Initiatives Under Fire

On the ASUCI elections ballot this week, UC Irvine students have the opportunity to vote for or against two initiatives that would directly affect their student fees for the upcoming and subsequent years. These “My Student Life Initiatives,” authored by current ASUCI President Vikram Nayudu in two referendums passed by the Legislative Council, include the ASUCI and Anteater Express Initiatives.


The ASUCI Initiative would increase the current quarterly Associated Students fee from $18 per quarter ($54 per year) by $5, beginning in fall 2012. In the 2012-2013 year, the fee will be a proposed $23 per quarter; $28 per quarter in 2013-2014; $32 per quarter in 2014-2015; and $37 per quarter in 2015-2016. The Associated Students fee in subsequent years would be adjusted for inflation according to the California Consumer Price Index (CPI).


The Anteater Express Initiative proposes a new $8 quarterly fee that would increase by $8 per year for the next two years to support the campus shuttle service. In 2012-2013, students would pay $8; in 2013-2014, $16; and in 2014-2015, $24 per quarter. This fee will also be adjusted for inflation beginning in 2015.


“We thought the initiatives were necessary because it is for students, student-driven and students get to decide on it,” Nayudu said. “The only role administrators had was approving the language we used. We felt that student life and experience was going down, and we wanted to improve on that and expand it. It will be up to students if they want to see that or not.”


While ASUCI has campaigned for these initiatives as opportunities to improve the quality of student life on campus, the debate among students has centered on whether these proposed increases in fees are actually necessary.


According to the ASUCI Elections Code, those backing a certain referendum may receive money to campaign if an equal amount of money is made publicly available to run a campaign against the referendum. Additionally, all materials that are granted use to the referendum campaign team must also be made publicly available.


Dmitriy Kunitskiy, a third-year civil engineering and philosophy double major, has been utilizing the available funds to run a campaign against the ASUCI Initiative. After spending most of the past two years as the former Chair of the ASUCI Judicial Board, Kunitskiy says ASUCI does not need more money, but instead needs to use its existing funds more efficiently and effectively.


While Kunitskiy and Nayudu share the same support of the Anteater Express Initiative, each pointing to the legitimate costs that the shuttle service has to address, including gas and bus and route maintenance, their positions diverge when it comes to the ASUCI Initiative.


The most prominent issue, Kunitskiy said, is that the majority of funds that ASUCI receives from Associated Student fees does not find its way to students and instead is used to pay for full-time staff members.


“ASUCI is the only sector of campus where students have direct say in what happens,” he said. “That money goes from students to students; other students decide where it goes. That sentiment gets adulterated when the [majority of the] money goes from students to what amounts to just another on-campus department with full-time staff members. As students, I don’t think students should accept that by giving more money.”


Kunitsky also says ASUCI should not be using the “excuse” that because UCI’s Associated Student fees are lower than that of other UCs, they should increase theirs, drawing comparisons to the reasoning used by the UCI administration in implementing the eTech Initiative, which students had no choice in voting for or against.


“ASUCI has in no way been affected by cuts in state support or budget cuts,” he said. “ASUCI gets more money than it ever has in gross amounts from students; the more students there are, the more money they get. Decreases in state support don’t affect ASUCI in the least bit.


“At no point has ASUCI helped lower student fees.”


Instead of asking for more fees, Kunitsky says ASUCI should look to internal reform in terms of addressing the issue of administration costs and restricting funds so that the student government will be forced to become as efficient as possible.


“If we force ASUCI to be minimal and restrict funds, there is a ton of room for them to improve with the money they have,” he said. “If that happens, maybe in a couple years, once they’ve decreased their administrative staff by half, have programs that benefit all students and have the appropriate amount of money go to the students, not less than half as it is now, it may be then extremely appropriate to give ASUCI money then.”


Kunitsky also said it is unacceptable to ask current students to vote for a fee increase that will double after they have left, as incoming classes would inherit the burden.


Lynn Huh, a Middle Earth resident advisor, shares this sentiment. While she does acknowledge ASUCI’s efforts in getting students involved, particularly with first-years, she says it is not as much of a money issue as it is the services available.


“I don’t think it’s fair for future classes; how much more would they be paying?” she said. “Is it going to be that much more beneficial, especially since ASUCI already provides services that students don’t take advantage of? If they want more services available for more people, then why not try new services for people with the things they already have?”

“I think the Anteater Express is important, though. Having a car here on campus is ridiculously expensive, and having shuttles would help students who don’t have cars or those who want to save on spending money on a parking permit.”


When asked about the My Student Life Initiatives, first-years offer a variety of opinions.


“I will be using the buses a lot, maybe not the two routes [in danger of being canceled], but in order to help pay for some of the costs, I’d be fine with it,” said Marty Menor, a first-year biology major. “For the ASUCI fee, I’d be fine with that, because the events they put on are those that we’d attend. As a freshman, the dodgeball record was something that got me pumped.”


“Not everybody who pays the fee would see the benefit of the shuttle fee. I wouldn’t mind the ASUCI fee, since that will go to events that we see directly,” said Christian Portillo, a first-year civil engineering major. “I’d like to see more concerts. Indie artists would be cool. Anything besides rap.”