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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Referendum for mandatory fee is struck down by student body

This past week, students at the University of Massachusetts Boston were allowed to vote in elections for Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), as well as vote for two referendum questions regarding fees.

The second referendum question on the ballot was proposed by the Office of International and Transnational Affairs regarding a mandatory fee that would go towards a scholarship for prospective study abroad students. It proposed instituting a mandatory fee of $5.00 a semester, which would then be pooled together and allocated to students applying for study abroad programs.

The Office of International and Transnational Affairs wished to implement this fee to encourage more students to apply to study abroad programs. This university values global involvement and the office hoped that by facilitating the creation of the scholarship more students would get the opportunity to travel.  

Vice Provost Schuyler S. Khorban approached the USG in December to get feedback on this referendum question and permission to get it on the ballot. He met with the current President Kayla Worthey, newly elected President Ignacio Chaparro, newly re-elected Student Trustee Nolan OBrien and Justice Manuel Castro. All four of these students agreethat UMass Boston should have a stronger global presence but that a mandatory fee was not the way to go.

They unanimously fought the motion to add the question to the ballot.

I agree with Dr. Khorbans ideas for the necessity of the increased global presence of UMass Boston students. However, I think that instituting a mandatory fee in this way would set a dangerous precedent, Nolan OBrien said.

The panel suggested a variety of other options to counter the motion of instituting a mandatory fee. Various student organizations such as Mass Media and MassPIRG have a waivable fee that students can choose to pay in support of these clubs. While numbers fluctuate every year, approximately 47 percent of students choose to pay these waivable fees.

That is not a disheartening statistic. But despite the unanimous agreement from the USG representatives to exclude this question from the ballot, they were surprised and angered to find the question on the ballot when elections came up.

Dr. Khorban was a strong advocate for the proposed fee because he believes it would encourage an upsurge of students involved in study abroad programs, which would in turn strengthen the university’s curriculum in the field.

Because of his view, and despite the USG’s adamant disapproval of putting the question on the ballot, Dr. Khorban appealed to the Graduate Student Assembly.  The Graduate Student Assembly expressed their approval for the motion, and got the necessary fifty signatures, which solidified the question’s place on the ballot.

Newly elected student President Ignacio Chaparro weighed in on the subject. He says that while studying abroad is becoming a more viable and popular option, only a small percentage of students will benefit from a fee. And according to Chaparro, “we are fundamentally against the idea of raising the mandatory fee for our constituents.

It appears that the majority of students agree with USG on this: polls are in, and the highly disputed referendum failed to pass, falling just four votes short of a majority.