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Election Dissection 2018: Student Events Initiative Referendum and Campus Recreation Enhancement Fund Plebiscite

Should the Student Events Initiative referendum pass? What about the Campus Recreation Enhancement Fund plebiscite? The Students’ Union elections can be confusing, but the election dissection panel is here to help. This is part one of a feature series where three Students’ Union experts analyze each race of the 2018 elections based on the candidates’ platforms, Q&A’s and forum performances. Opinions expressed by the panelists do not reflect those of The Gateway.


Meet the panel:

Mitchell Sorensen was The Gateway‘s staff reporter for the 2015-16 year and online editor for the 2016-17 year. He is also the host of The Sorensen Report, a Gateway video series that unpacks each forum of the SU elections. He also prides himself on always correctly predicting which candidates will win.

Cody Bondarchuk was the head of Safewalk before becoming the Students’ Union vice-president (operations & finance) for the 2015-16 year. He ran for president in 2016, but lost that race. Bondarchuk has since graduated and is a great go-to for information about all things SU.

As an international student in engineering, Rabib Alam was the president of the HUB Community Association before running for Students’ Union vice-president (student life) in 2017. Alam lost that race and has since graduated from the Faculty of Engineering. He’s now a seasoned expert on international student and residence issues at the U of A.


Meet the candidates:

The Student Events Initiative referendum is asking students to pay $8.25 per semester until 2020 (when theatre renovations will be complete), and then $16.50 per semester after 2020, to fund renovations to the Myer Horowitz Theatre. The initiative would also fund $100,000 in student group grants to host events on campus, as well as $100,000 in programming on campus, including potentially bringing big acts like Drake and Bernie Sanders to the Myer Horowitz Theatre, according to “yes” side spokesperson Daria Nordell. Finally the initiative would include renovations to lower SUB, including an industrial kitchen, as well as a new entrance from Engineering quad by the loading dock on the first floor. Read more about the initiative here.

The Campus Recreation Enhancement Fund plebiscite is asking students if they want to continue paying $4.10 per semester (fall, winter, spring, and summer) to support the fund that distributes $290,000 per year in grant funding for recreation at the U of A.


The Dissection:

Student Events Initiative

Bondarchuk said he’s disappointed to see this referendum on the table. When he was vice-president (operations & finance), he claims senior management of the Students’ Union promised the executive that students would not pay another cent for a renovation until the fees for the PAW centre and the atrium had been paid off.

Bondarchuk added that at the time, they were receiving proposals for what the theatre could look like, and the cost is now triple what they projected at that time.

The different aspects of the initiative should be split into different referendums, Bondarchuk said, because he likes the idea of student grants and a professional kitchen, but seeing them lumped in with the theatre renovation, which he thinks is way too expensive, is frustrating.

“By wrapping student group granting into it it’s kind of like extortion,” he said. “Cause they’re saying, ‘Well if you vote no then students aren’t going to get their grants.’”

Sorensen agreed with Bondarchuk, but said he still thinks it will pass.

“There isn’t a braintrust of Students’ Union people coming out against it,” he said. “Nobody in the elections says it’s a bad idea. The presidential platforms are being written as if it’s already a thing that’s happening, which is a bit concerning.”

“It’s almost like there was a box on their nomination sheet asking them if they support the Student Initiative to be able to run,” Bondarchuk said.

Alam expressed concern about what he sees as a lack of transparency about how the fee breaks down, as well as how useful the renovated theatre would be to students.

“I would vote for it 100 per cent if it was going completely to student grants and funding and more awards,” he said. “But since there is that lack of information about how much Myer Horowitz is actually going to benefit students, I’m very undecided.”

Should it pass?

No — two votes

Undecided — one vote

Will it pass?

Yes — three votes

Campus Recreation Enhancement Fund Plebiscite

The panel saw this as a straightforward vote.

“The people at CREF are lovely,” Bondarchuk said. “And I like this program.”

He added that the fund is used for a lot of diverse programs including dodgeball, recreation trips, new equipment, and dance classes.

Alam said he worked with CREF administrators when he was involved in HUB and that CREF funded the renovation to their fitness centre.

“The kind of initiatives this money goes towards, they’re pretty great,” he said. “So I see this actually being very beneficial for the whole student body.”

Should pass?

Yes — three votes

Will pass?

Yes — three votes

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