Benedict: Fee details unimportant for voting

By Aaron Mackey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 5, 2004

Student leaders defended their decision to put the $30 per year activity fee on the ballot today, just five days after ASUA Senate approval, saying students don't need to know details of the fee to make an educated decision.

"A student will generally be in favor or not in favor initially. Students aren't going to need days and days to figure this out," said J.P. Benedict, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

All that students need to know about the refundable fee, which is on a special elections ballot today through Wednesday, is that it would generate an estimated $1.2 million to $1.4 million annually and bring big-name concerts and speakers to campus, Benedict said.

Because it is impossible to reach out to every student on campus, Greg Billings, president of the University Activities Board, said those behind the fee chose to target clubs and greek life because they are already involved on campus and most likely to benefit from the fee.

Mike Dickerson, a mechanical engineering freshman, said he wants to learn more about the fee and doesn't think student leaders should single out clubs.

"It seems like they should treat everyone the same," Dickerson said. "Singling them out doesn't seem fair."

But Benedict said the majority of students don't need any more information because the main question students should be asking themselves as they head to the polls today through Wednesday is, "Do you want to bring entertainment to campus or don't you?"

At the senate meeting on Thursday, Benedict initially said the vote had to take place today in order to get the information on the agenda for the April 29 Arizona Board of Regents meeting.

After learning on Friday that he could get more time before getting the information to the regents, who are concerned about the fee, Benedict said he wouldn't push back the elections because the voting date had already been set.

ASUA Sen. Nick Bajema, who helped organize the fee, said there was no need to allot extra time to educate students.

"It's not a real difficult decision to make," he said.

While both Bajema and Benedict encouraged students to learn the details and structure of the fee, they said it is not necessary in order to make a decision.

Billings said students have had adequate time to inform themselves about the fee.

"It's been in the public for the last two months. It's not something that we're trying to rush to the ballot," he said.

Billings said he is more worried about voter turnout than whether students are well-informed.

Although locations for electronic polling stations are yet to be determined, Billings said he hopes they will be in high-traffic areas such as near the UofA Bookstore and Wilbur's Underground.

Signs will be up to direct students toward voting locations, Billings said.

Members of the board of regents said they were concerned last week about voter turnout, with Regent Fred Boice saying that a 15 to 20 percent voter turnout would be a "good number."

ASUA Sen. Matt Harris, who worked on the fee proposal, said last week that he hopes for 1,500 to 2,000 voters, which is about 5 percent of the UA's student population of 37,000.

Last year, 3,559 students, or nearly 10 percent of the UA's population, voted to renew the $1 KAMP Radio fee.

Regents said last week they wanted more discussion and debate to happen on campus before the activity fee went to a student vote.

"I think when a student vote takes place, there (should) be enough time to have a thorough discussion," Regents President Chris Herstam said. "This is all happening very quickly."

Regent Ernest Calder—n said Thursday that in any election, there needs to be "adequate debate," and "a little more time would be prudent" for the student activity fee.

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- Natasha Bhuyan and Dana Crudo contributed to this report.