USAC votes to add diversity referendum to special election ballot

Students will vote on a referendum in this month’s undergraduate student government election that would raise student fees to help fund certain diversity, retention and outreach programs on campus.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the Undergraduate Students Association Council voted 10-1-0 to add a referendum that would increase quarterly student fees by $9.93 and would take effect in spring if passed. A referendum requires a majority vote to pass.

Campus Events Commissioner Greg Kalfayan was the only councilmember to vote against the referendum, saying he did not feel comfortable putting the referendum on the ballot without seeing the budgets of the centers and groups that would be funded by the measure.

The writers of the referendum did not have physical copies of the budgets and spending reports for the centers and groups that would benefit from the fee increase. They said they could not immediately tell councilmembers exactly how they came up with the amounts each group needed.

The measure, called the Bruin Diversity Referendum, was brought to council by several student groups, including the Asian Pacific Coalition, the Pacific Islands Students Association, the Vietnamese Student Union, Samahang Pilipino, Queer Alliance, the Afrikan Student Union, MEChA de UCLA and the Muslim Students Association, said Jazz Kiang, a third-year Asian American studies student and director of the Asian Pacific Coalition, who presented the referendum Tuesday. The referendum’s authors said they compiled the measure in the last week.

The money raised by the fee increase would be divided into 10 categories, going to the Student Initiated Outreach Committee, Campus Retention Committee, Community Service Mini Fund, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Campus Resource Center, Community Programs Office and USAC’s Contingency Programming Fund, among others. About $2.50 of the fees would be returned as financial aid for students each quarter.

The referendum’s authors said they think the measure is needed to bolster the budgets of certain campus programs that are facing growing costs and need.

A similar diversity initiative brought to USAC by some of the same student groups in 2012 failed to pass in the spring elections, with 52.1 percent of voting students rejecting the initiative.

Kiang said he thinks the referendum is more likely to pass this year because UCLA students may be more aware of campus diversity issues, considering the recent campaign for the diversity-related requirement and the search to fill the new vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion position.

“We see (the referendum) as an opportunity to make diversity happen at all components of the university,” Kiang said.

Dozens of students brought the referendum to council near the start of the meeting Tuesday night. Councilmembers then added it as a special presentation and action item to vote on, violating their bylaws. According to USAC bylaws, action items must be added to the agenda two school days before a meeting and include electronic or written language of the item when the agenda is sent out to councilmembers.

During the debate, councilmembers raised concerns about a possible violation of a part of USAC’s constitution that says referendums must be submitted for a vote with at least 15 days’ notice. However, councilmembers said they think the constitution requires referendums to be submitted 15 days before the end of an election.

The official USAC election calendar says that referendums were due by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The special election will take place from Oct. 21 to 23.

Compiled by Julia Raven and Amanda Schallert, Bruin senior staff. Contributing reports from Joseph Vescera, Bruin contributor.

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