UCSB students have been voicing their concerns and dissatisfaction with the recently proposed UCen renovation initiative. The UCen renovation ballot measure is a $48 million dollar project aimed at renovating the UCen to provide for an increase in 24-hour study spaces, more classrooms for CLAS, and more meeting rooms for student organizations and clubs. The measure requires a simple majority (50 percent + 1 of voters) to pass.
When the initiative was first introduced, students were concerned with the projected increase in student fees. The projected fee for the UCEN Renovation will begin in Fall 2018 at $21.54 per quarter and the rate will last for four years. The new facility is expected to open in Fall 2022 and the fee will then escalate to $99.61 per quarter until the debt is retired, which is expected to be in 2052, according to Le.
Recently, there have also been criticisms against the Associated Students President Office and its methods of gathering signatures, which includes not mentioning the increase in student fees and soliciting drunk students.
Justice Dumlao, a former member of the Associated Students Queer Commission and current member of the Isla Vista Party, started a Facebook event entitled “The Truth about the UCen Renovation” to levy charges against the AS President Office’s alleged misconduct with the UCEN Renovation petition. Dumlao describes “the people who have been petitioning for this project have been using coercive language/behavior to get people to sign.”
Dumlao, a second year global studies major, alleged that AS President Hieu Le has not been completely transparent with the student body. Dumlao describes the petitions have “conveniently been leaving out the fact that this WILL raise your student fees, especially interesting because that is the opposite of Hieu’s platform.”
Dumlao bases his charges against the AS president office through various eyewitness accounts, as well as “a video of a Snapchat from a party.” He opposes the petition on the account that it will raise student fees, and he clarifies that “I love the idea of renovation, I just dislike that students are going to pay for it.”
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Le addressed the issue of an increase in student fees with the fact that “Although it does increase student fees, it outlines a comprehensive plan to address some of the longstanding needs of our student body,” referring to the failure of the current UCen to accommodate the expected increase in future student enrollment at UCSB.
Celine Washington, a third year communications major, claims that “The people behind this campaign have been going around, sober, asking drunk students to sign.” Moreover, Washington claims to have heard of “the petition being left next to the sign-in sheet at the AS Food Bank, where it can very conveniently be mistaken for a necessity or written off as a minor thing.” Staff from the Food Bank have not responded to requests for comment.
In response to these allegations, Le states that “Our process has the highest standards of integrity and gives students the freedom and opportunity to decide whether or not they want to sign the petition to be able to put this on the ballot. We have been following a process outlined by elections code and will continue to follow them and any allegations made against us is flat out not true.”
Elections Board, which oversees the spring quarter elections process and associated grievances, declined to comment for this story.
“We have partnered with big donors who will raise funds to reduce the total costs of the project,” stated Le. In addition, the ballot explains that “this proposal has a built-in return-to-aid component, with almost $40 million in financial aid available to be returned to eligible students to subsidize the fee increase.”
During AS Senate’s final Winter 2018 meeting, Dumlao shared the livestream on Facebook with a caption that included “we can’t let politicans [sic] lie to our faces like this,” criticizing Le’s transparency.
“I have not personally seen any evidence of coercion,” said James Ferraro, the community outreach coordinator for Community Affairs Board (CAB). Ferraro is a strong opponent of Le’s UCen renovation initiative, and he has been building a case against the petition ever since its conception.
Ferraro argues that since the ballot language is long, and without the signature gatherers explicitly mentioning it, some students fail to notice the increase in student fees. As a result, when the ballot is live on GOLD in April, students might find themselves uninformed if they don’t take the time to read the ballot carefully.
Ferraro described the project as “an egregious increase student fees with extremely limited input from the student body. The process for collecting signatures is claiming to be ‘educational,’ yet my contention is that the political views of those volunteering and getting paid to collect signatures (AS Student Staff) are inextricable from the way they describe the project.” Jazman Garrett, the AS Administration office coordinator, told The Bottom Line that she does not have any first-hand knowledge of the incident.
Ferraro clarified in an email to The Bottom Line that managers of part-time staff told student staffers “they collect signatures while at work if there was no other work to be done.” Staff were not forced to. He noted that he did not see this happen firsthand, but was “privy to the message to managers of student staff.”
“All I want is for [Le] to admit what he is doing and change the method. The fact that he ran on lowering student fees and is now trying to raise them is a testament to how we can’t trust the things he says,” said Dumlao.
“Students deserve to weigh in on this issue and to determine democratically what the future of our campus is going to be,” Le said. Voting on GOLD begins Apr. 23.
This article has been updated with more information.