Wellness Fee Referendum
Though it carries a steep price tag, the Wellness Fee Referendum is a much-needed investment in our health and the health of future students. The referendum would replace the recreational sports fee set to expire in 2016, extend Tang Center hours and support programs for sexual assault survivors, among other initiatives.
In 2013, the Daily Cal’s Senior Editorial Board resoundingly rejected a different and highly flawed wellness referendum, which was later ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. The measure contained deficiencies that this referendum does not. Those backing this year’s wellness referendum — particularly its primary sponsor, SQUELCH! Senator Madison Gordon — did their due diligence in vetting the proposal through every level of the campus’s administration, including staff of the Tang Center and the Recreational Sports Facility.
Students currently pay $83.50 in mandatory sports fees and a voluntary $10 RSF membership fee. The referendum would renew the $83.50 fee and add a mandatory $8.50 RSF membership fee in place of the voluntary fee. Beginning in the fall, each student would pay an additional $54 to fund the extra programs the referendum supports. The fee is high, but the referendum would generate revenue to fund programs from which every student on campus can benefit.
Unlike the B.L.U.E. Fee Referendum, this proposal makes it tremendously clear exactly where the funds would be going: improving counseling services, cardio and strength-training programs, health classes and resources for underserved students.
The referendum’s biggest fault is its hazy and incomplete plan for fundraising, which is meant to offset costs for students over time. The proposal does not delineate how the fundraising efforts would work, how they would be sustainable or even who would oversee them.
Nonetheless, the services that would be funded by the referendum are vital to the well-being of students, even if they are costly.
Vote “yes” on the Wellness Fee Referendum.
B.L.U.E. Fee Referendum
The Bringing Life to the UC Berkeley Experience (B.L.U.E.) Fee Referendum would increase the student activity fee by $20 per student each semester, raising funds for ASUC SUPERB, the Public Service Center and the Bridges Multicultural Resource Center. Although better student entertainment, opportunities to engage in social justice work and resources for underserved students are important, more than 80 percent of the proposed fee would go into the ASUC’s general fund and the Graduate Assembly. The portions allocated to the general fund and Graduate Assembly do not have guidelines, and it is not specified how either body would use the money.
In an interview with the Daily Cal’s Senior Editorial Board, ASUC chief communications officer Joe Wilson said the fee increase would bring UC Berkeley’s relatively low fee up to the average level seen on other UC campuses. Setting the amount of a fee increase based on other institutions’ norms, however, is exactly the flawed logic students condemn when university administrators propose tuition hikes. Wilson outlined why the three campus organizations mentioned in the bill need more funding. Neither the bill’s text nor Wilson, however, was able to adequately explain why the ASUC and the Graduate Assembly need to increase their funds at such an alarmingly high rate.
Additionally, that SUPERB, the Public Service Center and the Bridges center were chosen out of hundreds of student organizations on campus for specific funding increases shows a major fault in the proposal’s equity. Unlike the Wellness Fee Referendum, this fee would not have an expiration date — so if ASUC officials want to see students paying more money to indefinitely fund their and others’ operations, they need to provide a more detailed and fair proposal to the student body.
Vote “no” on the B.L.U.E. Fee Referendum.
G.O.L.D. Fee Referendum
The Giving Opportunities and Leadership Development (G.O.L.D.) Fee Referendum, if passed, would directly provide support to nontraditional students — mainly student-veterans, student-parents, transfer students, undocumented students and those who were orphaned or raised in the foster care system. The fee is modest — only $19 per student each semester — and would fund programs and services for underserved populations. As a UC Berkeley community, we should come together to approve this referendum.
Although the majority of money generated by the B.L.U.E. Fee Referendum would go to the ASUC and Graduate Assembly, this referendum is specific in its allocation of funds. The fee would predominantly go toward the campus Centers for Educational Equity and Excellence, or CE3; the Educational Opportunity Program, or EOP; and the Transfer Student Services Center — programs that support disadvantaged populations in their transition to college and throughout their time on campus. The G.O.L.D. Fee Referendum provides more clarity than the B.L.U.E. referendum as to how all the funds will be distributed within each program.
