Every year, the Student Union Assembly (SUA) holds campuswide elections to elect new student officials. Also on the ballot are campus-based fees that are subject to student approval. These fees help fund campus initiatives and other student organizations, including City on a Hill Press.
This year, according to the Associate Dean of Students and Chief of Staff Brian Arao, SUA sought feedback from organizations who have proposed referendums in the past, including the Sustainability Office, the KZSC college radio station, the Student Fee Advisory Committee, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Success Jennifer Baszile. The consensus was in favor of postponing the referenda fee voting to the next election cycle in spring 2022 due to an anticipated low voter turnout.
The SUA must attain votes from 25 percent of the entire student body to consider fee measures or SUA constitutional amendments. Due to the transition to remote instruction for the 2020-21 UCSC academic year, SUA elections commissioner Brent Insua does not expect SUA to reach these voting parameters.
“Engaging with potential voters this year has been an uphill battle, especially going through a rollercoaster of emotions with recent national news, it’s been hard to reach out to people and get them excited to vote,” Insua wrote in an email. “Ultimately, the postponement of the proposed fee measures was made on the basis that reaching 25 percent voter turnout is highly unlikely due to last year’s figures.”
SUA has been plagued by low voter turnout since transitioning to online instruction, seeing only 10.71 percent of eligible undergraduates and 12.68 percent of eligible graduate students vote in the campus elections in spring 2020, according to Arao.
These low voter turnout numbers differ when compared to spring 2019, where SUA collected a near 40 percent voter turnout.
Arao believes having students off-campus has made it more difficult for SUA to market their elections effectively.
“Suspension of most in-person coursework and on-campus services has resulted in many (if not most) students leaving the Santa Cruz area. Historically, in-person campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts have been crucial for ensuring turnout from the minimum voter pool required by policy,” Arao wrote in an email. “In the absence of such in-person efforts, we are unlikely to reach the minimum voter turnout.”
Congruently, under the SUA Constitution, any motion to amend their constitution must get 25 percent of UCSC student body votes. SUA has been barred from amending its constitution since 2019 because of low voting from the UCSC student body. They seek to update grammar, officer responsibilities, adjust their voting membership within SUA, and instill new policies addressing certain numbers of people holding office positions.
CHP is publishing this story during the week of May 25 as part of a backlog on unpublished content from spring 2021. The article was originally written on April 28.