U denies democratic reform

 

On April 2, campus elections will be held — student government leaders and various referenda will be on the ballot. Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota charges the Student Unions and Activities board and the All-Campus Elections Committee with denying students the right to vote democratically on three referenda put forth legitimately by the students of our organization.

On March 2, SDS submitted the only petition for referenda to be put on the April 2 ballot. This petition had over 600 student signatures, far exceeding the 450 required to bring the referenda to a vote. The referenda addressed student concerns about rising administrative costs at the expense of our valuable staff and faculty, asking that administration take 5 to 15 percent pay cuts that be reinvested in our education.

In addition, one referendum would have students vote on future tuition and fee increases at the University. This submission was denied due to what was deemed “vague language” by ACEC. It was given a new deadline for a rewritten petition, as well as an additional 450 new student signatures. Using the guidelines clearly established and communicated with ACEC, our members in SDS rewrote the referenda with approved language. SDS then set about getting the 450 signatures needed for the new petition in less than two days after students returned to campus following spring break. On March 20, SDS resubmitted its referenda with 471 student signatures on its petition.

Four days later, SDS received an email from ACEC again denying the referendums for placement on the April 2 ballot. The reason given this time was their inability to verify the signatures of the petition as current University students, despite the petition having all signatures include x500s, which identify each signer as a student of the University.

In denying these referenda, which SDS gathered over 900 signatures in total in support of, placement on the student ballot, SUA and the ACEC are denying students the right to vote on a referendum students legitimately put forth for placement on the ballot. The claims being made in order to deny students a vote have not been proven. SDS believes the burden of proof cannot be met by University officials; thus, they are interfering with students’ democratic rights and denying us the right to vote.

 SDS believes when students act in accordance with the guidelines of the University but are denied their right to vote on referenda denied without substantiated claims, the University is in fact interfering with students’ democratic rights. Our referenda offer a democratically transformed vision of our University, where students in the future would have the power to vote on fee and tuition increases. Administration would share the financial and working burdens placed on our outstanding front line staff and faculty. We must conclude that University administration does not put students first when, amidst the bureaucracy, we encounter denial of democratic reforms put forth by students.

In his March 18 letter in the Star Tribune, President Eric Kaler claimed that he has a “single focus in mind: what is best for our students.” Clearly his administration’s vision of what’s best for students is to silence their voices and their votes. In doing so, we’re seeing failure of the principles of enlightenment, education and excellence this institution claims to stand for.

SDS hereby publicly demands the attention of our community to the administration’s denial of student attempts to democratically reform and improve the University. The narrative put forth by administration is one that incorrectly speaks on students’ behalf.

If our efforts are denied access by the existing structure, we are forced to take our actions beyond such structure to continue the fight. Let students vote on transformations that would fundamentally reimagine our University as a more democratic institution.