There may only be one referendum on the Student Government Spring election ballot after the undergraduate humanities journal, Confluence, lost a vote at a Senate meeting last Wednesday.
The referendum that students will be voting on is a request for a one-dollar increase in the student activity fee to supplement the budget for WVUM, the University’s student-operated radio station, said Andres Mino, a student engineer for the station.
“We have expenses which have been backing up for 10 years, when we had our last referendum on the ballot,” Mino said.
Nathan Vuong, the webmaster for WVUM, said that funding would allow WVUM to be committed to its mission.
“We try to expose students to an eclectic mix of music, and we also cover many of UM sports,” Vuong said.
Christina Guzman, editor-in-chief for Confluence, said that the journal had requested a 25-cent increase in the activity fee because it has mushroomed in size since its first publication three semesters ago.
“Confluence grew from 24 pages in the first issue to 44 pages as student interest in it grew,” Guzman said. “The last issue ended up costing about $992 for 300 copies, leaving only about $137, enough for only 41 copies, for the next issue.”
Unlike other on campus journals, Confluence is the only one that is run by undergraduate students.
“It’s good for applicants to graduate school to have their work published,” Guzman said. “You would be surprised at the amount of insight students have in their papers.”
According to Jeff Miller, Speaker of the Senate, WVUM demonstrated more of a need than Confluence to get on the ballot.
“WVUM showed us that they have had finances backed up, equipment that is years old, and they have to get a manifestly larger amount of money underwritten for them than Confluence does,” Miller said.
There are two ways to get an issue on the ballot for students to vote for in an upcoming election. According to Miller, one way is to directly ask Senate to put the issue on the ballot.
“When organizations take the Senate route, we have to look at what they contributed to campus,” Miller said. “The general consensus is that Confluence has been around for under two years and in that time span they haven’t demonstrated enough of a need to get on the ballot.”
The other method is to obtain the names, signatures and C-numbers of at least 500 students who support the issue being on the ballot.
“A lot of senators were supportive of Confluence getting signatures,” Miller said. “We want the journal to grow to the point where we don’t have students asking, ‘What the heck is Confluence?’ When you do get on the ballot, you want to make sure you win.”
As it stands now, Confluence relies on funding from the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee [SAFAC] and on one-time donations from various UM departments for its expenses, Guzman said.
“We came up with the idea to ask for the referendum so we wouldn’t have to keep scrambling for funds and donations every semester,” Guzman said. “If passed, it would allow us to increase our circulation to 679 copies per semester.”
Guzman was disappointed in Senate’s decision against allowing the referendum to appear.
“Our only goal is to benefit students, and students can very well vote our request down, but not a body that is a small cross-section of them,” Guzman said. “We wanted to use what we thought would be a very democratic means to ask for money.”
Guzman also said that she and her staff are gathering the 500 signatures in hopes of getting the referendum on the ballot. As of Wednesday, they had more than 400.
Miller said that he supported the Senate’s line of reasoning.
“These are elected representatives of the student body; there are five to six senators representing every type of student,” Miller said. “If every organization got the opportunity to be on the ballot, there would be dozens of referenda on the ballot, which would be tedious.”
Reeva Oza can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.