By Editorial Board
Spring quarter is upon us once again. For some, this time just means nicer weather and excitement that the school year is almost over, but for others, this time is characterized by so much more — ASUCI elections.
We know what some of you may be thinking: it’s time to start planning alternate routes to class to avoid the campaign frenzy and flyers of Ring Road. We know that this can be overwhelming and at times invasive, but learning about these candidates and referendums is truly important in order to fulfill your civic duty as a UC Irvine student. So for those of you who do not have time to stop and chat with these people and organizations on Ring Road, here is a brief overview about what some of your fellow students are working on, and why you may want to look a little deeper into their campaigns.
While we can’t speak for each of the candidates (for that, we recommend reading their platforms online and/or asking them questions in person), we can provide some information about the three student referendums on this spring’s ballot.
The three referendums that are on the ballot this year are for the SOAR Center, the Anteater Express (The Bus Love Initiative) and the New University (Measure U). All of these referendums are asking for different amounts in student fees, but all three campaigns share a common goal — to save an important organization and service for students.
The SOAR Center was established at UCI in the fall of 2011 and is committed to the retention, outreach and graduation of each undergraduate UCI student. Several resources are offered to promote social, academic and overall wellness, and there are also a number of outreach programs that educate younger students about the importance of education and encourage them to pursue their dreams. SOAR is dedicated to making sure that students are able to succeed at UCI, including those who are at risk of not graduating by providing them with vital resources that get them one step closer to a diploma.
The SOAR referendum asks students to pay $4.50 each quarter to ensure the permanence of this center at UCI. SOAR is a student-initiated and student-run organization, organized by passionate students who want to make sure individuals both inside and outside of UCI thrive.
The Bus Love Initiative aims to secure current routes for the Anteater Express, provide resources to manage overcrowding and would allow for a greater array of services for students with disabilities. This referendum would fund expenses including, but not limited to, disability services, route expansion and fleet replacement. An increase in maintenance and fuel costs coupled with a decrease in funding have made these services difficult to provide, putting the financial security of the shuttle in jeopardy for years to come.
Students who vote “Yes” on the referendum approve an ongoing $8 quarterly fee until it reaches $40, at which point the fee will increase each year according to the California Consumer Price Index. For more clarity, the fee would start at $8 per quarter for 2013-14; $16 per quarter for 2014-15; $24 per quarter for 2014-15. The fee will keep going up by $8 each year until it reaches $40, and then it will be adjusted based on the California CPI.
If the initiative passes, the current bus routes will be saved, more services will be added, newer buses will be purchased and students will get the opportunity to decide Anteater Express funding moves through a student majority board.
If the initiative does not pass, there will be fewer buses on the road, service will be reduced, campus parking lots and roads will be heavily congested and students with disabilities will have less transportation options. Voting “No” on this referendum can result in eliminating more routes, on top of the routes that were already cut due to lack of funding, and the elimination of student employees who work for the Anteater Express.
The last referendum on this ballot is Measure U, which would help preserve the paper that you are holding in your hands right now. The cost of printing this newspaper has increased substantially in the past few years, from $1,200-$1,300 to $1,500-$1,600 per issue. Other expenses needed to run a newspaper, such as supplies, fees and benefits, have also increased by about three to four percent per year. These factors, combined with industry changes, advertiser consistency, social media and economic factors, have increased our overall costs and decreased our overall revenue.
The New University is a completely independent entity, run entirely by and for students. All revenue is generated through advertisements, and neither ASUCI nor university administration fund this organization in any way.
Because of this, the New U needs help. We have been coping with these losses for years, first by reducing the average number of pages and color per issue (from 60 pages in 2007 to 24 in 2013), cutting our full-time administrative staff and reducing their pay (from four full-time staff members in 2008 to only one person in 2013) and reducing the student Editorial Board stipends by 50 percent in 2013, along with a pay cut for student workers in the advertising department. We have been reducing costs in every area, but this will not last for long. We hate to ask students for more money, but this is our only option to save the paper.
For 99 cents per quarter, students can ensure that UCI’s official campus newspaper since 1968 can stay in print for at least five more years. We understand that journalism is steering away from print and that digital journalism is taking a more prominent role, but we need time to transition to going all-digital. (Believe it or not, going digital requires money too.) If this referendum does not pass, the print edition would only be able to sustain itself for one more year, and then it would have to go all-digital immediately. This would result in a significant loss in advertising revenue and staff, and the quality of our paper would reduce drastically.
We explain these referendums not to endorse, criticize or to explain why one is better than the other, but to stress the importance of voting in this election. They are all essential components of our campus, not just because of what services they provide, but because of their aim to improve the quality of life for all students at UCI. Additionally, these referendums are not competing against each other — the passage of each initiative is not contingent on how well or poorly one referendum does. It is simply based on whether or not 60 percent of the campus approves the fee (out of the 25 percent needed to reach quorum).
That being said, let’s support each other. Let’s support student work. Let’s support student passion. Let’s take a step back and realize what’s best for the good of the entire campus, not just for our own personal sake.
Voting will take place online at www.asuci.uci.edu/elections during week three. Log on and do your part.
Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, year and major.