UC Irvine is facing a projected $50 million budget cut that will reverberate throughout the campus, which currently serves 25,000 undergraduate students. A year after the protested 32 percent increase in student fees, followed by another fee increase of up to 7 percent, it is not so much a surprise that UCI administration is preparing itself for another significant budget cut and focusing on efforts to minimize the effects throughout campus. A significant concern for many students, staff and administrators is how such an increase will affect student services such as Dean of Students, Transfer Student Center, Career Center and the Cross-Cultural Center resources and programs. As budgets continue to shrink, there is also a general concern that these cuts will continue to shrink the limited student resources currently available.

The S.O.A.R. referendum intends to maintain valuable student services by implementing a small $1.99 fee that will ensure that student resources are maintained and protected. This fee will be going toward UCI’s first outreach and retention center which will provide necessary resources such as a “one-stop shop” for all campus resources, food pantry, work space and free printing for student organizations and programs.

This center is not reinventing the wheel. We know that UCI has a lot of resources to offer, but we all know sometimes that it is hard navigating through everything that UCI has to offer. Any student regardless of involvement with organizations can benefit from such a space in these economically difficult times, making this year’s voting season a historically significant one.

The Student Outreach and Retention Center also seeks to improve and strengthen current student initiated outreach programs.  These outreach programs connect UCI students to the local communities of Orange County and Southern California, and are part of a tradition of service and education. Students participating in high school outreach programs receive professional training by CFEP staff,  organize and plan their outreach programs each year as well as visit high schools to publicize for their outreach programs. Students take the time to plan workshops tailored to students’ interests while also mentoring, academic-advising and maintaining contact with different schools.

Running student-initiated outreach programs requires much time and effort, which dedicated and passionate students continue to do each year with less and less funds. The struggle to gain more funding has also been a struggle to create UCI’s first Outreach and Retention Center, which is a supportive institution that can be found on other UC campuses (only UC Riverside and UC Merced currently do not house such an institution). Therefore, it would only seem reasonable that UCI houses such a student and community serving institution as well. Today, students at UCI have the power to fund such an important instruction by voting “yes” this week for the S.O.A.R. referendum.

In order for this referendum to pass, at least 6,000 students need to vote, 4,000 of such students would need to vote “yes” for great long-term benefits. The $1.99 fee per quarter ensures that the current outreach and retention programs, which face more cuts each year, continue and form a strong UCI tradition of community outreach and that are services for students such as employment opportunities, computers, textbook exchange, peer-to-peer advising, support for campus organizations, scholarships, free printing and a study lounge.

This is quite a deal for only $1.99! Especially when the money is transparent and goes directly back to you. This is a student-initiated center, meaning it is run by students for students! The SOAR Center puts the power in students’ hands. The decision of how the money is spent is not going to be decided by an exclusive group of individuals with a particular set of interests, but by undergraduate students who have the interests of their fellow students as their sole priority.

If the referendum passes, it would insure a stable possibility of opening an outreach and retention center that all students can benefit from, where they can gain important leadership experience, experience running programs, and getting involved. If students want to look for a job working for people or with people after they graduate, getting experience running an outreach program or working to keep students in UC Irvine, can only strengthen their interpersonal, planning, and professional communication and budgeting skills. Passing the S.O.A.R. referendum fulfills the vision of the “public” university that serves its community and maintains its vision of diversity and equal opportunity. With the hopeful promise of a 24/7 study zone, unlimited printing, how could anyone say no? It’s time to take matters into our own hands and take control of our University. If our state does not care about the quality of our education, we should, can and will.

Vileana De La Rosa is a fourth-year comparative literature major. She can be reached at vdelaros@uci.edu.

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