During this year’s election, students not only voted for the new Associated Students Board of Directors, they voted on initiatives. While initiatives are usually sparse or non-existent on Western ballots, there were three this year.
The Water Bottle, Print Quota, and Transparency (Higher One) initiatives overwhelming passed in the student vote, but Western is not yet ready for their full implementation. The Board of Trustees must first review all three initiatives over summer before they are passed. In the meantime, several student sponsors of the initiatives paint a picture of the changes that would occur on campus and the future of Western.
Water Bottle Initiative
The Water Bottle Initiative, sponsored by members from Students for Sustainable Water, aims to end all bottled water sales on campus. The student voting population voted the initiative in by 73 percent.
Sophomore Carolyn Bowie is one sponsor of the Water Bottle Initiative. She said the main focus after banning bottled water sales would be to increase student access to clean drinking water through the purchase and installment of more hydration stations. Western purchased three of these stations under the Green Energy Fee for $25,000 in 2011.
“I believe at this point, it should be the responsibility of the administration to equip the campus for capacity for more refilling stations because it’s something that the students are demanding,” Bowie said.
Banning bottled water sales from vending machines on campus might pose a more difficult task because the machines are independently contracted, Bowie said.
Bowie said that she and Students for Sustainable Water will continue educating students on the exploitation and privatization of water resources, the healthiness of tap water, the inefficient and environmental impacts of the bottled water industry, as well as inform students water’s role as a human right.
Print Quota Initiative
The Print Quota Initiative calls for the installation of a new print-quota system at Western that will provide students with more accessible, generous printing rights. The initiative is sponsored by Bill Campbell, Mark Adrian Winters and Cynthia Jurado, and students passed it in the election with 80 percent.
Since the beginning of this year, students have been allowed 25 pages per quarter and can pay 5 cents per page over that limit. Starting this summer quarter, there will be no print quota, and students must pay 5 cents for each page they print.
Campbell said that a new print-quota system would need to be economically and environmentally solid. He said the most likely resulting quota would allow for 180-200 pages per quarter. While a means of dealing with the costs of the new system are not yet in play, Campbell said the most likely outcome would be a $3 adjustment to the Student Technology Fee. The Student Technology Fee is up for renewal in 2013.
“What we need to do now is make sure that the campus, our university administration, listens to what students want and listens to what student priorities are,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the fact that many majors utilize printing services in different amounts will need to be considered in the establishment of a new print-quota system.
“We want to be able to adjust fees in different majors and programs that have printing incorporated, such as computer science,” Campbell said.
Transparency (Higher One) Initiative
The Transparency initiative, also known as the Higher One Initiative, is also sponsored by Campbell, Adrian Winters and Jurando. It calls for two things: the first is the continuous evaluation of the Higher One financial aid refunding contract. The second is the assurance that university administrative decisions are made in the best interests of student priorities and needs, and that students are made aware of issues throughout the decision-making process. The initiative passed in the election with 79 percent.
Campbell said that the evaluation of the Higher One contract is important to making sure the university is promoting student interests, not business-related interests.
In the future, he said this entails renegotiating harmful contractual obligations with Higher One, such as the fees on swiping a Higher One card.
“We cannot just stand idly by and let ourselves have a bad contract with Higher One because we went into it too quickly and we’re afraid of what will happen if we try to confront this company,” Campbell said. “Student priorities come first and students have a voice, and they’ve made a statement about this voice.”
In ensuring transparent administrative decisions, Campbell said it is important to reconsider the way the university communicates with students and adapting new ways of implementing student involvement in university decisions.
“University administration needs to consider it a priority to consistently communicate with students on this campus,” Campbell said. “It’s not easy, but sometimes it’s not even considered.”
Initiating the Initiatives
Jurando said that the overwhelming student approval of the three initiatives shows how much students want their voices to be heard.
While she believes Western already has a good system in place, she said more student involvement with university issues and transparent decision-making process will improve the sense of community at Western.
“We have a lot of potential to grow and to become more unified and to make this campus be something quite phenomenal,” Jurando said. “I think that these initiatives are indicative of that.”