The Social Justice Referendum: A Quick Breakdown

*This post is part of a series on the Social Justice Referendum on the ballot for the 2016 USAC Elections at UCLA. The posts in this series are intended to showcase the different services the referendum will fund. Today’s post features a breakdown of the different entities the referendum will support. For more information on the referendum and how it will benefit students please visit www.socialjusticebruins.com. To vote YES on the referendum please visit my.ucla.edu.*

 

“For the price of only 6 cups of coffee, we can improve the lives of all students at UCLA.” (From the Social Justice Referendum website.)

 

This week (May 2 to May 6), UCLA students have the opportunity to vote in the USAC elections through MyUCLA. During the election, students will also be able to vote for a number of measures that are on this year’s USAC ballot, including the Social Justice Referendum (SJR).

What is SJR? First, it might be helpful to clarify the definition of social justice itself. According to the Oxford Dictionary, social justice is “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” The principles of social justice are what distinguish–and ultimately make crucial–this referendum and the resources that it seeks to support. SJR proposes an increase of $24.99 per quarter in student fees effective Fall Quarter 2016.

The specific breakdown of what these new student fees go toward is described on the official USAC ballot. Here are summaries of some of the key components of SJR and the services that it would benefit:

  • The Campus Retention Committee (CRC): for services that help students with historically low retention rates to graduate. These services include peer counseling, the test bank, the Writing Success Program, commuter vans, and other services that are also available to the entire student body.
  • Cultural and Recreational Affairs (CRA): to increase the Wooden Center’s hours to 24-hours a day, all week, to accommodate all students’ schedules and enable them to prioritize fitness.
  • Community Activities Commission (CAC): to adequately fund nearly 100 service organizations.
  • Student-Initiated Outreach Committee (SIOC): for K-14 support that includes tutoring and guidance to help students from under-resourced communities develop the potential to become future Bruins.
  • Academic Advancement Program (AAP): to continue peer-to-peer learning support services.
  • Community Programs Office (CPO): to maintain the Food Closet, a resource that seeks to abolish food insecurity for Bruins.

These integral services are at risk of being drastically cut or possibly shut down altogether if this referendum does not pass. Even if some of these services do not immediately register as familiar to you from the ballot language, it is likely that you have used at least one of them or that you know someone who has. As many as 1 out of every 3 Bruins will have used these services at some point during their time at UCLA. 

Referenda have a history on UCLA’s campus as keeping critical services alive when their counterparts have had to go under. In 2009, for example, students passed PLEDGE– a referendum similar to SJR — in order to respond to the elimination of many campus-wide services in the wake of the devastating 2008 recession. While programs funded by university money–like peer tutoring in Covel Commons (which included writing, math, and science support)–shut down due to lack of funding, programs protected by the referendum–like WSP–survived. In other words, referenda money is protected. It is dedicated to the services that were originally supposed to receive it, and cannot be funneled elsewhere or touched by the university. So when the UCLA administration, as part of a post-recession cutback, asked each academic department on campus to re-evaluate their major requirements and reduce the number of required courses (which is why the curricula are so different today than they were just a decade ago), they could ask for no such cuts from referenda-protected services.

These programs face drastic cuts due to increasing financial pressures, such as an increase in minimum wage (a measure we support and must adjust to make happen).  Furthermore, there are many student needs that currently go unaddressed, including evening childcare services for parenting students.  As a result, a new referendum is the ideal solution to maintain crucial services and to provide funding for services that don’t already exist.

With that said, your support is needed in order to ensure that ALL Bruins for years to come have access to services that intend it help them graduate as empowered student leaders. The cost of SJR ultimately comes back to you tenfold, if you think about it. For example, a typical hour-long private tutoring session generally costs about $60. For about that same price, you’d have an entire year’s worth of nearly unlimited sessions with highly qualified peer-learning facilitators and counselors. And this is only one of many, many services that SJR would allow to thrive. 

So please take a moment to look into the details of SJR, and encourage your friends to do so as well! Visit MyUCLA to #BeAboutSJR and vote YES! Any and all of your support helps.

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