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Daily 49er

Dear student body of California State University, Long Beach

OPINION: We hope the university will postpone the vote until such time that our student government can inform us of the tangible impact that our votes would produce.

Daily 49er Staff

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$99 million could be raised if students vote “yes” on Wednesday and Thursday during the University Student Union Referendum.

Associated Students Inc. is not administering the USU Referendum; technically, it is a special university election that will be facilitated by the university at the request of ASI, Assistant Dean of Students Dr. Jean Caveness said. That in mind, we request that the university put a hold on the upcoming, and long-awaited, referendum until students are provided with answers to the basic questions that any real-world ballot measure would offer voters.

Once revenue begins trickling in from the pockets of the CSULB student body, what specific projects would that money be spent on?

The most specific answer that we have been given to this question from our governing entity is in the language of the sample ballot provided by ASI, which vaguely says:

“…for the construction, renovation, and expansion of the University Student Union…”

As the body of students who would foot the bill of this project, don’t we deserve to know more before we are faced with the vote?

How much money – in total – has been spent by ASI and the USU Board of Trustees on the It Starts with You campaign?

To this question, the most specific answer that ASI has provided is that $20,000 of USU marketing funds (a budget which is only $20,700, according to ASI Communications Manager Lindsay San Miguel) has been spent on the campaign. This answer fails to include any funds that the ASI Communications Department has no doubt spent on this campaign (the ASI Communications Department houses San Miguel’s office along with many of the materials that have been distributed to students encouraging a ‘yes’ vote on this issue).

And while we’re asking about campaign spending, what is the exact breakdown of how the money has been spent? After all, the funding essentially comes from our student fees, meaning that it is our money funding this campaign.

To this question, we have been given no answer from ASI or the USU.

San Miguel has sat in on many of our interviews with ASI officials, from President Joseph Phillips, to ASI Executive Director Richard Haller. We are often instructed to re-route our inquiries to San Miguel directly. She has been presented to us as the person with all the answers regarding the ASI and USU.

On Monday, we cut to the chase, and went straight to San Miguel with a question: “can you tell us exactly how much ASI and/or USU money has been spent on the ‘It Starts with You’ campaign?’”

Sadly, she told us that no, she does not have that answer for us at this time. She sent us to speak with Sylvana Cicero, the USU assistant director of programs, with regards to our question.

When we asked, Cicero also told us that no, she doesn’t have the numbers we have requested a couple of times at this point. Cicero then told us via email that it would take “some time” to gather this information.

Each student on campus pays for his or her education to some extent, and part of that cost includes the various fees presented to us for the USU, ASI, etc. – which comprise the pool of funding that have covered the cost of ASI’s campaign.

Before Wednesday, when students will be asked to vote on a $165 increase to the USU fee—for which we currently pay $174— we would like the following questions answered:

  • How much of our money has our student government spent (in total) on the It Starts with You campaign that has been ongoing since fall?
  • What is the specific break down of the finances that have been utilized by ASI and/or the USU Board of Trustees on their campaign?
  • How exactly would the intended $99 million in revenue raised by the fee increase be spent?
  • USU BOT Chair Vanessa Mendoza has said that only $13.5 million is needed to repair any current damage to the USU. Why isn’t there an option on the ballot for students to vote for a fee increase that is smaller than $165, that raises only the $13.5 million? This may have been an option discussed in the original planning, but why was it dropped from the final plan?
  • If we are the students who fund the various entities of ASI and the USU, why didn’t we get a voice in the conversation of how our student government would distribute its blatant endorsement of a fee increase that, at this point in time, lacks sufficient planning to utilize in a manner that we – the voters – deem sufficient?
  • Why has President Joseph Phillips been so uninvolved with this entire conversation? From emails sent to our student leader that have gone unanswered, to the invitation we sent Phillips for the USU Referendum Panel event hosted by the Daily 49er, his involvement with what may be the largest event the campus sees this year has been seemingly nonexistent.

Many on staff would vote yes on this fee increase, if we knew more about how the money has been spent, and would be spent. This article is not a reflection of our stance on the referendum itself; we merely want our student body to be as informed as possible before the vote arrives. We hope the university will postpone the vote until such time that our student government can inform us of the tangible impact that our votes would produce. After all, it does start with us.

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