This story was updated Feb. 3 to clarify that the scholarship would be implemented the 2022-2023 academic year if passed.
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) discussed holding a student referendum — which is a vote from the student body — to decide on whether or not ASI can grant scholarships to all student government members, according to a Jan. 11 ASI Board of Directors workshop.
The goal of the scholarship bill is to provide financial support to student government members and allow for more diversity within ASI.
If the ASI Board of Directors votes to move forward with the referendum, then the scholarship bill would also have to be approved by President Jeffrey Armstrong.
During the meeting, the board discussed the importance of educating the students on the scholarship bill if, in fact, students have to vote to approve it.
“There is going to be a large and extensive amount of work done to educate the student body,” ASI Board of Directors Chair Tess Loarie said.
Loarie discussed the need for an entire educational campaign in the case of a student vote to answer student questions and clear any misconceptions. This educational campaign would possibly include focus groups, information sessions and ASI members speaking at club meetings to inform students on the referendum process.
Loarie said that although many board members have already voiced strong opinions in favor of the scholarship bill, they would need to focus their campaign on educating the student body instead of persuading them to vote a certain way.
“We’re not necessarily out there saying you have to vote this certain way, but we want you to vote in an educated way,” Loarie said. “If that’s a ‘no’ then that’s completely valid and if that’s a ‘yes’ then that’s also completely valid.”
The board also discussed the timeline of holding the possible referendum — they may schedule it to be at the same time as spring elections this year or postpone it to next school year.
“Every day that passes it becomes more and more difficult for the reality of this happening in spring quarter because of the amount of work that needs to get done,” ASI University Union Director Michelle Crawford said.
If the referendum is unable to proceed alongside this spring’s already scheduled elections, it may need to be postponed until the following school year. Despite whether the referendum is held this spring or during next school year, the scholarships provided to ASI members would not be implemented until the 2022-2023 school year.
A few board members voiced their support for delaying the referendum vote until next fall due to the difficulty of pushing for a referendum during the height of the pandemic and while many board members are occupied with their re-election campaigns.
“I trust the next board to still have similar goals in terms of providing scholarships,” board member Alexander Ameri said in support of holding the referendum in the fall.
ASI passed a student referendum in 2016 with a large scale education campaign that cost about $30,000. However, Crawford is confident that if the board were to move forward with the referendum of the scholarships bill, ASI would be able to run an effective educational campaign with a cost of about $5,000.
As of now, the ASI Board of Directors has not voted to hold a referendum for the scholarships bill. However the board’s last chance to vote for a referendum to be included in the spring elections is at the Feb. 17 Board of Directors meeting, according to Crawford.
A referendum may not be needed
During the ASI Board of Directors workshop on Jan. 19, Loarie announced that the CSU system recently launched an investigation into the implementation of scholarships for student government members among all 23 campuses.
The findings from the CSU investigation will determine how ASI could possibly alter their bylaws to implement scholarships.
As of now, the only way to pass scholarships for student government members is to pass a student-body referendum or adding the board members to the payroll and making them ASI employees.
“It’s just frustrating because they basically said, there’s a bunch of rules you have to follow to implement scholarships, but we don’t know what the rules are yet,” Loarie said.
In addition to the CSU investigation, ASI’s general counsel is looking into the legality of the scholarship implementation. General counsel is looking back to ASI mandates from the late 1960s for guidance on how to comply with Title 5 regulations in implementing scholarships, according to ASI Associate Executive Director Dwanye Brummet.
General counsel’s current investigation revolves around understanding what constitutes a referendum.
A referendum is a student-body-wide vote through a secret ballot on a certain issue.
“The word referendum to a certain extent has some ambiguity,” Loarie said. “Does it mean a student-body-wide referendum? Is it hosting listening sessions? Is the board voting considered a referendum?”
As of now there is no timeline for either the CSU investigation or the internal investigation by ASI general counsel.
Loarie also announced in the Jan. 19 Board of Directors workshop that in the next few weeks, staff members and officers will be putting together a comprehensive campus-wide feedback plan including surveying data, listening sessions and feedback sessions on the student’s appeal to the scholarships bill.
Whether or not the bill is on the ballot during the spring elections, the board will continue to research and promote the bill, to ensure that the student-body is educated on this matter, according to Loarie.
“I just want to let everybody know that we’re still putting in the work and the bill is not going to die,” Loarie said.