Amid this week’s elections, members of the ASUCI Legislative Council opposed to the Student Center/Intercultural Center Referendum are questioning the management of Student Center funds and the future of services and amenities provided at these sites.
The student center/intercultural center referendum, open for online voting this week, calls for maintaining the $136.50 fee per student per term, in effect since 2007, to maintain study halls, extended hours for finals week and event spaces for campus organizations among other services and amenities. To be adopted, the referendum requires a minimum of 7,500 votes cast, of which at least 60% must be in favour.
The fee of $136.50 per student per term was originally approved in the spring of 2001 to fund a Phase 4 addition to the UCI Student Center. The student center addition was completed in 2007 and includes study and lounge space, a food court, increased intercultural center space, and additional meeting and conference rooms. However, the 2001 fee initiative also called for a “fee reduction of $47.50 per quarter in the fall of 2017 when outstanding loans are paid off.”
According to the UCI Student Center website, this reduction of $47.50 per student per term is not expected to be implemented due to several factors including inflation, a “175% increase in student organizations recorded” and an “unforeseen increase in on-campus assessments”.
According to the student center, the $47.50 reduction beginning in fall 2017 would result in “student support for student center services [to] drop by $4 million” while “debt service will only drop by $2 million”.
Recognizing that the fee reduction could cause financial instability for the student center, the ASUCI Legislative Board submitted a Request for Action to the Executive Vice President in early March, requesting that the student center fee initiative to maintain current fees be added in the spring of 2016. ballot so that students can vote in the referendum.
However, many ASUCI Legislative Council members argue that the shortfall factors and the need to maintain current fees were not due to unforeseen circumstances, but rather to mismanagement of funds. Many members are unhappy that the tuition reduction of $47.50 per student per term will not be implemented in fall 2017 as planned by students as part of the initiative. initial on the 2001 charges.
Alvin Phan, At-Large representative of ASUCI’s finance committee, believes the referendum is just one way to relieve the student center of its debt.
“They mismanaged tuition, didn’t end up paying their loan on time, and students are being urged to bail them out,” Phan said.
In response to shortfall factors provided by the Student Center, such as an “unforeseen increase in campus achievement” and “inflation that was never accounted for”, Phan argues that all operations have been clearly described in the 2001 fee initiative and that inflation “does not justify an exorbitant waste of tuition fees.
In addition, Miguel Olvera, humanities representative of the ASUCI advocacy committee, presented a document published on Saturday titled “Notes on the agency and the crisis” in response to the referendum.
Olvera criticized the rhetoric used by the Student Center campaign, which he says serves to equate students with heroes, suggesting their “yes” vote is to “save the Student Center” and “continue the legacy.” of the Student Center and Cross-Cultural Center.”
He also argues that ultimately Chancellor Howard Gillman has the “constitutional right to pass the referendum and implement fees at his discretion”, rendering the referendum meaningless.
“Giving students the opportunity to ‘make a decision’ (that has already been made for them) exculpates the administration of that decision or its effects in the near or distant future,” Olvera said.
In his paper, Olvera also questions whether the amenities the referendum seeks to maintain will actually be provided after the referendum passes. Olvera mentions that on-campus mental health facilities and services may replace the existing Courtyard Study Lounge, the new eSports program will require a revamp of the Student Center’s Zot Zone facility, and that The Hill may be outsourced.
Olvera argues that while the Intercultural Center is part of the title of the referendum, it is never considered in the actual language of the referendum.
Many ASUCI members hope that if the referendum does not pass, the Student Center will manage the funds more efficiently. Since the fee reduction isn’t due until fall 2017, the student center’s cross-cultural referendum could be on the ballot again next spring if it doesn’t pass this year.