Print Edition: January 21, 2015
So, have you heard about the new referendum?
It’s hard to assess the degree a message is able to saturate the student community at UFV, but generally speaking, it’s hard earth to water around here. For that reason, information must be clear, informative, and almost excessively distributed … especially when it’s necessary to make an informed decision on a proposed new fee.
From January 25 to 29 on myUFV, the Student Union Society (SUS) will hold a referendum asking students to pay an extra fee adjustable for inflation.
According to a December 24 press release which was never sent to the student press but is available on SUS’s website, the referendum question will be:
“Do you support the creation of a student technical support (IT) service for $4.98 per semester, adjustable for CPI inflation?”
This information is not available in its entirety on any other promotional material distributed by SUS about the referendum since, which includes two posters and two short Facebook posts. There are no tweets from the SUS Twitter account about the referendum. Furthermore, neither of the posters calls this a referendum. The main poster being distributed is called the “UFV Student IT Support Centre Proposal” and makes no indication that a new fee will be created in the same way we pay fees for inter-campus shuttle services and the Student Union Building (SUB) in addition to the main SUS fee.
To be fair, there were tables around campus last week where students could ask questions of SUS representatives about the IT services “proposal,” but mainly it seemed these were to push a certain side of the story: the one that stresses students use technology and therefore there should be technology services provided by the student union, the one that says this will be cheaper than going to Best Buy to chat with the Geek Squad, the one that says VOTE YES.
There are two main referendum strategies one can use to ensure the result goes a certain way. One is to enable ignorance, the other to pump up the positives. SUS has decided to use both. They enable ignorance by failing to provide appropriate, detailed, unbiased information so students can make an educated choice. As for pumping up the positives, one only has to look at SUS’s main poster. The information about the “proposal” is a block of text to the right of the page and says students should check out the website for additional information. And granted, they did put the voting dates on an orange bar to make it stand out. But the prominent elements on the page are the images to the left showing a series of sad tech, and the orange semi-circle, reminiscent of a sunrise, at the bottom proclaiming:
“:) @ SUS IT Services!”
I would be surprised if most students had much of an idea that a referendum is even running. What SUS should be putting out is a poster which includes the actual referendum question, the voting dates, and a short description of the service. Having information tables is a good idea, but those tables should be focused on delivering information, not a sales pitch attempting to sway students who actually notice the table by making comparisons to corporate services.
SUS is right: it is cheaper to pay $5 per semester for a service I might possibly use someday in the event my laptop crashes at school, provided the next step after the “proposal” is approved is to hire people who know what they’re doing. But of all the services we could bring to campus, charging students a new fee for an IT repair station seems frivolous, especially considering the university offers several large computer labs for students without computers, as well as other resources at Educational Technology Services. I’d much rather see SUS turn its focus to really pressing for student engagement and serving student needs. If they really want to hold a referendum for another campus amenity, why not a small on-campus grocery store?
But whether or not you think there should be an IT service in the new SUB or anywhere else on campus, you should vote no in this referendum, because SUS clearly has no respect for your right to make an informed choice, or to be aware of the referendum at all.
Shortly after the issue was printed, SUS released a more comprehensive document with information on the IT Services referendum. You can find it here.