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Senate Puts ASUCI Fee Referendum on Spring Ballot

ASUCI Senate passed the Student Resource and Services Initiative last Thursday, approving the student fee referendum to be placed on the spring 2017 ballot. The referendum, if approved by 60 percent of voting undergraduates, would levy a $5 fee increase per quarter on undergraduate students to fund ASUCI events and programming starting this fall quarter, with a further $5 increase over each of the next five years. The Initiative would result in a $30 total increase in student fees by fall quarter 2022. Starting fall quarter 2023, the fee will be adjusted for inflation and increase annually based on the California Consumer Price Index.

Student fees allotted to UCI’s student government are currently the lowest in the UCI system, at $18 per student, per quarter. Over the proposed next six years, the fee increase would eventually leave each student paying $48 per quarter in fees to ASUCI, putting UCI’s student fee closer to other campuses in the UC system. In comparison, students at UC Santa Barbara pay $121.95 per quarter to their student government, and UCLA students pay $72 per quarter.

Jackson Chirigotis, ASUCI Student Services Vice President, said during his presentation of the referendum during Tuesday’s Senate meeting that the increased fee would improve the quality of UCI’s campus culture and allow ASUCI to plan and execute better events and programs for undergraduates. According to the ballot language, the increased funding would go towards concerts and festivals, speakers, leadership and professional conferences, increased funding for registered student clubs and organizations, UCI’s membership in statewide and national student organizations including the United States Student Association (USSA), and “student led-campaigns designed to improve the undergraduate experience, such as issues included but not limited to: academic advising, academic advocacy, college affordability, student housing, study spaces [and] mental health services.”

In addition, Chirigotis noted that some of the funding may go towards increasing stipends for members of student government, including senators and executive officers. These employees are “severely underpaid,” according to Chirigotis, and “probably not getting compensated for all the work [they] do.” Increasing pay for ASUCI employees would attract lower-income students who would otherwise not get involved in student government, Chirigotis argued.

In addition, External Vice President Taylor Chanes noted that the increased funding could offset the costs of UCI’s membership in USSA as well as the University of California Student Association, from which ASUCI may consider withdrawing its membership next year due in part to the $33,000 fee levied on member campuses.

Chirigotis noted that the cost of Shocktoberfest tickets increased by $7 per student this past year, and production costs for such schoolwide concerts and events, including also Summerlands and Wayzgoose, are increasing at a rate ASUCI is unable to keep up with given the current $18 student fee.

“[We want to] make UCI a first-choice community,” said Chirigotis. “This money can potentially go toward expansion of what we have been doing – for freshman students, to provide more on-campus opportunities; for those that live on campus, cross-cultural communities, advocacy, Greek communities, dance communities, professional and academic organizations.”

In addition to approving the Student Resource and Services Initiative for the spring 2017 ballot, Senate passed two joint legislations: one resolution for ASUCI Senate to formally endorse the initiative, and another bill to provide $10,000 in funding for the campaign. Referendum campaigns at UCI must provide matched funding in the event that a student or group wishes to run a “no” campaign against the referendum; thus, $5,000 will be set aside for the campaign in favor of the Student Resource and Services Initiative, and another $5,000 will be allotted for any potential “no” campaign.

If the Student Resource and Services Initiative is passed, the increased fees would be managed by ASUCI, and an audit on the use of funding would be provided upon request. To offset the increased cost on students receiving financial aid, 33 percent of the fee would be Returned-to-Aid (RTA). The fee will end after 30 years, during the 2046-47 academic year, unless the student body votes to reaffirm it.

Like all other referendums on the ballot, at least 60 percent of voting undergraduates must vote in favor of the fee increase. The voter turnout rate must be at least 20 percent of undergraduates for votes to be eligible. Voting will take place during week three of spring quarter 2017.