Posted April 25, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in Campus Life

Controversial GSU Amendment Repealed

After three months of extensive revisions and heated debate, The Geoduck Student Union (GSU) members rescinded Amendment 3.6 at their meeting on April 10. Amendment 3.6 was an attempt to change the way Evergreen collected voluntary fees and funded off-campus organizations. For more information, read “GSU Amendment Sparks Conflict” in issue 10 of The Cooper Point Journal.

Amendment 3.6 was revoked in lieu of a new contract that was drawn up by GSU members – working in conjunction with other students – during the weeks following the amendment’s passing on January 23.

The amendment was unprecedented in its scope, and could possibly affect funding of future projects on campus. Prior to the amendment, Evergreen operated exclusively on an opt-out funding system which included a student vote. Each spring, in order for a voluntary fee to get on the ballot for funding, 25 percent of the student body would have to vote to approve the fee. If a student then wished to abstain from paying a specific fee on the ballot, they could do so by filling out a form that would allow them to opt-out of said fee. This system funded off campus organizations and projects like the recent CAB renovation.

When Amendment 3.6 passed, it immediately changed Evergreen’s student group funding system to an opt-in system. Rather than students voting for routine fees on themselves, they would instead need to discover fees on their own and initiate their payments individually. The argument in favor of the opt-in system was that it was more democratic – giving voice to the 75 percent of students who didn’t vote for opt-out fees – and that it would save students money at an already expensive institution.

Backlash against the amendment began even before it was passed. A small group of concerned students from various student groups attended the meeting to vocalize their disapproval and concerns. Students from the Clean Energy Committee, TOP, Students for WashPIRG, and NARAL Ninjas opposed the new measure, although WashPIRG would be the only group to be immediately affected. They called for the Amendment’s repeal, but the suggestion was shot down in a vote with only nine for and 17 against.

At another GSU meeting on February 13, three more student groups voiced their objection to the amendment: Generation Friends, Hip-Hop Congress, and the Asian Pacific Islanders Coalition. Individual students, unaffiliated with any group, also came to protest, giving public statements and questioning the new legislation.

Jose Gomez, an Evergreen professor with a background in constitutional law, offered his support for the amendment’s repeal in a three-page letter addressed to GSU representatives. At their next meeting on February 20, the repeal of the Amendment was once again put to a vote and shot down with only six in favor and 15 opposed.

Douglas Ridley, a GSU representative, mitigated student confrontation between the GSU and rallying student interest groups, suggesting that both parties were “just trying to do the right thing.”

Drew Hawley, another GSU representative, explained that “the amendment had good intentions, but it was written and voted on too quickly, and now we’ve got certain issues to work out. I think we need to balance everybody’s wants.”

In response to mounting student discontent, GSU representatives proposed – at the same meeting on February 20 – the creation of a Fee Committee to discuss the amendment and issue recommendations for its revision.

Kyle Conyers, Forest Hunt, Dante Garcia, Ryan Bersentes, Ryan Morikawa, and Jonathan Gottlieb were elected to this newly formed committee, but deliberations were delayed until after spring break, giving GSU representatives a chance to review the committee’s recommendations. On March 6, two fragmentary committees were created from the original committee – a lobbying board for middle and lower-level students, and a Disappearing Task Force (DTF) which, according to the GSU’s records, was created “to look at an overview of fees and how the whole process goes down.”

Finally, on April 10, the amendment was rescinded in favor of a contract that closely embodied the recommendations discussed by the two committees and the GSU. The contract revamped the transparency of groups and fees.

Currently, the GSU, the Fee Committee, the lobbying board, and the DTF are all committed to educating the student body on the opt-out fee system. They hope to facilitate a better understanding of student interest groups, how the fee system works, and how students can more easily opt-out of fees they don’t wish to pay. In progress are a number of academic forums, one scheduled for week seven of spring quarter and Orientation Week next year, as well as the creation of a Student Fee Guide, all aimed at instructing students on how to effectively participate with Evergreen’s fee system – how to vote, how to pay, and how to properly support the groups they choose.

 By James Gage