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Activity fee vote set for Monday

By Dana Crudo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 1, 2004
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A $30 activity fee that would generate $1.2 million to $1.4 million for concerts and other events will be up for a student vote Monday.

After delaying the vote last month to work out the fee's details, Associated Students of the University of Arizona senators approved the student activity fee referendum by a vote of 9-0. One senator was not present to vote.

Seven senators voted to hold the election on Monday after members of the Collaboration Board said they were confident they could educate students on campus in time. Two voted against the date, saying students should have more time to learn about the fee.

Members of the Collaboration Board who are behind the fee say it would be used for concerts, public speakers, educational programs, comedy shows and films for students on campus.

A committee composed of eight student leaders, three students representing the campus at large and two administrators appointed by the vice president for Campus Life would be responsible for allocating the funds from the fee.

The approval of the fee referendum came one month after ASUA officials said they were not comfortable putting the original draft on a ballot because it had not been developed enough.

But now a final draft has met with senate approval, and students will vote Monday through Wednesday.

Sen. Nick Bajema said the ambiguous language and loopholes of the last draft were changed and tied up.

For example, the chair of the activity fee committee will be a student and not an administrator.

Despite these changes, there are still questions.

Sen. Blake Buchanan said he was concerned about the students who would ask for their money back, yet still attend all of the events funded by the fee.

J.P. Benedict, student body president, said free riders are definitely a problem the board is working to solve, but no plan of action has been determined.

He said there are ways to track whether students paid, including implementing a CatCard scanner at events.

Benedict said the problems in the original referendum draft have been solved but that the new document is still elastic, and can be changed if more problems arise.

This has the potential to benefit a lot of students and bring more culture and large-scale entertainment to campus, he said.

Greg Billings, University Activities Board president, said free riders are not a concern because he does not expect a significant number of students to ask for a refund.

Sen. Jacob Rueben said he is concerned that organizations that receive money will not be held accountable.

Accountability is not addressed in the referendum.

But Benedict said he has held meetings regarding accountability and that more campus consent and input will be utilized.

He said accountability is a structural problem within the organizations and doesn't need to be addressed in the document.

The funding guidelines of the fee demand that 15 percent be reserved for general distribution, 80 percent for entertainment funding and 5 percent for refunds.

Bajema said the fee has been a vision of his for four years and that he is excited to see it pass.

"I am stoked it's going to happen," he said.

Benedict shared the same sentiments.

"I encourage everyone to vote," he said. "I am excited to see what comes out of this."

The ASUA Senate also approved yesterday $1,100 in stipends for each senator next year, the same amount this year's senators receive.

Reuben said after consulting with Sara Birnbaum, executive vice president-elect, and other ASUA officials he said it was best to have the stipend remain the same.

The amount has proved to be a fair and reasonable stipend for senators, he said.

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