The annual UC Santa Cruz student elections are upon us. From May 15 through May 22, students can vote online on referenda that would provide funding to various organizations. Learning Support Services, athletics, physical education, and Graduate Student Government all have measures on this year’s ballot.

The need for these referenda comes from the university’s lack of financial support for these programs. Every year, underfunded organizations ask students to raise student fees to fund the organizations.

Many of these programs simply cannot survive without a monetary boost, and the university is not going to give it to them, forcing the organizations to ask students to reach into their already-light pockets and add on to their exorbitant fees.

This process should not be necessary. The university should step up and provide adequate aid to these organizations. It is true that this process is not unique to UCSC, but referenda at other schools are often attempts to augment programs, not last resorts to keep them alive. If the university provided proper funding, the referenda would be a luxury, not a necessity.

If all four measures pass, students’ fees will increase next year by $20.64 per quarter. Currently, California residents are paying $7,962.29 in fees for the 2006-2007 school year. Of that figure, $6,141.00 are registration and educational fees. The remaining $1,821.29 are distributed among 22 other organizations and causes. If everything passes this year, that number would rise to 26. Since the university is not going to step up and support these programs, UCSC’s student body must make the decision of whether or not to support them.

Last year, five of the eight referenda passed, but only 29.78% of eligible voters cast ballots. This is clearly a breakdown of the democratic process. Out of nearly 13,000 undergraduates at UCSC, only 3,800 participated in the election. This number needs to change. Students should take advantage of the opportunity they have to make a difference in the university’s finances. Whether or not students support the measures on the ballot, they should take the time to vote; the future of these programs is in their hands. The university has already made decisions about these organizations. Now it’s time for the students to do the same.

A chief concern that the organizations proposing referenda have is that not enough people will vote. Even if a measure receives a majority of the vote, it cannot pass unless the minimum participation requirement is met. For a student body with the reputation of being politically minded, UCSC students are surprisingly apathetic and inactive when it comes to elections. That can change this month. Students do have a voice, and they can use it.

The bottom line is that the university should be supporting these organizations, but they aren’t. It is up to the students to determine whether or not these programs can receive a minimum financial boost. Some students may be in favor of the referenda; some may oppose them. But regardless of their stances, everyone should come out and vote.

_To vote in the election, go to between May 15th and 22nd. _