ASUCI Proposes Fee Increases

Phuc Pham/New University

On the 2012 Spring Elections ballot, students will have the opportunity to vote on two initiatives proposed by the Associated Students at UC Irvine:  the ASUCI Initiative and the Anteater Express Initiative.

Under the banner of, “My Student Life Initiatives,” both propose increases in quarterly fees that will go toward ASUCI and the Anteater Express shuttles.

The ASUCI Initiative proposes a $5 increase to the Associated Students quarterly fee each year for the next four years, effective fall quarter 2012.

The current ASUCI fee stands at $18 per quarter and $54 annually.

If passed, the initiative will increase fees to $23 per quarter for the 2012-2013 year; $28 per quarter for the 2013-2014 year; $33 for the 2014-2015 year; and $38 per quarter for the 2015-2016 year. The fee will not apply to summer sessions.

Thirty-three percent of the fee increase will be returned to financial aid in accordance with campus policy, and $1 from this fee per student will go to the University of California Student Association (UCSA).

Following this four-year period, the Associated Students fee will be increased annually to be adjusted for inflation based on the California Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The Anteater Express Initiative proposes a new $8 quarterly fee that will increase by $8 annually for the next two years until it reaches $24 per quarter in the 2014-2015 year.

The initiative also calls for the formation of an Anteater Express Board, which will be responsible for allocating the funds raised through the initiative towards keeping routes open and maintaining buses.

The funds will not go towards any full-time employee salaries or benefits.

ASUCI President Vikram Nayudu, who authored both of the referendums, says that while an increase in fees is not what students may favor in  light of higher tuition costs, the decrease in quality of student life and experience, as well as the different services ASUCI provides, may make students willing to pay more.

“When we thought about asking students for money, we had to consider why the students would want to pay more,” Nayudu said. “[In light of] the services ASUCI provides, we felt that [these services] were necessary for students.”

Nayudu believes that the services needing the most funding include the Student Programming Funding Board, which provides subsidies for various student organizations and clubs, and Student Services, the office behind coordinating various events and programs such as Shocktoberfest, Wayzgoose and Reggaefest.

“Since we initiated the first ASUCI fee, the number of clubs has essentially doubled,” he said. “Students have also been asking us for different venues and bigger talent. We haven’t been able to do those things because our fees have stayed the same, but other costs have gone up.”

Nayudu and Executive Vice President Patrick Manh Le agree in the importance of sustaining the efforts of student activism as well.

“We’ve been fighting hard in terms of advocating for students,” Le said. “We have a lot of potential to do extraordinary things on behalf of the students, but we are a bit lacking in funding.

Le pointed to the role of UCI students in meeting with California Speaker of the Assembly John A. Pérez for the Middle Class Scholarship Act and their presence last month at the march in Sacramento as the largest UC delegation there as not only accomplishments, but also a shadow of what more UCI students were capable of on a state as well as national level.

“If we increase our funding, we can take more students to Sacramento to represent both UCI and the UCSA,” Le said. “We can also increase our lobbying power through outreach and marketing for higher voter registration numbers.”

The Anteater Express is already feeling the squeeze of insufficient funds. As it stands, the Anteater Express will cut the Parkwest-Carlson and Newport Beach routes for the 2012-2013 year.

Ryan Gripp, the general manager of Shuttle Services, says that Anteater Express has reached a breaking point where ASUCI cannot support its yearly deficit.

“The annual ridership in 2004 was around 500,000. This year, our estimate is around 2 million,” Gripp said.

“The financial resources provided to the program have not kept pace with that growth. As a result, ASUCI was covering a deficit that the Anteater Express was incurring each year by going over budget.”

Despite attempts to bring in revenue, including a charter system, advertisements on the buses and passes for off-campus routes, Gripp says much of that was offset by the increasing operating costs of fuel and bus maintenance.

The initiative, if passed, will provide an estimated $350,000 after the 33 percent return to financial aid. It will be just enough to cover the Parkwest-Carlson and Newport routes, Gripp says, as long as the Anteater Express Board passes it.

“I want people to know that during the first year, it will be just restoring what we currently provide,” Gripp said.

He also sees the relationship between the Anteater Express and the Anteater Express Board to be like that of city planners and city councilmen.

“City planners can provide recommendations,” says Gripp. “The Board, or city council, will give students the voice to decide what happens to these funds.”

President Nayudu stresses a similar point in urging students to vote, as it is their voice that decides which services they want and where the money goes.

“In comparison to the e-Tech fees, students actually get to vote on these initiatives,” Nayudu said.

“If they see these fees as necessary, they get to vote yes; if not, they can vote no. This is completely student driven, it’s for students, and students get to decide on it.”

Of the two Student Life Initiatives, the ASUCI Initiative faces a dissenting campaign headed by the former chair of the ASUCI Judicial Board, Dmitriy Kunitskiy.

Kunitskiy bases his no-campaign off his participation in ASUCI, and he says rather than increasing fees, ASUCI would be better off cutting administration costs and finding more efficient and applicable ways to spend its funds.

“[For example], Student Services gets $300,000 and holds events that are essentially raves,” said Kunitskiy.

“Academic Affairs gets much less than that, around $38,000, and they invite speakers like Erik Larsson, Rainn Wilson — there are sectors of ASUCI who do amazing work, who put on events that actually matter to students and they increase the academic diversity of students on campus. But those don’t get nearly as much as, say, going to a rave.”

Next week’s issue of the New University will take an in-depth look at the political debate surrounding the initiatives, including further comments on both sides of the ASUCI Initiative.