Changes in technology fee, Judicial Council achieved as 3 of 4 referendums pass in 2021 ASUC elections

Infographic depicting 2021 ASUC elections referendum results
Joseph Casey/Senior Staff

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Three of the four referendums passed during the 2021 ASUC elections, affecting graduate and undergraduate students alike.

The renewed Student Technology Fund, or STF, fee passed with 6240 votes, the Protecting the Checks and Balances of the ASUC Constitution referendum received 6636 votes and the Daily Cal Initiative passed with 4537 votes.

The Daily Californian received funds from the Student Tech Fund in 2017 and 2019. 

The Daily Cal Initiative will partially fund the operations of the Daily Cal. The Daily Cal’s news staff were not involved in the planning or promotion of the referendum, apart from news senior staff writer Rachel Barber, who was the referendum’s campaign manager and recused herself from ASUC elections coverage.

The Graduate Assembly, or GA, fee garnered 1167 votes. After the ASUC Elections Council incorrectly stated that the GA fee passed during the tabulation ceremony, ASUC Elections Prosecutor Joshua Kay clarified in an email that referendums must receive at least 20% of eligible votes to be considered.

As only graduate students were eligible to vote for the GA fee and about 13% of them voted, the referendum did not pass.

Amid the years-long struggle for GA independence from the ASUC, the GA fee would have marked the end of graduate students’ contributions to the ASUC fee. It was deliberately crafted to facilitate separation as it stipulated that GA funds may be transferred to an independent graduate student government if it was developed and acknowledged by campus.

“While I’m disappointed that it did not pass, I remain delighted by the fact that we’ve had two straight years of massively increased graduate student turnout, and I remain hopeful that we can sustain this momentum,” said Emily Mullin, a GA delegate and member of the governance work group that developed the resolution, in a text message.

With an entirely virtual voting process, about 22% of eligible voters turned out in this election, according to ASUC Elections Council Chair Skyler-Myles Clinton Cobb, which is a decrease from last year when 25% of the student body voted. 

From Adobe Creative Cloud to Zoom Pro, the STF fee provides undergraduate, graduate and professional school students with essential technology services. The current fee is $51 per student every semester, and the new fee differs in its governance structures, has more benefits for graduate students and staff and includes a $15 fee for summer session students.

Two-thirds of the fee will equally fund software packages and be returned to financial aid, 10% will be allocated to administrative use, 7% to the Student Tech Services Helpdesk, 1.5% for the Open Computing Facility and the rest will fund student software licenses and project grants.

Coined Protecting the Checks and Balances of the ASUC Constitution, the referendum amends ASUC Judicial Council attendance requirements from at least 30% to at least 40% of regular meetings, permitting unexcused absences granted they do not exceed 30% of all regular meetings. Council members will no longer be removed if they miss the semester’s first meeting.

The referendum further aims to decrease conflicts of interest by extending standards practiced by the Judicial Council to the Elections Council, including the inability of members to serve in other ASUC offices or positions. This acts to protect both councils from partisan politics that have long been emblematic of the ASUC as the councils can no longer be accused of being partisan to any party or candidate.

Jedidiah Tsang, chief of staff for the ASUC executive vice president and primary proponent of the referendum, said he is “thrilled” by the outcome. Voters, he added, “resonated with the ideals of protecting the most important oversight bodies of the ASUC.”

The Daily Cal Initiative fee will replace the current Ink Initiative fee and allow the publication, which is currently in its 150th year of production, to continue operating independently for years to come. The fee is $6 per semester subject to a $0.50 annual inflation adjustment and $2.50 during the summer with one-third allocated to financial aid and applies to all undergraduate and graduate students.

Ending in summer 2026, the fee would financially support the Daily Cal in growing its online capacities and maintaining its weekly production and distribution of free papers across the campus and greater Berkeley area.

Staff writers Sebastian Cahill and Jasper Kenzo Sundeen contributed to this report.

Maxine Mouly is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @moulymaxine.