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UA Plans 2nd Life Fee Referendum

By Eric Richard
Associate News Editor

In the upcoming Undergraduate Association elections, students will once again have the chance to voice their opinion on a student life fee. If approved, the fee would appear as a line item on the bursar's bill and would earmark funds specifically for student activities.

The newest referendum comes after a disappointing turnout in a similar referendum last April. At that time, only 15 percent of the student population cast votes, although 78.5 percent of those voting did favor the measure. According to Raajnish A. Chitaley '95, UA floor leader, "Our original feeling was that the turnout was not significant enough to mandate the change."

Chitaley hopes that by presenting the referendum during the regular elections for UA officers, more students will vote on the fee. Turnout for UA elections averages 30 percent, he said. He explained that the referendum would ask whether students find the proposal acceptable, although it would not be binding.

If the referendum is passed, the UA would hold a meeting to discuss the amount of the fee and then hold a second referendum to actually enact it. In its final form, the fee would change the way in which money is allocated for student activities.

The activities "are part of the whole budgetary process at MIT. We have to compete [for funding] with the physics department, the Laboratory for Computer Science, and the Sloan school," said Chitaley. Under the proposed system, "We [wouldn't] have to compete for the money out of the tuition."

"What I would envision," said Matthew S. Warren '93, chairman of the UA Financial Board, "is that there is this great vast resource of UA money... with the intent of benefiting all students."

Other Schools Have Fee

Warren cited several other schools, including Wellesley College, which have smaller student activity programs but have pools of money specifically allocated for student activities.

"It is a question of student involvement and student empowerment," said Chitaley. "With more monies we could encourage better and more student activities."

Both Chitaley and Warren cited small, new groups as the likely beneficiaries of such a plan. "The Finance Board takes a liking to new activities that provide something interesting to MIT," said Chitaley.

Chitaley also noted that funds collected as part of the fee could be used to support MIT groups that send students to other colleges as representatives of MIT. Such activities build self-esteem and pride in the MIT community, he said.

"Everybody can be proud of somebody who won the national championship in something," added Warren.