SPECIAL SERIES : WILL STUDENTS PAY MORE?
Administration Pushes Voter Awareness on Referendums
March election results to indicate future of programs and services; administration makes final call
February 5, 2004 4:45 PM
As students decide on which way their votes will go on the upcoming referendums March 2, the administration is trying to guarantee high voter turnout by ensuring that all students are well-informed about the possible fee increases.
Last year, the California State University system raised fees 30 percent in order to help compensate for the ongoing budget crisis. Despite this significant increase, however, many departments still suffered major cutbacks.
In order to maintain services, the Career Center, the Health Services Department, Athletics and academic affairs are all asking students to approve the upcoming referendums so each department can continue to sustain.
However, approving the increase of fees does not mean the effects -- such as the prevention of eliminating classes and program services -- will be immediately implemented. The student fee referendums are a ‘non-binding vote,’ meaning SF State President Corrigan and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed will make the final decision in increasing any fees.
“It’s like taking a poll,” said Christina Holmes, assistant director of Public Affairs for SF State. “We’re trying to get a sense (of what the students want) and the votes serve as an indicator.”
There is no current timeline for President Corrigan and Chancellor Reed to make the final decision once the votes are in, said Holmes. The only deadline the administration had with regards to the referendums, she added, was to distribute informational materials at least 30 days before the day of the vote.
If past campus elections are any measure of student participation in the electoral process, getting the word out will be a challenge. According to an ASI representative, 1980 of almost 30,000 SF State students voted in the last ASI election.
In an attempt to avoid low voter turnout, the administration is making a point to educate students about the important effects the referendums will have on them.
In doing so, they have made a Web page located on the SF State home page explaining the referendums, placed a full-page informative advertisement in the last issue of Xpress and are planning on distributing informational pamphlets to students.
Although there are none scheduled at this time, there is the possibility of open forums being held.
Despite these efforts, however, students still feel left in the dark about the upcoming vote.
“I’d like to know more about it and be able to vote on it with fellow students,” said Meghan Knutson, a senior who is studying business. “I haven’t heard much about it. It would be nice when we register for our classes if they said ‘you could vote in two months on this fee hike’ or if on the first day of classes they handed us something that would explain what exactly is going on.”
For those students who are aware of the upcoming referendums, the sentiments vary.
There are those who reluctantly accept the possibility of increased fees --such as Ethan Sall, a senior studying international relations. “Obviously I’m upset about it,” said Sall. “I prefer not to have to pay for more, but I understand we are having a budget crisis right now and revenue has to come from somewhere.”
While others have little or no sympathy. “I don’t think the burden should be on students,” said sophomore Zoe Leonard, a film major. “Less people can go to school.”
There are also out-of-state students who came to SF State under the impression that the low fees would remain somewhat reasonable despite the budget crisis.
“I came here because it’s a lot less expensive than where I came from,” said Billy Buzzell, a freshman from New York studying biochemistry. “This looked like a cheap school compared to other schools around the state and it’s not really turning out that way now, it’s just getting worse.”
This is the first time SF State is asking students to approve an increase in fees on a campus-wide level, whether students use the services or not.
The proposed fees would be in a category called “type one” fees. Unlike a “type three” fee -- where only those students who use the services vote -- all students vote for, and if approved, pay for the “type one” fees, said Horace Montgomery, ASI leader development coordinator.
There has been some disagreement, however, over the ballot, which has yet to be printed. In December 2003, the Student Fee Advisory Board was given a sample ballot with all the fees totaled together. If this ballot was used in the March decision, the students’ votes would either approve or deny all fees, regardless if they use any or all of them. The other possibility is to allow students to vote on each referendum separately. However, Holmes said it is not decided at this time whether the printed ballots will ask students to approve the fees as one lump sum or individually.
“I don’t think it’s fair to charge everyone if they don’t use all the services,” said Yajairia Ferreira, a sophomore studying international relations.
On the day of the vote, multiple polling sites across campus, in addition to the polling site at the Cesar Chavez Student Center, are in planning stages, Holmes said.
“We’re embarking on whole new ground,” said Montgomery. “We’re changing the way you pay for classes. It could be a dangerous precedent.”
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