Leaders irked at failure of fee increase

The student body rejected a referendum to increase the student fee in a special election Tuesday, leaving the Student Association short of money it would like to allocate to student organizations.

More than 1,400 students voted in the online election with 52 percent voting against the increase, according to a news release from the Special Elections Commission, which oversaw the election.

The referendum would have recommended an increase in the student fee to the Board of Trustees. The fee, which is used to finance student organizations, was slated to increase the current per-semester charge of $1 per credit hour per semester to a flat fee of $30 for undergraduate students and $20 for graduate students.

GW has about 280 student organizations and $475,000 for disbursement. The student fee increase would have given the SA close to $1 million for student organizations.

“I am very disappointed to say the least,” said SA Sen. Nathan Brill (SoB-U), who sponsored the legislation to hold the referendum.

Brill, a senior, said everyone he spoke with thought the increase was a good idea and supported the initiative. He said the information about the proposed increase was inadequate.

Just minutes before the polls closed, both SA President Nicole Capp, a junior, and Executive Vice President Brand Kroeger urged all senators at Tuesday’s Senate meeting to vote if they had not done so already.

Two of the largest student organizations supported the increase. Both the College Democrats and College Republicans sent out e-mails over their listservs urging their members to approve the referendum.

“From a student organization prospective, this is a good investment,” said CR Communications Director Peter Glessing, a senior, before the results were announced. He said the increase would have allowed for more programming and “only makes sense.”

Tim Blute, chairman of the International Affairs Society, said his organization only urged their members to vote, rather than taking an official stance on the referendum.

“It’s a decision they have to make on their own,” said Blute, a senior. He added that such an increase would represent an increase in students’ costs.

Vishal Aswani, chairman of the Special Election Committee, told the Senate Tuesday night that the election went well.

“There was a lot of buzz about it,” said Aswani, a junior. He said the total cost of the election would be somewhere between $700 and $750.

The special referendum was held entirely online. Aswani said that there were no problems and the online vote went smoothly.

He said students were urged to e-mail the SEC if they had problems voting, adding that problems were responded to within an hour of reporting.

Tim Miller, executive director of the Student Activities Center and the SA’s adviser, urged the Senate to use an online election for the general elections in the spring.

“SAC is not interested in helping to do an election like it’s been done before,” Miller said.

Aswani said he will be making an official recommendation to the SA regarding the use of online elections in the future.

Graduate student Andrew Salzman, SA vice president of judicial and legislative affairs, said that even if the students had voted for the increase, the SA does not have the power to put the increase into effect. He said that decision remains with the University’s Board of Trustees.

Former SA President Lamar Thorpe first proposed the increase in his State of the SA address last spring. After being voted down in April by the legislative body, the Senate voted to allow a referendum this school year at its last meeting.

Thorpe threatened to go directly to the trustees if the Senate did not allow a vote on the increase. Similarly, SA leaders can make a plea for such an increase.

“Students had an opportunity to go to the polls, and we’re going to respect that decision,” said Kroeger, a junior. “What was important was this to be put before students.”

The referendum is just one of several failed attempts to raise the student fee. In 2004, students voted not to accept a fee increase, and in 2005 the senate shot down former SA President Audai Shakour’s bid to raise the fee.

Brill said he will look into why the referendum failed before pushing for an increase again.

“A vote’s a vote,” Brill said. “I wouldn’t suggest going against what the students say.”

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