Indifference at UCI Leads to Low Voter Turnout and Disappointing Election Results

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Funding for UCI’s official student newspaper, the New University, will soon be nonexistent. The results of last week’s ASUCI elections have been released: Measure U, a referendum which would have increased student fees by $2 per quarter to keep the New University in print, failed with only 52 percent support. The Student Resource and Service Initiative passed with 65 percent support, and will increase student fees by $5 per quarter, increasing by an additional $5 for the next six years. Only 22.5 percent of undergraduates voted this year: 5,841 students out of about 26,000. The low voter turnout was the direct result of students being uninformed and ASUCI struggling to get students interested in the election.

I believe students educating themselves is important: 1,378 of the 5,841 students who voted abstained from voting on the New U’s referendum. If just 400 of these 1,378 abstainers had informed themselves about the New University’s presence and history on campus and decided to vote yes, the referendum would have passed.

This voter turnout is shameful considering that UCI’s online ballots take only minutes to cast. We had a chance to make an impact at our school and those who represent us in student government positions. Unfortunately, about 20,000 students chose not to, even though the election was advertised exhaustively through social media and flyering on Ring Road.

I often hear students complain about UCI’s lack of exciting events and problems within their individual schools and clubs. The only way to have your interests represented is to vote. I cannot sympathize with students who do not vote but continue to complain about our school’s lack of resources. Students must take responsibility to inform themselves about the issues and candidates’ positions, provided on ASUCI’s website, and vote. With such a small undergraduate class, individual votes count.

Yet students are not fully to blame for the low voter turnout. ASUCI struggles to communicate between members and the student body. Representatives have promised to increase transparency, but do not provide specific ways they will do this. Senators should take initiative and attend classes in their representative schools to advertise their availability and office hours. This would allow more students to have a better idea of who represents them. ASUCI needs to show enthusiasm for involving students all year round — not just during elections, when they are trying to pass their own fee referendum. I also strongly believe that ASUCI meetings should be more friendly and advertised to the student body.

When I attended the Senate Candidate Forum before elections week, despite being publicly advertised on Facebook as being open to all UCI students, I felt out of place as the event was dominated by ASUCI members. In addition, it was held outside at night, was unorganized, started 25 minutes late, and ran well over the two-hour time slot. Several candidates did not even attend to give their speeches.

UCI has a lack of informed students because informational meetings like this are downright unpleasant. On this night, it was apparent to me why ASUCI struggles to get students concerned with the issues that affect our school.

Unless students start holding their representatives responsible for hearing our complaints and working with students to make solutions, I do not see changes happening in this newly-elected board. If we continue to be disinterested with what goes on in ASUCI, student government will continue to run the same way it has been — underrepresenting student’s true interests.

Creating a budget is a crucial and sizable task; I genuinely hope that ASUCI makes the best use of our $5 per quarter fee increase with the promised concerts, festivals, speakers, conferences and club funding they advertised. But these changes will be not be noticeable unless students and ASUCI communicate, participate and pressure our representatives to vote for what we want.

By defunding the newspaper, students will be deprived of a crucial means to communicate with student leaders, stay informed, hold leaders accountable, and voice their concerns. The New University is a free, student-run paper that sends reporters to all types of events on campus. Reporters need resources to continue their hard work.

For the past three years, students have been funding the New U by paying a fee of $0.99 per quarter. Since this year’s Measure U referendum failed, the paper will have virtually no funding after next spring, and will soon go out of print. Disappointingly, without any funding for equipment, reporters, editors, printing and web design costs, or anything else, UC Irvine could soon be the only UC without a student newspaper.

The New U aims to transition to an increased online presence and hopes to pass a referendum next spring to reinstate its funding. However, this won’t be possible until students become less apathetic about their own campus, and until ASUCI starts doing their job to politically engage students.

Emilia Williamson is a second-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at eewillia@uci.edu.

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