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For the Undergraduate Council, things seemed to sour overnight.

By Todd F. Braunstein

With a new, politically clean slate of officers in charge, the council this fall won the public support of undergraduates who had been disillusioned by scandals of the recent past.

But on March 20, the council approved a $10 hike in student term bills. The next day, a controversy began that would overshadow what some council members call the most productive year in council history.

A former council member launched a campaign to block the fee hike by calling for a student referendum on the issue.

An initial referendum was invalidated after council members allegedly intimidated voters and left ballots unsecured.

Students rejected the fee hike in the second referendum, which was conducted by outside mediators. But council members said not enough students voted to bind council members to the outcome.

The council also suffered from internal dissent, as the vice president was censured and another council member resigned after secretly tape recording a conversation.

Finally, in the last meeting of the year, the council voted down the fee hike. And council members left for the summer hoping for a calmer fall.

Fee Hike

A Crimson poll published the day after the fee hike was announced showed that only 18.6 percent of students supported the fee hike, while more than 55 percent opposed it. The poll's margin of error was five percent.

But the council defended its decision, even in light of the overwhelming public opposition.

President Carey W. Gabay '94 explained at the time that the council was "sort of stuck in a Catch-22."

"People want to see we're doing more before raising the term bill, but we need the increase in order to do more, Gabay said.

Meanwhile, former council member Anjalee C. Davis '96 was busy making plans to call for a campus wide referendum on the fee hike and four other controversial council issues.

The council itself had rejected a call for a student referendum to decide the issue on March 20.

"It's like the citizenry voting on NAFTA," Gabay had said. "You let the people involved in it, who know the issues, vote on it."

Davis said she wanted to ensure the council's "legitimacy" through the referendum, adding that she disaproved of the council's "back door way" of implementing the fee hike.

The council initially rejected Davis' petition even though it had been signed by more than 10 percent of the undergraduate population.

According to the council's constitution, "any question can be committed to a referendum or poll by the council or by a petition signed by one-tenth of the Undergraduates."

But Gabay moved to block four of Davis's five referendum issues, saying that each individual question had to be supported by more than 600 signatures.

Davis and Gabay each brought their cases before Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III and Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57.

Epps threatened to intervene and force the council to conduct the referendum. But Davis was already organizing a second petition effort and finally succeeded in placing all five issues on the ballot according to Gabay's rules.

The council conducted the referendum, but it was marred by charges of misconduct and fraud--including council members allegedly intimidating voters and leaving ballots unsecured in the council office.

This time, Gabay himself charged that the council had violated its own bylaws. He asked the council to invalidate the results and authorize a new referendum to be administered by an outside group.

Undergraduates overwhelmingly rejected all five council-supported positions in this second referendum. But since less than a quarter of the students voted ,the council overruled its parliamentarian's decision that the referendum be binding.

At Gabay's urging however, the council did ultimately rescind the term bill fee hike on its own.

Vice President Censured

In may, the council brought recall proceedings against Vice President Joshua D. Liston '95 for failing to enforce the council's constitutionally mandated attendance policy.

The recall effort failed, but the council did censure the vice president--an action that was later invalidated by the council parliamentarian for failure to follow proper procedure.

And Hassen A. Sayeed '96, chair of the student affairs committee, resigned his seat at the last meeting of the year after being criticized for recording a telephone conversation between himself and Liston without Liston's knowledge.

At the same meeting, the council passed a resolution recommending that Davis and three Crimson staff members be sent before the Administrative Board for "trespassing."

The council called an entrance of the council office by Davis, a reporter and a photographer trespassing and called for disciplinary action. The three had entered the office to investigate allegations of impropriety in the conducting of the second referendum.

Otherwise Productive

Internal battles and the wrangling over the referendum in the last two months of the council's twelfth session overshadowed what was otherwise an extreme productive year for the council.

After unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with music groups Digable Planets and Blind Melon, the council sponsored a large scale, sold-out concert by They Might Be Giants in April.

A council-sponsored comedy show by Saturday Night Live star David Spade also out Sanders Theatre. And the council successfully ran Yardfest, a spring carnival designed to foster undergraduate unity that organizers hope will become an annual tradition.

The finance committee awarded a record-high amount of money to student groups through its semi-annual grants process.

And the council's proposal to reform the academic calendar to complete fall examinations before the winter recess was pushed through the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE), although the Faculty Council ultimately rejected it last month (please see related story, this page).

A Tame Fall

When Gabay was elected president of the council in the fall, beating Davis, Melissa Garza '94, and Mark D. McKay '94, many members thought the council would retain its "old boy' image.

Garza, who was elected vice president, said before the election that she considered Gabay a "Mike Beys crony."

Beys, a senior, was a controversial figure during his tenure as council president last year. He and Garza have often battled over major issues of council governance and inclusiveness.

But Garza became a Gabay convert. Under Gabay's first administration the council experienced remarkably little internal dissent, successfully distributing grants funding free comedy concerts and airport shuttle buses, and presenting plans for evaluating teaching fellows.

The council was so turmoil-free, in fact that Gabay ran unopposed for president during second semester.

Council members and future presidential hopefuls said at the time that "good-guy Gabay" was unbeatable. And, before the debacles of the spring, he probably was.

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