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Editorial -- Referendum Vote Is Not a Mandate

An overwhelming percentage of students who voted in the recent Undergraduate Association referendum on the student life fee cast their ballots in favor of giving undergraduates control over student activity funds. Unfortunately, the percentage of eligible voters taking part in the referendum was rather underwhelming.

Poor publicity may indeed have been a problem, but as UAVP J. Paul Kirby '92 pointed out, with posters, mailbox stuffings, and two days of voting in prime campus locations, it is unlikely that a reasonably aware person could have missed the referendum. A more likely explanation is a lack of discussion and student input, two items which in the past have always rightly preceded a referendum vote. It seems that most students were aware of the vote, but didn't feel it was important enough to participate.

The referendum process has been hurried by the UA. Voting took place immediately after a long holiday weekend, when students were more likely to have forgotten the issue. The present lame-duck UA administration seems more interested in railroading this proposal through before they leave office than in organizing some serious discussions about the proposal. UA pamphlets and posters have read more like propaganda than useful information.

Even the tone of the referendum questions themselves was poor, and often leading. For example, the first question, "Should students, rather than the administration, set the overall amount designated for student activities?" avoided the true intent of the referendum. Instead of this question -- the answer to which is obvious in the eyes of students -- the UA should have cut to the point about where the money should come from and who should control it.

It would be a mistake for the UA and Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs to act on this vote, for many reasons: because of the poor voter turnout, the poor wording of the questions, and the questionable motivation of the present UA administration. Instead of running pell-mell toward a fee this semester and dragging a student body concerned about studying for final examinations along with them, the UA should rethink the proposal and resubmit a new referendum in the fall.