Class Pass renewal referendum moves forward despite contention

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A referendum asking students to renew the Class Pass program will be placed on the upcoming 2012 ASUC general election ballot, but concerns over a lack of negotiation with AC Transit have prompted an ASUC senator to campaign against the referendum.

When the ASUC Senate voted on the referendum for the second time Wednesday, SQUELCH! Senator Noah Ickowitz — who has pledged to campaign against the referendum — maintained his opposition to the bill while two senators who had previously voted in favor of the bill chose to abstain. The first vote was found to be invalid because the senate voted before the referendum’s language was approved by ASUC Attorney General Deepti Rajendran.

The Class Pass contract, which gives students unlimited rides on AC Transit buses, is set to expire in 2013 unless it is renewed. If passed by students, the referendum would eventually increase the price of the pass from $79 to $86 per semester over the course of seven years.

Ickowitz expressed concerns at the senate meeting that much more could be done to negotiate the contract and again proposed an alternate plan to approve the contract for three years. He said this would guarantee that students would have access to the program without locking the campus into a seven-year contract that has not been renegotiated.

“I just want to make it clear that you putting (the referendum) on the ballot does a huge disservice to students,” he said at the meeting.

Student Action Senator Connor Landgraf and Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein abstained, though they previously voted in favor of the referendum.

Controversy over the referendum has chiefly revolved around whether the contract can be renegotiated with AC Transit for a better student price.

Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab said at a Feb. 8 senate meeting that the senate could still negotiate with AC Transit and that Director of Parking and Transportation Seamus Wilmot could ask the company for a deal different from its projections, according to meeting minutes.

However, at a Feb. 15 senate meeting, Wilmot said AC Transit presents a fee to all colleges and universities using a predetermined formula.

“We were all under the assumption that the contract couldn’t be negotiated,” Landgraf said. “Office of Parking and Transportation completely dropped the ball, they didn’t do their job well … They didn’t negotiate with AC Transit, but they potentially could have.”

Others, including Student Action Senator Aviv Gilboa, said the contract “had been properly vetted” and that the ASUC, Navab and the campus Office of Parking and Transportation had done their best to ensure that students are getting the best deal possible.

Ickowitz pledged in an email to stop the referendum from passing and to renegotiate the contract over the remaining year of its duration.

“I am going to try to fail the referendum not because I don’t like the bus pass, on the contrary I love the pass, but we as an ASUC need to negotiate at least to some degree before agreeing to a 7 year contract worth so much money,” he said in the email.