Opinion

Bains: Don't vote for referendum-funding measure

Well, you’ve nearly made it through a week of ASUO elections. Congratulations. But if you haven’t voted yet, there’s a measure on the ballot this year that I’m going to use a few minutes of your time to tell you not to vote for.

Andrew told you about it on Tuesday, and it’s in the voters’ guide — but it’s one of those things on the ballot that doesn’t have a shiny flier or a bright shirt advertising it.

“Should students be allowed to vote directly on funding levels for certain fee-funded programs?”

It sounds great, and trust me, I value your ability to vote on things. But there’s a reason that we don’t do this now, and it goes back for more than a decade. The Supreme Court decided in the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin v. Southworth that public universities were allowed to collect mandatory student fees on the basis that they were distributed in a viewpoint-neutral way. This means (as expected) that the viewpoint of a group can not come into the decision-making process for how much money a group gets.

And you just can’t get a viewpoint-neutral decision from a referendum. Minority viewpoints are shoved out of the discussion when funding increases can be made by a sole majority. If approved, it will eliminate the first amendment rights of those in the 49 percent when the 51 percent can make a decision of this nature.

Further, this completely steps on the toes of those in student government. I understand why this is coming up; it was a tough process this year for the Programs Finance Committee and a lot of groups feel cheated or short-changed. But the reason that took so much effort was because PFC members took pains to keep their budget to what Senate had approved for them to give.

And we should encourage student government to take a lot of effort in making sure student money doesn’t get wasted or spent unnecessarily. It’s one of those things every student can’t do — and it’s why this referendum won’t work.

There are several measures on this year’s election ballot, covering a wide range of topics. The EMU and Student Recreation Center referendum is up for discussion as well as a number of advisory opinions. But many of these things have been discussed by the candidates in the race or earlier this year.

This measure (voting on funding levels for fee-funded programs) is one that hasn’t been publicly discussed that much, but could easily change the size and scope of both the ASUO and the Incidental Fee.

I personally recommend a no vote on this measure.

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Franklin Bains

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