Charles Nailen/The Hoya Catie Sheehan (COL ’01) and Marty LaFalce (COL ’03) sponsored the proposal to add a student activities endowment and student activities fee.

In Friday’s fully online referendum and election, Georgetown students approved the GUSA student activities proposal and elected Ben Anderson (COL ’02) to fill the vacant junior representative seat. Despite a communication problem between GUSA and Saxa Server that required a modification of the online ballot, voter turnout averaged 25 percent.

According to Marty LaFalce (COL ’03), co-sponsor of the proposal, the text of the online ballot posted by Saxa Server did not accurately match the wording GUSA representatives approved in the Jan. 23 meeting. LaFalce immediately brought the mistake to Saxa Server’s attention, and he said the error was corrected before 10 a.m.

“We were very careful about the way we worded the proposal, and I don’t think Saxa Server totally realized that, but they were awesome about fixing the mistake as soon as we caught it,” LaFalce said. “I think the incorrect wording may have been why we were hit with more `no votes’ earlier in the day.”

Steve Schohn (COL ’02), a member of Saxa Server who worked with GUSA in setting up the election, said the mistake was remedied before two percent of the votes were received.

“We didn’t get together enough before the election and we were not aware of the time – the two and a half months – that went into the text,” he said.

Other GUSA officials suggested the significantly modified text scarcely reflected the proposal GUSA approved.

“I sent them exactly what was approved, and they put their own spin on it,” Will Cosmas (COL ’01), GUSA elections chair, said. “There was stuff about voting to show support for a tuition increase, which was never GUSA’s intention.”

Cosmas said he will meet with Martha Swanson, director of student programs and SAC chair Terry Platchek (COL ’01) to evaluate the merit of online voting in order to avoid any future “error of bias or impropriety.”

“People have no reason to be concerned, and we’ll probably still use online voting for the presidential election,” Cosmas said.

A total of 1,439 students participated in the referendum, 1,066 voted in favor of it, 350 voted against it and 60 students submitted blank ballots.

LaFalce said he was impressed with the student body involvement in the referendum, especially because the referendum was included in a special election.

“I was absolutely thrilled with the significant support from the students,” he said.

Because of the positive feedback from students, GUSA will present the proposal before the Main Campus Planning Committee on Friday and the board of directors later this month.

By establishing a student activities endowment fund and instituting a mandatory student activities fee, the proposal will earmark more than $3 million for student activities after one year. If the plan is approved, the university has pledged to continue to provide current levels of financial support for student activities. Budgets will be further augmented by alumni donations and the activities fee.

The student activities fee would be phased in over the course of three years, beginning in the 2001-02 academic year with $25 per semester and reaching its $50 maximum in 2003-04. According to GUSA, the fee will not exceed $50 per semester and the fee will decrease as the endowment grows. The fee will not increase the previously assessed household contribution for students already receiving financial aid from the university. The plan asks the university to designate $3 million of the $1 billion Third Century Campaign specifically for student activities.

In the junior GUSA representative race, Anderson received 67 votes, followed by Maurice Mark Castellano III (MSB ’02) with 51 and Dan Zwonitzer (COL ’02) with 40 . Anderson will replace Pat Hurley (SFS ’02) who is abroad this semester.

Anderson said he was very surprised with his win because he relied on word of mouth rather than advertisements and signs in the campaign. While he has no specific plans for his tenure as GUSA representative, he said he supports the student activities proposal.

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