Students Vote on New Fees

CRC Renovation Proposal

By Blaine Ewig

This week, Evergreen students are being asked to vote on a mandatory $10 per credit fee which, if approved, will go toward renovating the campus’ Costantino Recreation Center (CRC). The ballot is currently accessible through students’ portals, and voting will end March 6. The proposed renovation includes gender-inclusive locker rooms and restrooms, an energy saving pre-heat pool system, new cardio and weights equipment, a covered play shed (including an outdoor, covered climbing wall), and a wellness center and garden. All proposed modifications to the CRC are subject to change depending on the funding the proposal receives.

The total estimated cost for the proposed renovations is $32 million. If the proposed $10 per credit fee passes a student vote, approximately $27.5 million of that total will be paid for by students over the next 20 years.

Supporters of the renovation, including the CRC Renovation Steering Committee, hope that a renovation will draw more students to Evergreen and help the school’s falling student retention rates by providing more resources and perks for new and prospective students. The committee also hopes the the plans will triple the percentage of students who use the CRC on a daily basis to “meet or exceed the national average of 25 percent of the student body regularly using the facility.” Currently, about eight percent of students use the CRC daily.

The renovation proposal is being met with criticism by some students who say that the plan is too costly an endeavor, and view many of the proposed changes as unnecessary expenditures. Many point to the school’s current budget crisis and the defunding of the Evergreen Gallery as reasons why the CRC renovations might not be a good idea. Students are also currently paying a $10-per-credit fee for the Campus Activities Building, which was renovated in 2011. It has been argued that the CAB building has not met the promises made by the renovation proposal, and some fear that the CRC renovations will be similar.

If the proposal passes a student vote, the school will select an architect in May and confirm pre-design plans and submit a Supplemental Capital Budget Request to the state legislature in August 2015. The timeline for construction, if all goes according to plan, is set to begin in the summer of 2017 and end in the winter of 2018. If the Supplemental Capital Budget Request for the 2016 legislative session for a minimum of $4.8 million is not approved, or if the school’s capital budget does not pass, the budget will be resubmitted to the 2017 legislative session, likely pushing construction plans to a later time.

Proposal to Fund GSU with Student Fee

By Felix Chrome

If you went to vote on the CRC renovation you may have noticed a Geoduck Student Union (GSU) advisory vote below it. It asked: “Would you support the GSU establishing an independent, opt-out student fee for the GSU’s operations, managed by its Representatives?”

It then included a note specifying “This vote is an advisory vote and no fees will be instituted as a result.” While the question may seem pretty innocuous, especially since this vote is preliminary and non-binding, but it gets to the structure of our student government.

Currently the GSU operates on funding awarded by the Services and Activities (S&A) Board. The board allocated this money but it comes with certain regulations about what the GSU is allowed to spend it on.

The budget ($23,816 for the 2013-14 school year, according the S&A budget) that the GSU receive is primarily for stipends and administrative purposes, and all sections of their budget may only be used for the purpose the board has decided upon, not spent as representatives see fit.

Some members of the GSU wish to implement this new opt-out student fee, that would provide them with additional funding for their activities, managed entirely independently, so it would not be subject to S&A Board restrictions.

Tyler Bieber, the chief budget officer of the GSU, is one of the proponents of this new funding source because it would allow the GSU to have more money for programming and events and control over how their money is spent.

“GSU has no programming budget whatsoever, they have no money to do events. And they’re expected to create programs, expected to engage the students body, and there is hardly any financial way for them to do that. We are expected by S&A to contribute to student life and contribute to student engagement, but we can’t do that when we have our hands financially tied.”

The plan has not been fully fleshed out, so it remains unclear how much the additional fee would be and what the specific allocation of that money would be. The purpose of this advisory vote is to assess student opinions. If students indicate that they are willing to take on a new fee, the hope is for an array of options on how much that fee would be and more specifics would be presented for a vote in spring quarter. However, if the majority of students are opposed the GSU will not further pursue the issue.

This advisory vote is only the first step in the process of making this decision. Bieber said, “I didn’t anticipate this conversation to stop at this, and I didn’t think it was going to be concluded at this.”

Part of this discussion continuing in this manner means that the final vote would likely take place under next years’ GSU, which could change significantly from the current representatives.

If students are opposed to the fee or the GSU does not end up pursuing it, there would probably be further discussion or working to change the structure of the group to more closely resemble student government at other colleges.

The GSU as it is currently structured is not considered an official Student Government Association (SGA), the official term used for student governments at most colleges, although that is their role. It is not even designated a tier 1 student organization, reserved for student groups that are considered part of the infrastructure of Evergreen, like The Flaming Eggplant, KAOS, or the CPJ. Instead the GSU is considered a Registered Student Organization (RSO) like any other club on campus.

Bieber thinks this designation doesn’t account for the important governing role the GSU has. “No other RSO is given the same responsibilities that we are, and we receive the most funding of any RSO out there so it is just like, are we really an RSO or is their enough legal precedent for us to not to be anymore.”

The current structure also means that the S&A Board has total control over their budget, and can even cut off funding to the group. Last year when the Board felt the GSU was not doing enough they did this, and Bieber says “It creates a dangerous precedent because you have a group of unelected students, who are determining the fate of the elected student body government.”

Some students are understandably hesitant about paying a new fee at a time when tuition is on the rise and many are struggling with costs. Other GSU members, such as Nick Bense who contributed an opinion piece, also worry that with the lack of restrictions with this new funding source the future GSU will raise stipends and not spend the money on what is best for the student body. Bieber admitted that it is a possibility they will raise stipends, but only to adequately compensate GSU representatives for the work that they do, and the main focus will be on funding programming and events.