The proposed increase of $5.75 for the Student Activity Fee would not only spike the price up to $100 a semester, but would also give students a chance to raise more money for quality student life. And while it was already approved by three different bodies of people, it seems that it is still not enough.
The fate of the fee, which has been at $94.25 a semester since 2005, was to be determined by the last week’s Undergraduate Student Government, or USG, elections. But since the recent election only saw 218 votes, a turnout deemed too low by USG President Matthew Graham and Executive Vice President Alexander Dimitriyadi, both plan on bringing it to the USG Supreme Court to be overturned.
“In my opinion there was a failure in the communication wing of USG to properly market the referendum,” Dimitriyadi said.
He said the vote was unfair because of the exceptionally low turnout compared to last fall’s 670 votes. The number of students who voted this year totaled a little over one percent. If the referendum was passed, an additional $80,000 per semester would be put toward the Student Activities Board’s plans for future events.
Dimitriyadi was not the only one who thought the outcome was poor; Graham said he was disappointed in the turnout.
“It’s going to affect the entire student body,” he said. “The vote was just so low. We don’t usually get super high turnouts for the ballots anyway, but this is just unbelievable and this is a decision that’s going to affect everybody.”
The 2010-2011 Referendum on the Student Activity Fee passed the Senate by 18-0-0 on Sept. 30. It was then approved by the Executive Council with a vote of 5-1-0 on Oct. 1. The referendum was then passed during the elections of Nov. 29 to Dec. 3. with a vote of 117-101.
“With nearly 16,000 undergraduate students here at Stony Brook, 218 students does not constitute a mandate of the student body,” Graham wrote in a letter to the undergraduate student body.
Dimitriyadi said that it’s a disappointment because it would limit the cuts they have for other clubs and create more money to go to larger USG-run events.
According to the brief, a lack of publicity could be the reason for a similar lack in votes. The USG website did not make mention of the referendum.
But David Mazza, vice president of communications and public relations, said he was unaware of when the elections were going to be, due to delays in sending the ballot out to one of the employees, who he could not name at time of deadline. According to Mazza, the employee asks to have the ballot two weeks in advance each year and normally does not get it until the Friday before the Monday elections begin. This semester was no different.
The ballot was sent to be posted the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break. Mazza emailed the candidates about the delay and told them he would pay for their posters out of his budget if they had already started publicizing.
“I was under the assumption this was not going to happen,” he said. When he found out the elections were happening, however, “I did whatever I could do to advertise. Not only did I think it was not going to happen this week, I assumed it wasn’t going to … I literally didn’t know when the elections were going to happen.”
According to Mazza, who was also unaware of the court brief until The Statesman informed him during a brief interview, mess-ups are made all of the time when it comes to USG elections.
“It’s usually that ‘oh, it’s going to happen but it’s going to be messed up’ and it is,” he said. “To that extent, what more could I have done?”
One mistake made was that freshman representative candidate Anna Lubitz’s name was published twice and her opponent Mariella Rodriguez was not on the ballot at all for the first day. By Tuesday, it was fixed.
The court date for the referendum is still unknown as the briefing was just written today. Dimitriyadi said he hopes to see the Senate vote to put the referendum on the Spring ballot.
“We were making an ethical decision. We didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” Dimitriyadi said.