About half of the revenue generated by the G.O.L.D. referendum would increase the number of professional EOP academic counselors, who provide support in selecting courses, understanding requirements and managing unexpected crises. The referendum would also double the number of transition courses for newly admitted transfer students. Furthermore, the referendum aims to expand student employment opportunities through the CE3.
Like the B.L.U.E. referendum, the G.O.L.D. referendum would indefinitely raise student fees. In light of student demand, we believe the services itemized in the proposal are ones worth funding now, next year and continually.
Vote “yes” on the G.O.L.D. Fee Referendum.
Solar Energy Reinvestment Referendum
Aside from the Constitutional Clarity & Consistency Amendment, the Solar Energy Reinvestment Referendum is the only other proposition on the ballot that does not propose an increase in student fees. Rather, it asks UC Berkeley students to express the opinion that the university and the ASUC should finance the construction of solar panels on buildings frequented by students.
In an interview with the Daily Cal’s Senior Editorial Board, Ryan Lynch and Kielan Rathjen, co-directors of the ASUC sustainability team, said the referendum would give administrators who care about alternative energy the political clout — the backing of the student body — to push for investments in solar panels. Given prevalent concerns about California’s drought, the referendum is timed well to help the campus begin confronting the very real and imminent consequences of climate change and environmental destruction.
Although we disagree that the ASUC should be financing solar panels on fraternity, sorority and co-op houses, we concur that solar energy is a worthwhile investment and one that should be harnessed on campus. It would be inappropriate, however, for student funds to be used to offset energy costs for those who live in off-campus Greek or co-op buildings. We hope the attention to solar energy sparked by this referendum will lead to increased expansion and maintenance of solar-powered systems.
While some might find it strange that a referendum was placed on the ballot just to get a reading of student opinion, the solar referendum is not without precedent. In 2013, students voted to pass a largely symbolic referendum denouncing the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Gauging the stance of the student body on solar energy would be the first step toward weaning the campus off unsustainable energy.
Vote “yes” on the Solar Energy Reinvestment Referendum.
Constitutional Clarity & Consistency Amendment
The central purpose of the Constitutional Clarity & Consistency Amendment is to refine language written in the ASUC constitution. The amendment would also formalize the public defender position, create an impeachment process for elected officials and hold the ASUC to the same anti-discrimination standards that the ASUC applies to the student groups it funds. Furthermore, it would also establish a much-needed clause preventing those with financial or personal conflicts of interest from discussing, lobbying or voting on matters in which they have a stake.
We remain concerned that there is room for abuse within the impeachment process. If in one year, many in the ASUC Senate disagree with a particular senator, then two-thirds could impeach him or her on grounds as ambiguous as “dishonesty.” (One could make the argument that any senator who does not fulfill campaign promises is dishonest.) Senate Vice Chair Alek Klimek said in an interview with the Daily Cal’s Senior Editorial Board, however, that because of checks such as the Judicial Council and the Daily Cal’s ongoing reporting on the ASUC, exploiting the impeachment process without the student body’s knowledge would be very difficult. Because the ASUC strives to mirror other democratic systems, a proper impeachment process is an important mechanism for accountability.
The referendum, however, could have gone further in some areas. We wish the conflict-of-interest section had more explicitly outlined who would monitor and investigate such conflicts, but the addition is an important step in the right direction.
Overall, this amendment modernizes the ASUC Constitution in areas that may have previously confused both senators and executives. Though the referendum would have effects that students are unlikely to see on a day-to-day basis, it makes significant improvements to the way the ASUC operates and cleans up inconsistencies in the constitution’s language.
Vote “yes” on the Constitutional Clarity & Consistency Amendment.