Fee raise partially approved

Undergraduate students have voted in favor of recommending an increase in their student activities fee, while graduate students have voted against the proposition. The fee increase for undergraduates will be brought to the Board of Trustees for consideration.

Voting 64.02 percent in favor and 35.88 percent against (681 and 382 votes, respectively), undergraduates have supported student government’s recommendation to suggest an increase in the undergraduate student activities fee by 25 percent.

Graduate students rejected the recommendation to raise the graduate student activities fee, voting 16.51 percent in favor with 157 votes, and 83.39 percent against with 789 votes.

Voting ran between last Thursday and Saturday evening and was conducted through the student government website.

Upon visiting the website, the voter was first shown a message from Jon Mark, the Student Body Vice President for Finance. The message included links to an activities fee data sheet and presentation.

Students, depending on their status as undergraduate or graduate students, were presented with the opportunity to vote on whether there should be a recommended increase in their student activities fee.

Above the voting box was a paragraph explaining what the activities fee is intended to do and examples of organizations that benefit from this money. The explanation concluded with a justification for the proposed increase and the numerical increases that would be recommended by a “yes” vote.

Voter turnout for the election was markedly low, with only 18.11 percent (1,053 out of 5,816) of undergraduates voting, and 16.83 percent (945 out of 5,614) of graduate students voting. This resulted in a total voter turnout of 1,998 out of 11,430, or 17.48 percent of students.

Mark, a senior lighting design major, said that the voting percentages do not add up to 100 percent because some students logged in and hit the vote button without selecting an option.

Gina Casalegno, the dean of student affairs, said in an email, “I am pleased to see the results have generated decisive input on the wishes of the undergraduate and graduate student populations. Voter turnout was on par with totals we have seen in past general student government elections, which is impressive for a special election.”

In the spring 2012 general student government elections, 27.61 percent of undergraduates voted, and 4.98 percent of graduate students voted. In the 2011 general elections, 25.45 percent of undergraduates and 6.99 percent of graduate students voted.

Casalegno continued, “I applaud Jon Mark and those who supported his efforts to gather and present relevant data and information to the student population describing the strains faced by Senate, the Joint Funding Committee, and many student organizations and projects. Carnegie Mellon University has a long tradition of student governance, and I am pleased the election yielded clear input to guide student government’s final recommendation to the Board of Trustees for their approval of next year’s activities fees.”

Mark was also happy with the results. “I was pretty convinced the undergraduate measure would pass, and figured the graduate referendum wouldn’t pass,” he said.

He praised the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), saying, “GSA did a lot of work getting people informed.” He noted the higher graduate student voter turnout as compared to the previous student body election.
Andrew Schwartz, a sophomore information systems major, served as a researcher on the fiscal data for student government, and was pleased with the result. “I think it’s a phenomenal step,” he said.

Schwartz described how a number of student organizations had solicited JFC for money, but were unable to receive it. “Now that there’s more money in the system, we know exactly where to put it,” he said.

Dylan Mori, a senior chemistry major and president of the Kiltie Band, was pleased with the vote. “I know a lot of organizations got hit hard last year with JFC cuts, our organization included,” Mori said.

“I expect that you’ll see more activities on campus, and less brownie sales,” Schwartz said.