Shouldering the Financial Burden

The 2009 Stimulus Package Fee Initiative, written and proposed by current ASUCI President Megan Braun, proposes a $25 fee increase per student, per quarter, to benefit student government and student activities.

$15 will go toward the Associated Students and $10 will be attributed to Student Activities, which funds Greek Education and Leadership, the Multicultural Programs Committee, Student Media, Campus Organizations Support, Community Engagement Activities and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Support.

If implemented, quarterly student fees would total $33, and will be increased annually based on the California Consumer Price Index (CPI) starting in Fall 2010. Student fees will not be assessed during Summer Sessions.

Currently, UC Irvine students pay $54 annually in student fees. While $25 dollars per quarter may seem like a huge jump in price, other UCs pay much more. For instance, opposite Irvine in the student fees spectrum is UC Santa Barbara, whose students pay $400 in fees to support their campus community.

“Students need to be aware that they pay a lot less than our UC counterparts and that affects what we can do … the average amount other UCs collect is close to $100. We’re definitely underfunded compared to the other student governments,” Braun said.

The package will increase school spirit dramatically by increasing the number of parties, tailgates, major music festivals, cultural performances, leadership retreats, service activities and more.

ASUCI has felt the complaints of students desiring more campus activities and involvement and believes the stimulus package could be the answer.

“We know you want better performers, more activities, more school spirit, but right now there isn’t the funding – do you care enough about these things to pay for them?” Braun said.

From there, Braun hands the reins over to the students who come out to vote. The referendum requires a 60 percent “yes” vote from 25 percent of UCI students to be passed.

“Last year we had 25 percent of students come out. The challenging part is getting a 60 percent ‘yes’ vote. Sixty percent threshold is high and it will be challenging,” Braun said.

The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF), authored by Max Broad, a fourth-year social ecology major, proposes a $3.50 increase to student fees to create a funding grant for projects to aid the campus in becoming more sustainable.

Broad and Alexis Kim, a second- year earth systems science major, have been working together in support of TGIF to bring a chance for sustainability to Irvine’s campus.

“I saw that TGIF had been attempted in the spring of 2008, and it had failed because it was put together at the last minute and they weren’t knowledgable of the leg system it had to pass through to get to the ballot. It was a great opportunity because I was on the inside [and could help it pass],” Broad said.

Twenty-three other universities across the United States have passed similar green fees. Other UC schools, like UCLA, UC Berkley and UCSB, have already implemented the program and begun funding green projects.

UC Berkeley currently monitors its buildings’ energy consumption, decreasing consumption by 5-10 percent. UC Santa Barbara implemented a zero-waste program and also used TGIF funds to purchase energy-efficient appliances, saving $700,000 per year.

At UCI, some ideas for sustainability that would likely be supported by the program include double-pane windows in the dorms to make heating and air conditioning more efficient, compositing in the dining commons, organic gardens, solar panels on roofs, upgrading the bicycle infrastructure and looking at alternative sources of energy.

The Green Initiative Fund Referendum requires a 60 percent “yes” vote from 25 percent of UC Irvine students to be passed.

“I’ve talked to so many students who have almost proudly stated that they aren’t going to vote, as compared to a school like UC Berkeley where they have their own political parties,” Broad said. “It’s been an uphill battle, but whenever I’ve gone into a group, there’s a positive reception. So we’re really hoping that [the] positive reaction will carry over into voting for it. We’re just doing the best we can because there’s nothing more we can do but that.”