Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, March 21, 2019

Referendum to increase student activity fee fails in fall election

About 1,100 students cast votes in election

Referendum to increase student activity fee fails in fall election

Students gathered in the Tavern on Oct. 24 to hear results of the fall 2018 Student Government elections. 

The AU Student Government referendum to increase the student activity fee failed this week, with 73.7 percent of students voting against the referendum.

The annual fall Student Government elections were held from Monday to Wednesday of this week. The turnout was historically low, according to election commissioner Eamon Vahidi. About 1,100 students cast a vote in the election, Vahidi said.

“AU’s undergraduate population is about 8,000, so only about one-eighth of the student body voted,” Vahidi said following the announcement of the results in the Tavern. “I thought it would be higher, because I thought the activity referendum would have more people signed up to vote, just because it was a very, very hot-button issue and people had strong opinions on it.”

Vahidi said the turnout for the referendum was “heavily” concentrated among the freshmen class and declined as the grade level increased.

The referendum, referred to as “Amplify the Student Experience” by SG members, aimed to increase the student activity fee from $88.50 for each student per semester to $100, The Eagle previously reported. The student activity fee is built into every AU undergraduate student’s tuition, and goes towards funding student organizations on campus, including SG, Student Media Board and the AU Club Council.

Some students were unaware of the referendum late into the voting period. Freshman William Bierworth noted that he “hadn’t heard of the referendum until this morning, and although I know some stuff now, it just doesn’t seem that important.”

Grade breakdowns of the vote were not made available, but the results of fall elections tend to be determined by the new freshman class, especially given the high number of senate candidates from the new class.

The Class of 2022’s thoughts on the referendum leading up to the election were mixed. Students opposed to the referendum were outspoken about their opposition to a fee increase, including freshman Celeste Bobro.

“I’m a hard no on the referendum,” Bobro said. “There seems to be a weird budget thing with this and clubs don’t seem to get what they need, if you talk to the people that handle the money.”

Others, like freshman Caeden Cloud, supported the referendum for its potential to increase club funds, saying that “if clubs get more money as a result of it, I think it will be beneficial in the long run.”

Freshman Ricardo Villate compared the referendum to a tax.

“Government is always like, ‘if you want this, we’re gonna have to increase the tax’. Well, that’s a tax increase for Student Activities, so I’m looking forward to that,” Villate said.

However, Villate said that the allocation of funds might be an issue.

“I have to imagine that even though it’s an unfair allocation, student clubs will be getting more funds than in the past,” Villate said. “They need to be more transparent, but any increase isn’t a bad thing.”

In addition to the referendum, the senators for the upcoming session were announced Wednesday night. The winners of the election are listed below.

  • Senators for the campus at-large: Sean-Matthew Flores, Starrchild Jackson, Tyler Massias, Wayne Rodriguez and Curtis Hayashi
  • Senators for the Class of 2022: Tyler Jacobs, Analyza Jenkins, Piper Newlander, Sophie Ossip and Max Robins
  • Senators for the Class of 2021: Inuri Abeysekara, Danya Adams, Nicholas Pacheco, Sarah Perez and Kathryn Selinger
  • Senator for the Class of 2020: Thomas Kenna
  • Senator for the Class of 2019: Bobby Zitzmann
  • Senator for SPA: Parker Butler
  • Senator for SIS: Kali Luthra
  • Senator for Kogod: Sivam Menache
  • Senator for SOC: Thierry Gysler
  • Senator for CAS: Jacob Robbins
  • Class of 2022 Council: President Analyza Jenkins, Vice President Sophie Ossip, Treasurer Elijah Moon and Secretary Mathieu Lavault

dpapscun@theeagleonline.com and aweinstein@theagleonline.com


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