Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Voter Apathy a Hurdle for Fee Referendum

A student body referendum on a possible shake-up to the Student Activities Fee – a $100 charge included in tuition dollars – is slated to take place Dec. 7 to Dec. 9 via an online ballot.

Members of the Georgetown University Student Association Senate, which officially set the terms of the general vote at its meeting Sunday, said at least 2,000 students must participate in the referendum in order for the bill to pass.

If approved by student voters, the measure would earmark the entirety of the Student Activities Fee toward student groups. The fee would also be increased from $100 to $150 by the 2012-2013 school year.

Greg Laverriere (COL ’12), chairman of GUSA’s Finance and Appropriations Committee, which launched the reform this fall, said he was hopeful participation rates would be high enough to grant passage.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to get the 2,000 votes necessary to validate this referendum,” Laverriere said. “While it is not an easy task to get 2,000 votes, there are a lot of students and clubs motivated to see this plan pass.”

Laverriere made it clear that committee members will do everything they can to ensure they reach their 2,000 vote goal.

“We will be reaching out to students by all means necessary. Flyering, tabling, dorm storming we will be doing everything to raise awareness for [Student Activities Fee Endowment] reform,” he said.

“If you are on campus it will be hard not to notice our efforts about the upcoming referendum,” Fin/App Vice Chairman Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) said.

Though September’s GUSA Senate elections did not yield a large student voting turnout, with as little as 5.5 percent participating in the Village A E-H district, for example, Malkerson said he was optimistic students would mobilize – so long as senators work to publicize the issue.

“The senate elections didn’t have huge turnout, true. However, in last year’s executive election more than 3,000 students participated,” he said. “For this referendum we are planning an unprecedented effort at getting students to vote. I am fully confident we will have at least 2,000 students participate and many more,” Malkerson said.

For Laverriere, the potential impact of the changes will be essential in overcoming voter apathy problems.

“I think voting on SAFE reform will get a larger turnout because it affects every student,” Laverriere added.

If the changes are implemented, the Student Activities Fee will be increased gradually over the course of two years – from $100 to $125 in the 2011-2012 school year and then to $150 during the 2012-2013 year. Beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, the fee will be raised to match the standard rate of inflation. With 100 percent of the fee allocated to student activities, half of the fee would no longer go toward the Student Activities Endowment, which saved the money for an eventual investment back into Georgetown.

The GUSA Senate passed this referendum with a vote of 22 in favor and two opposed. Many members of the Senate voiced their strong endorsement of SAFE reform.

“SAFE reform will do more for the student body than anything GUSA has ever done,” Fin/App member Chris Pigott (COL ’12) said. “Once the funding is allocated and the groups learn how to spend the extra money, students will see a much better Georgetown. There will be more concerts, speakers, events, practice equipment, et cetera. It will affect everything on campus.”

Fin/App Committee members said they took the student body’s needs into account when crafting the bill over the past month.

“In putting this [referendum] together we have talked to clubs, advisory boards, people who this affects – this bill was well thought out, well-constructed, and everyone is on board,” Fin/App member Tyler Sax (COL ’13) said.

So far, student reaction has been varied.

“This fee increase is way too much. GUSA should just allocate all of the current $100 fee to student activities,” Anastasia Baran (COL ’13) said. GUSA decided to augment the fee to deal with the ever-rising inflation of costs, the increase in the number of student groups, and budgetary needs of the six advisory boards it serves.

With these concerns in mind, some students said it was time to put the issue to a referendum.

“I support the fee increase because a lot of student organizations, especially club sports, are under-funded and could benefit from SAFE reform,” Caroline Burns (NHS ’13) said.

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