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UAC Rejects Student Funding Plan

By Avik S. Roy

In a surprising vote, the Undergraduate Association Council defeated a proposal which would have allowed students control of funding for student activities. The vote, which took place Wednesday evening, was seven in favor and 13 against, with three abstentions.

UA Vice President J. Paul Kirby '92, a major supporter of the proposal, expressed disappointment at its rejection. "Council members were a little confused about the complexity of the bill," Kirby said. "Some people were tired and just wanted to go home," he added.

According to UAVP-elect David J. Kessler '94, however, there were many valid objections to the proposal. "None of the people I talked to in my constituency were interested in doing it. I personally didn't think it was a good idea ... no governmental body taxes by referendum."

Referendum format debated

Although most council members supported the idea of transferring control of activities' funding from the administration to students, there was wide disagreement on how to determine the size of the student life fee, as it is known.

The proposal provided for two referenda: one to determine if students want to control funding for activities, and a second to allow students to actually set the fee. Some council members expressed concern that students were not competent enough to fairly determine the future of such a fee.

"I think some people were afraid that the students would set the fee too high or too low," Kirby said. "The effect was to say that the students couldn't vote. I'm disappointed that the UAC didn't give students the opportunity to decide for themselves. The idea that there is a question that should not go before the student body is wrong," Kirby said.

UA Election Commissioner Raajnish A. Chitaley '95 originally proposed that the UA form a ten-member elected committee to set the activities fee, but now has a different view. "I do see the value in holding a referendum to set the fee. ... Perhaps there is a way to arrange things so that the fee can be set both by the electorate and a more informed body that can study the issue in depth," Chitaley said.

Kessler disagreed, saying that "the UAC would be much better able to determine the tax for the student body," he said, adding that he would not allow the council to drastically raise or lower the fee without student approval.

Some council members expressed concern that student turnout for the referenda would be low.

"I have not been given a proposal which is satisfactory enough to bring to the students," Kessler said. "People aren't going to vote for this if they don't have the incentive. Holding an election would be a waste of time and energy."

Some council members felt the proposal's presentation was rushed and did not give them enough time to carefully consider it. "We shouldn't rush into this," Kessler said.

McGeever, however, said that many other issues hinge upon the student life fee decision. "We're planning to call the council into an emergency session next week because of the timeliness of this proposal," she said. If the bill is to be passed, McGeever said, "it has to be done next week. The tuition is going to be set, we need to hold two referenda, and the Finance Board structure might be changed on account of this," she added.

Kirby plans to "split the proposal into several pieces" in order to pass parts of it. "Despite the council's vote, there is a sizable amount of support for this proposal," he said.

FinBoard may be reorganized

In other business, a motion to freeze the current structure of FinBoard passed, 20-0, with six abstentions. The outcome of the student life fee proposal could significantly change FinBoard's role, Godfrey said. At the next council meeting, a massive reorganization of FinBoard will be proposed, he added.