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Student Activity Fee Increase Ruled Invalid

The Student Activity Fee referendum, which would raise each semester’s payment from $94.25 to $100, has been ruled invalid by the Undergraduate Student Government Supreme Court.

Although it passed by a simple majority vote of 117-101 in this past month’s elections, the lack of publicity and the low voter turnout was reason enough to nullify the poll’s result.

“The voter turnout has a direct link to the advertising,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Julian Cordero of the case between Undergraduate Student Government, or USG, President Matthew Graham/Executive Vice President Alexander Dimitriyadi and the USG Elections Board. “Poor advertising lead to a poor turnout essentially because the campus was not aware of the vote being taken.”

According to the SUNY requirements from the Board of Trustees, in order for a vote to take place, it must meet four special efforts including wide dissemination of the provisions of the policy to inform the student body, extensive publicity concerning the referendum, a convenient polling period and an advantageous location of polling places. The publicity requirement was not met.

“The fact that the advertising requirement was not met, the vote that occurred must be invalidated as it should have never happened,” said Cordero, who was joined by Justice of the Court, Kevin Brereton. The only other justice on the court, Amanda Mayo, was unable to attend due to an unforeseen circumstance.

The bylaws for the Supreme Court state that there must be seven members on the court, three of which must be present for a hearing. Because four appointments, which are made by the USG President, to the court are currently pending, the Supreme Court uses the judicial bylaws as a guideline and not fact, Cordero said. One of the powers reserved to the chief justice is the right to decide overrule over certain decisions and because the court had a unanimous decision, the lack of justices was allowable. The bylaws are also in the process of being rewritten.

“The court saw the point we were trying to make,” Graham said. “They made the right decision for the students in the end. Next time the referendum goes on the election, an extra effort will be made to be publicized.”

Graham said there was a failure on the part of the publicity, a responsibility belonging to the Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, David Mazza.

“Some other issues have come up with that position,” he said. An Executive Session was held on Dec. 9 during a Senate meeting when there was a discussion on impeaching Mazza because of problems they were having with his work. “That didn’t come about, and they’re still waiting to see if that office will come around before they take a more harsh role.”

“I think we’re going to see some changes in the future for this,” Graham said.

Mazza would not comment on the court’s decision, but he, along with Director of USG Event Programming Moiz Khan did say that more will be done in the spring semester for events and publicity.

“It’s very clear we need to begin using different methods to talk about elections and announce elections for the campus,” said Khan, who represented the Elections Board during the hearing, along with Elections Board member Jeff Horn and chairperson Michael Fricke.

One goal that Mazza has is to speak with building managers to find a way to put temporary, but conveniently placed signs to announce major events. This would set them apart from other clubs.

“That’s one of the sort of things that are lacking. The only way to be doing it now is Facebook, Twitter and having something like posters, but because those things are so, at least in my opinion, passive forms of marketing, they’re really not effective,” Khan said. “So now is going to be a search for what is effective.”

Khan also mentioned a possibility for using notifications in SOLAR for elections, whether it’s before an election, or at the start of them, along with a newsletter from USG to be given out around campus at the beginning of the semester.

In the end, the goal is to have a turnout that can properly display the voice of the students.

“I think what needs to be highlighted is the fact that 218 students have the ability to make a change that affects 16,000 students,” Cordero said. “A lot of people would assume that this is a ridiculous statement, but is in turn very factual. I nor the court is saying that there should be a specific voting requirement but hopefully knowing that the above is possible would help students go out and vote more on issues that affect them.”

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  • S

    Stony Brook SeniorJan 31, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    No one votes because the USG is over-rated. All the USG officials take so much pride in being what they are, when in reality they do nothing. It is disfunctional, and they all need to be dropped and the whole entire USG needs to re-instated. The current position holders are morons, and no one even knows who they are. My high school Student Government had more publicity than here at Stony Brook. I hope that when these morons write they are in USG on their resumes, the people reading them will realize that SB USG is… in one word… useless.

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