Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.
Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

Campus-Based Fees for the 2010 Elections

Among the measures that failed to meet the voting threshold last year, the Sustainable Food, Health and Wellness Initiative fee, Campus Sustainability Office fee, and an amendment to the Renewable Energy Fee are proposed to be back this year, with some changes.

Measure 42: Increase the Library hours of operation. A temporary, three year fee for graduate and undergraduate students of $6.50 per student a quarter. The fee would be used to increase library hours during the week, on Saturdays and during finals. This fee is being proposed for the first time this year.

Measure 43: Funding for the Sustainable Food, Health and Wellness Initiative. A permanent fee of $3.75 per student a quarter which would be assessed only to undergraduate students. The funds would be used to provide funding to support sustainable food, health and wellness initiatives on and off campus. Last year there was a 19.66 percent voter turnout for the fee with 54.94 percent voting in favor of it.

Measure 44: Renewable Energy Fee (Amendment for the fee passed in Spring 2006). This Measure is not for a fee increase, it is a proposed change in the way that the campus purchases energy certificates with the Renewable Energy Fee. For both Graduates and Undergraduates.

Measure 45: funding for the Campus Sustainability Office. A permanent fee of $2.75 per undergraduate student a quarter. Funding would be used to provide for the continued support and function of the campus Sustainability Office. Last year Measure 41 asked for $3.75 per student a quarter for Undergrauates and Graduates with the same purpose as Measures 45 and 46. Only 18.81 percent of students voted on Measure 41, with 53.36 percent in favor of the fee.

Campus elections will be held in the early weeks of May, exact date to be determined. Votes will be cast electronically at

In response to a resolution passed by the UCSC Student Union Assembly (SUA), Chancellor Blumenthal has increased the voting threshold for campus-based fees in this year’s campus elections from 25 percent to 33 percent.

In campus elections each measure must pass with a 51 percent voter approval. The voting threshold is the percentage of students who must vote on a measure in order for the vote to be valid.

If the voting threshold is not met, the measure is automatically defeated. This was the case last year when only 3,139 of the total 15,719 — or 19.97 percent — of students participated in the elections.

According to the resolution passed by SUA, UCSC’s undergraduates currently pay the most compulsory campus-based student fees of the UC system, 27 referenda totaling $1,073.41 in fees a year.

Members of the SUA, including Commissioner of Academic Affairs Matt Palm, say the previous threshold was too low, allowing for a small number of students to levy a fee against the entire student population.

“We feel very strongly that if we are all going to be taxed, more students need to agree to it and vote,” Palm said. “We didn’t want a continued situation where all students can be taxed, often without knowing what is going on, at the discretion of a small minority of students actually voting.”

The SUA considered the voting thresholds of some other UC campuses in determining the 33 percent figure; however, the threshold differs on each campus because University policy grants the authority to determine campus voting thresholds to the chancellors.

“Each Chancellor is delegated the authority to determine the voting threshold on their campus, Chancellor Blumenthal has agreed to change it for this year, because of the SUA resolution,” Campus Elections Commissioner Lucy Rojas said.

While the intent of the change is to require more student participation in elections, it will also make it more difficult for students to pass fees in support of services facing cuts from other campus funding sources.

“This policy will impact the ability of referendum to pass — in the future if the sustainability office needs funding, or OPERs wants a referendum to keep the gym open longer, it will be harder to get referendum to pass, but not impossible,” Palm said.

In the past 10 years the campus elections participation has only reached 33 percent twice, and failed to meet the previous 25 percent threshold three times.

The average voter turn out since 2000 has been 27.01 percent, with the highest turnout of 37.02 percent for the emergency election to decide Measure 7 in Winter 2003. The lowest turn-out was the following year with 13.35 percent of students participating in the spring 2004 elections.

Due to the ability of voters to abstain from voting on measures individually, some measures may have failed to meet the voting threshold and therefore failed even if the overall elections participation did meet it.

Campus administrators echo the sentiment that while the higher threshold may make it more difficult to create new fees, it will not be impossible.

“Passing measures is still very possible, it’s just a matter of implementing good outreach and marketing,” said Rojas.

The move to raise the campus threshold comes after the University Office of the President raised systemwide fees by 32.5 percent, increasing the overall price of a UC education. The increase in fees led administrators and students to reevaluate how much they pay overall.

“Chancellor Blumenthal was very sympathetic to the issue raised by the SUA, especially given the recent increases in UC systemwide fees that are challenging UCSC students and their families,” said Jim Burns, Director of Public Information, in an email.

Blumenthal has requested an opinion poll be placed on this year’s election’s ballot to survey student opinion on the change. If students are in favor of the increased voting threshold it will become permanent.

“In this economic climate, it seemed reasonable to him to temporarily increase the voter threshold for levying new campus fees. But he was uncomfortable doing this longer term without additional student input.” Burns also said in his email.