A Vote of No Confidence

The Undergraduate Council should have passed an amendment to follow referendum results

Marked by hostility and childish antics, recent meetings of the Undergraduate Council have left an unsettling impression of the council’s capacity to maturely deliberate issues of great importance to students—namely, the proposed termbill hike that would raise the current optional fee of $35 to a compulsory (and revised figure of) $75. To be fair, the decorum at last night’s meeting returned to normal. But before the student body votes on the fee hike in a referendum later this semester, the council should consider whether its recent behavior imparts confidence in its ability to handle a boost in its budget.

At the council meeting last week, student representatives voted down an important amendment—which would bind the council to the outcome of the student referendum—by a startling margin of 28 to 6. We are disappointed that the council is so willing to flaunt its readiness to circumvent the will of the student body. Instead of yielding to the outcome of the referendum, it appears that because members of the council are so eager to pass the termbill increase, they are prepared to petition the administration directly—no matter the results of the referendum.

A common council concern is that students will not take the time to adequately educate themselves on the benefits of a termbill hike. Instead, students will make a knee-jerk response to the proposed costs, never considering its advantages. Many council members point to the myriad benefits that a hike could undoubtedly provide—better grants funding, bigger campus-wide events, top name bands; but, the council should remember that the onus is on them to convince the student body that the hike is necessary. They cannot rely on the excuse that students are apathetic and that, therefore, the council knows best.

By voting down the amendment, the council has shown blatant disrespect for the will of the student body. If the referendum demonstrates that students are opposed to an increase in the termbill, the council should abide by the asserted voice of the students— whom, council members should remember, they ostensibly represent.

One council member recently intimated that the amendment was “draconian,” claiming that it would have effectively handicapped the council by not ever allowing for a termbill increase to compensate for inflation. However, it seems that the only thing draconian about the current legislation is its insistence on disregarding the wishes of the student body. The council has already tried to ram through the fee hike, which was initially an increase from $35 to $100, without ever holding a referendum—a measure that would have severely delegitimized the efforts of the council.

A few weeks ago, Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 issued an ambitious statement regarding the fee hike: “I think this provides us with an excellent opportunity to show our constituents what we do and how we can do more.” Yet, he and the council have not done so thus far. The continued divisiveness in the council leaves us wondering if the benefits are that clear, after all. If the council cannot convince its own rank and file, we find it increasingly difficult to believe that the hike is such a necessity.

To be fair, Mahan has done some active campaigning for the fee hike using House lists as one avenue of advertisement. Yet, there still remains much to do in the way of persuasion. We are still open to admitting that the hike is a good idea—and one that will prove beneficial to the student body at large—but until the council refrains from aggressive and immature behavior in its meetings and provides us with more substantive reasons for the hike, we withhold our endorsement.