Polls for a referendum on Student Activities Fee and Endowment reform went live Monday evening, yielding 741 student votes at press time. For GUSA senators, a publicity drive to reach their magic number of 2,000 participants is in full swing.


The voting push comes as students face a measure that would increase the $100 Student Activities Fee to $150 over the next two years, which would lead to a major expansion in money available to student groups.



The Georgetown University Student Association bill would also halt contributions to the Student Activities Endowment, which is intended to be a reservoir for club spending in the long term. GUSA’s proposal would instead allocate all fee revenue to clubs’ funding needs. Under the current system, half of the fee income is set aside for the endowment, while the other half is earmarked for student organizations.


The campaign push for reform, led by campaign manager Fitz Lufkin (COL ’11), features a 4-by-8 foot banner in Red Square, extensive flyering and door-knocking, among other measures.




“We have a pretty comprehensive start,” Lufkin said. “We are going all out for three days, but we’ve been working on it for a few weeks. We are trying to engage as much of the student body as possible.”




Lufkin and GUSA Senate Speaker Adam Mortillaro (COL ’12) said they have not heard much of a negative response so far.


“We feel very confident. Right now [as of 10 p.m. Monday] we have people door-knocking . So far in the people I’ve been talking to I’ve been getting positive reactions,” Mortillaro said.




Since GUSA cannot allocate any money from its budget for its pro-SAFE campaigning, senators and outside sources have paid for the marketing out of their own pockets. “We didn’t want to use student funds for a political campaign,” Mortillaro said.




Once the online polls opened, GUSA senators stormed high-traffic study areas, such as Lauinger Library, the Rafik B. Hariri Building and Sellinger Lounge in order to galvanize the on-the-ground support needed to reach the coveted threshold of 2,000 votes. The online polls will close at midnight on Thursday evening.




Since one-fourth of the undergraduate population is around 1,800 students, GUSA senators rounded off to 2,000 students as a benchmark for sufficient participation to legitimize the referendum, according to Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Greg Laverriere (COL ’12). If the referendum draws enough voters, the Election Commission will then determine whether or not the reform has passed based on the voting majority.




When Laverriere and other senators approached students to discuss SAFE reform, he said that many prospective voters were skeptical at first.




“However, once you started discussing the reform with them they start to understand it, and there have been positive responses,” Laverriere said.




Laverriere also said that he was cautiously optimistic about hitting the 2,000-vote target.




“We are approaching a lot of people – knocking on doors. We have the added benefit of seeing how many votes are cast online. While we can’t see the breakdown, [the number of those in favor or against], we can at least see that if we have 1,500 votes, we know we need to go out there and try to get the remaining 500,” Laverriere said.




According to Fin/App Committee Vice Chairman Colton Malkerson (COL ’13), social networking has been a powerful tool in the campaign.




“Facebook has been big in getting student responses,” Malkerson said.




The SAFE reform “Vote Now and Vote Yes on SAFE Reform!” Facebook page has served as a forum for students to air out their opinions both in favor of and against the measure. At press time, about 499 users were confirmed attendees of the event.




In the past, student referendums have been met with a mixed turnout. In 2001, 25 percent of students voted on the Student Activities Endowment, which would be left dormant if the ongoing referendum is passed. In 2002, 35.5 percent of students voted on the Yard referendum, which proposed to rework the structure and constitution of GUSA. The resounding majority of those voters cast their ballots against the motion. Voter turnout hit a peak in 2006 when about 50 percent of students turned out to vote on the GUSA constitution and overhaul of the structure of the student association, with the majority of voters affirming the reform.




In recent GUSA Senate election voting, however, voter apathy seems to have cast a shadow on participation levels. In the lowest turnout rate of the September GUSA vote, 5.5 percent of residents cast ballots for the Village A E-H district senate race.


Some students said they thought the Student Activities Fee’s current structure should stay the same and that it was up to the clubs themselves to raise any supplementary funds.




“I do not think that the Student Activities Fee should increase by the standard rate of inflation or be increased in general,” Paulina Sosa (COL ’13) said. “Yes, some of the clubs on campus are underfunded. However, it is the responsibility of these clubs to fundraise. What about the students who do not attend events that the SAFE goes to fund or participate in clubs? They are essentially paying for something that they don’t use.”




Other students said that SAFE reform would be a welcome change, by bringing what they saw as a much-needed funding boost to various clubs.




“I will be voting `yes’ on SAFE reform this week,” Running Club member Sharanbir Grewal (SFS ’13) said. “Given the current level of funding, club sports are forced to either have few away games or charge ridiculously high membership fees. SAFE reform will allow for more people to participate in club sports and allow these clubs to put their skills to the test with more competitions.”


For Eliz Hale (COL ’14), scrimping on student group finances is not an option.




“I totally support SAFE reform, and I can’t believe that anyone would oppose it. Clubs are really in need of funding, and it’s the clubs that build a sense of community on campus.”




In light of such a wide-sweeping reform, Mortillaro stressed the need for an end to low voting totals.




“I encourage people to vote yes but at the very least to vote . [SAFE reform] impacts everything on this Hilltop,” he said.




According to Lufkin, GUSA will be working to ensure voters’ participation until the very end.




“We’ll be working right up until it closes . every vote counts,” Lufkin said.




Until the polls close online Thursday at midnight, the Election Commission will count votes on a rolling basis every 12 hours. The next results will be released today at noon. See THE HOYA on Twitter for updates.

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