The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

70° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Low Election Turnout Leaves Student Activity Fee in Limbo

The proposed increase of $5.75 for the Student Activity Fee would not only spike the price up to $100 a semester, but would also give students a chance to raise more money for quality student life.  And while it was already approved by three different bodies of people, it seems that it is still not enough.

The fate of the fee, which has been at $94.25 a semester since 2005, was to be determined by the last week’s Undergraduate Student Government, or USG, elections. But since the recent election only saw 218 votes, a turnout deemed too low by USG President Matthew Graham and Executive Vice President Alexander Dimitriyadi, both plan on bringing it to the USG Supreme Court to be overturned.

“In my opinion there was a failure in the communication wing of USG to properly market the referendum,” Dimitriyadi said.

He said the vote was unfair because of the exceptionally low turnout compared to last fall’s 670 votes. The number of students who voted this year totaled a little over one percent. If the referendum was passed, an additional $80,000 per semester would be put toward the Student Activities Board’s plans for future events.

Dimitriyadi was not the only one who thought the outcome was poor; Graham said he was disappointed in the turnout.

“It’s going to affect the entire student body,” he said. “The vote was just so low. We don’t usually get super high turnouts for the ballots anyway, but this is just unbelievable and this is a decision that’s going to affect everybody.”

The 2010-2011 Referendum on the Student Activity Fee passed the Senate by 18-0-0 on Sept. 30. It was then approved by the Executive Council with a vote of 5-1-0 on Oct. 1. The referendum was then passed during the elections of Nov. 29 to Dec. 3. with a vote of 117-101.

“With nearly 16,000 undergraduate students here at Stony Brook, 218 students does not constitute a mandate of the student body,” Graham wrote in a letter to the undergraduate student body.

Dimitriyadi said that it’s a disappointment because it would limit the cuts they have for other clubs and create more money to go to larger USG-run events.

According to the brief, a lack of publicity could be the reason for a similar lack in votes. The USG website did not make mention of the referendum.

But David Mazza, vice president of communications and public relations, said he was unaware of when the elections were going to be, due to delays in sending the ballot out to one of the employees, who he could not name at time of deadline. According to Mazza, the employee asks to have the ballot two weeks in advance each year and normally does not get it until the Friday before the Monday elections begin. This semester was no different.

The ballot was sent to be posted the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break. Mazza emailed the candidates about the delay and told them he would pay for their posters out of his budget if they had already started publicizing.

“I was under the assumption this was not going to happen,” he said. When he found out the elections were happening, however, “I did whatever I could do to advertise. Not only did I think it was not going to happen this week, I assumed it wasn’t going to … I literally didn’t know when the elections were going to happen.”

According to Mazza, who was also unaware of the court brief until The Statesman informed him during a brief interview, mess-ups are made all of the time when it comes to USG elections.

“It’s usually that ‘oh, it’s going to happen but it’s going to be messed up’ and it is,” he said. “To that extent, what more could I have done?”

One mistake made was that freshman representative candidate Anna Lubitz’s name was published twice and her opponent Mariella Rodriguez was not on the ballot at all for the first day. By Tuesday, it was fixed.

The court date for the referendum is still unknown as the briefing was just written today. Dimitriyadi said he hopes to see the Senate vote to put the referendum on the Spring ballot.

“We were making an ethical decision. We didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” Dimitriyadi said.

View Comments (5)
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (5)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    AnonymousDec 20, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Not only did USG fail to properly inform the undergraduate students about the referendum to raise the student activity fee; they should have also posted Matthew Graham’s (USG’s President) letter to the Undergraduate Student body on the USG website.

    According to the Statesman, Matthew Graham’s letter states:

    “With nearly 16,000 undergraduate students here at Stony Brook, 218 students does not constitute a mandate of the student body.”

    What other information should USG and the USG President be telling the undergraduate student body that they haven’t?

    USG’s failure to centralize its information leaves the students with after the fact consequences only to be exposed later by the school media.

    Knowledge is power and what USG doesn’t want you to know will hurt you!

  • A

    AnonymousDec 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Einstein has said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    Stop the insanity, already!

    Sorry to have to say it, but, advertising on Twitter is a joke! How can you possibly call that advertising with such a small following?

    It also sounds like there is a lot of dissension amongst the ranks of USG and when one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing, the students become the victims.

    Those involved in the power struggle need to get over their own self importance and do the jobs that they are getting paid to do.

  • A

    AnthonyDec 10, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Well to be frank, if the student government has decided that an exceptionally low voter turnout is reason enough to drop the increase, they should also consider stepping down from their positions and turning over their weekly stipends.
    They were not elected into office, they were placed in there by default. You cannot declare a majority with less than 2% of the vote. You dont represent the student body, you represent the majority of 2% and considering many positions were run uncontested it’s simply just a failure.

    I would say another election be held in the spring, with proper advertising, and an active drive for new candidates. The pre-law groups on campus would be a good start I imagine.

    This is a mockery of democracy, I honestly did not even know there was an election until the night of, when I checked the statesman online.

    And Mr. Mazza, as VP of communications and public relations, this failure is one directly on your part. You can blame your peers for not getting the word to you in time, but your job is communication and I cant possibly think of any way you could have screwed that up anymore.

    If the USG is really worried about the budget they were given, they should restructure their spending based on the number of students organizations actually benefit, not just how much their proposed budgets require (anyone can find ways to spend cash). And more importantly, maybe the USG should sacrifice their personal stipends as none of you were fairly elected anyway.

  • D

    David MazzaDec 9, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Great article, but just a small clarification. I obviously knew about the referendum itself, because I advertised it (search #575forSBU on twitter).

    I didn’t know about the court brief that Alex submitted because he decided to keep it a secret from us. I was rather displeased to find out only when the fine reporter who wrote this called me.

    • F

      Frank PosillicoDec 9, 2010 at 1:20 am

      Noted. Reflected above.