Jun 04, 2020
Photo by Christian Ortuno

Students vote ‘no’… now what?

Thursday afternoon, after months of campaigning from Student Involvement and other campus organizations, students voted against the Bold New U fee referendum – meaning they also voted against student fee increases for future Fresno State students and against the construction of a new facility on campus.

The news arrives as a double-edged sword – it’s not completely unheard of to have a new facility on campus that showcases new technology, but it seemed unfair for current students to make financial decisions for students who haven’t yet even decided to attend the university.

This “no” vote could be considered a huge loss for Student Involvement.

Fresno State Student Involvement and Student Affairs spearheaded the effort to inform and reinforce the need for the new student union on campus. Not only could this be considered a monetary loss – between the #BoldNewU swag, the many informational student forums and the time spent lobbying with students for a vote in favor of the new facility – but also a loss of morale.

The way campus organizations championed the project was problematic in nature – insinuating that students should vote in favor of constructing the new student union, citing the lack of financial responsibility that they will personally experience and placing that same responsibility on future students.

Even throughout the week of ASI elections, representatives from Student Involvement were still strong in their effort, handing out stickers to students in favor of the #BoldNewU, next to the voting station.

Even those who voted against the new student union were shocked at the loss, especially because the referendum flopped by nearly 600 votes. This is shocking, considering the amount of student backing the Bold New U project appeared to have.

So what do organizations like Student Involvement or campus institutions like Student Affairs do after a decision like this?

The rejected referendum should not be considered a pipe dream. Those in favor of the new facility saw an opportunity to grow the campus and worked hard to make it a reality.

However, the marketing of the facility as a need and not a want was misleading – and could have caused the loss. If students have outgrown the current facility and there is a genuine need for a new union on campus, efforts should be made to accommodate either the renovation or construction of a new building.

Selling the new student union project as “it’ll be their problem and not yours,” may seem beneficial in theory, but in regards to the vote, didn’t fly for the majority of the student population.

All hope is not lost for a Bold New U, but it would be wise of Student Involvement to take a look at these results and the decision of students and consider other needs first – needs that include a more diverse staff, classroom upgrades and increased safety are among the first to come to mind.

The Student Recreation Center, a building on campus financed by student fees – the same fees that would go towards the construction on the new student union – is falling apart before our eyes. In a letter to the editor published in Oct 2016, a Fresno State student cited almost 15 machines as “out of order.”

Shouldn’t we address these needs before a brand new building is built?

However, there’s no telling whether or not this vote was merely a formality. In a year or two, it’s probable that the Bold New U will not be an option, but a fee increase and facility implemented on students without their vote.

If or when the time comes when students don’t have the opportunity to vote, it would be in the best interest of students and faculty if campus needs are tended to initially, and then private funds are raised in order to ensure minimal fees to the students eventually paying for the new student union.

Fresno State administrators were already willing to raise more than 10 million dollars for a new union, why not challenge that as much as possible and raise even more, thus reducing fees for future students?

That’s where the voices of students come in – it is our responsibility as students at this university to challenge administrators to minimize student fees as much as possible.

The referendum vote is not enough. We must hold administrators accountable to keep student fees as low as possible, especially in the wake of the Bold New U results.

Eventually, a day will come when the student population has truly outgrown the current USU – and the university should be able to provide a place that facilitates student growth without the dramatic increase of fees.

At the end of the day, students used their voices and it was bold for administrators to leave the decision up to students, considering the investments of time and money on the account of Student Involvement.

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