President Carlos Feliciano did not respond by press time to questions about who designed the fliers and whether the information on them was ever reviewed by a neutral third party.
In addition to passing bills supporting the referenda, ASUCI has taken measures to decrease the number of students required to approve fee increases by mandating that only 20 percent of the students (as opposed to 25 percent in past elections) must cast votes, with a majority voting yes.
Since fee referenda have traditionally been defeated as a result of low voter turnout, and not as a result of a majority of students voting against them, this change, combined with increased campaigning by ASUCI, was likely intended to help pass the three referenda.
Concerns about ASUCI campaign spending to promote the three referenda will be discussed at this week’s Legislative Council meeting, which is open to the public and held on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. in room 107 of the Administration Building.