USAC rejects student-initiated wellness referendum – Daily Bruin

The undergraduate student government on Tuesday rejected a student-initiated $ 10 quarterly fee increase referendum that would support retention and access programs, despite requests from several students to put the fee increase up for a vote in the upcoming May elections.

Earlier that night, the Undergraduate Students Association Council unanimously approved a separate $ 1.33 quarterly fee increase referendum – one that was introduced by USAC President David Bocarsly, who cited past difficulties in finding a stable source of funding for the annual and free Bruin Bash concert. If passed, the fee would also make about $ 80,000 available for student group programming.

USAC turned down the Bruin Wellness Referendum, which has provisions to raise student fees by $ 10 a quarter – including summer sessions as one quarter – to collect upward of $ 840,000 a year for a variety of student-run programs that address issues of campus retention, access to education and campus climate.

A coalition of students from six campus entities proposed the Bruin Wellness Referendum: the Campus Retention Committee, Student Initiated Access Committee, American Indian Student Association, Vietnamese Student Union, Community Programs Office and the Pacific Islands’ Student Association, said fourth-year history student Molly Katz, internal chair of the Community Programs Office Student Association.

At the meeting on Tuesday, students who proposed the referendum to the council said their programs are suffering from state and UCLA administration budget cuts, at a time when they face a growing number of students who depend on the projects and services. Many of the programs that would benefit from Bruin Wellness are not registered student groups and are separate campus entities that rely on student fees for funding.

USAC was equally divided on whether to place the referendum on the spring ballot. Bocarsly gave a tiebreaking “no” vote to reject the referendum. After review of the USAC Election Code on Wednesday, however, USAC officials discovered a two-thirds vote was needed instead of a majority, so Bocarsly’s vote was not necessary, Bocarsly said.

Councilmembers who voted down the referendum said they had concerns about what they perceived as a redundancy or lack of necessity with some items in the proposal, the size of the proposed fee increase and whether or not it was fair to include certain groups on the referendum instead of others.

“There are so many student groups on campus that do such good things,” said Michael Starr, a USAC general representative who voted against the Bruin Wellness referendum. “What deserves to be a part of this referendum?”

Bocarsly said the Bruin Bash referendum would affect a significant number of students and bolster student programming, while he said he does not think the Bruin Wellness referendum would benefit as many students.

Bocarsly said he also voted down the referendum because the council had little time to make a decision on the 28-page referendum proposal, which councilmembers received the morning of their meeting.

“It was a very tough decision,” Bocarsly said in an interview after the meeting. “However, there were clearly a lot of issues councilmembers had with it in terms of the timeliness of putting it together and how we were forced to make a decision over (a substantial amount of money) in 12 hours.”

Councilmembers estimated such a fee increase would raise about a million dollars next year.

About 50 students came to the meeting Tuesday and stayed for several hours, waiting for the council’s decision on the referendum.

After USAC voted down the referendum, Bruin Wellness’ proponents vowed to collect the signatures needed to put the fee increase on the ballot for May’s student government elections. To add any referendum to the ballot without USAC’s approval, students need to collect signatures from at least 10 percent of the undergraduate student population, said Debra Geller, a USAC administrative representative.

“We will get these signatures, we have no problem doing that,” said Brittany Bolden, a fourth-year sociology student, retention coordinator for the Afrikan Student Union and vice chair for the Campus Retention Committee. “We have to, because at the end of the day, we are being silenced by our own student council.”

Some councilmembers said they were also dissatisfied with the outcome of the vote.

“I am so disappointed in this council,” said Lana Habib El-Farra, external vice president, to her fellow councilmembers at the end of the meeting. “I literally had so much faith (in USAC) this entire year and I lost all of that tonight, because I feel like we really lost a lot of respect as a council and we undermined the voice of every student on this campus.”

El-Farra said she thinks USAC should have given students the option of voting on the $ 10 fee increase.

“(Ten dollars) may be a high cost, but us voting a simple vote to put it on the ballot is just showing that we have faith in the student body to make the right choice,” she said in an interview.

The spring election ballot must be finalized by April 16, Geller said. If the Bruin Wellness referendum gets enough signatures, both the UCLA Chancellor’s office and the University of California Office of the President General Counsel would have to finalize its language before that date, she added.

Bocarsly said he hopes Bruin Wellness’ proponents will find the necessary number of signatures to put the referendum up for a vote.

“I hope that they follow through and I hope they prove us wrong,” Bocarsly said. “We may not always be right, and they have the ability to show us we’re not right.”

USAC elections begin the second week of May.

Wellness – Google News

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