Sustainability referendum passes with 80 percent approval

Students also voted to continue funding ASUM.
Megan Stroup / Graphic Designer

Referendums to create a sustainability student fee and continue the Associated Students of the University of Missouri's funding passed both undergraduate and graduate voters over the course of the last week.

The sustainability referendum, which will add $1 to student fees for sustainability projects and education, passed the graduate students' vote with 68 percent of the vote and passed the undergraduates' vote with 82 percent for it. Combined, 80 percent supported the fee and 20 percent voted against it.

"I'm excited at the degree of support the sustainability referendum received," Missouri Students Association Senate Speaker Jonathan Mays said. "I expected it to pass, but getting 80 percent is a pleasant surprise."

The new funding for sustainability projects and education opens up new opportunities for Sustain Mizzou.

"Primarily, we're going to have a lot more help educating students about sustainability because of the sustainability fee," Sustain Mizzou President Pat Margherio said.

The funds collected from the new fee won't go directly to Sustain Mizzou. However, Margherio said the organization will work with the administration on how the money's spent.

"The fee gives us a lot of new possibilities," Margherio said. "Eventually, it may give us the ability to start up a bike rental place or institute student-run gardens around campus. Sooner than that though, I'd like to work with computer labs, educating students on more efficient ways to print and so on."

Although undergraduate voting finished Feb. 11, the Board of Elections Commissioners withheld the results of the vote until graduate voting ended a week later, on Wednesday. BEC Chairman Dan Kelley said graduates voted separately because their fees were assessed differently.

Even with the new sustainability fee, undergraduate fees will still decrease next year by 34 cents. Graduates won't experience the same cutbacks in fees and will therefore be accepting an increase in student fees. Because of this, the referendum was worded slightly differently on graduates' ballots.

"Over 2,200 undergrads voted on the referendum and, fortunately, those votes are submitted on a voting site and don't have to be counted by us," Kelley said. "However, we had to manually count the 550 graduate votes because they were submitted by e-mail and that took about three and a half hours."

Mays said the vote was also conducted separately for graduates and undergraduates because the Student Fee Review Committee requested totals for each group of students.

"Typically, we just open the voting site and tally votes from both graduates and undergrads all together, which has always seemed odd to me," Mays said. "I think it makes sense to track the votes separately so we know, for instance, how many graduates voted for the new student center or Student (Recreation) Complex."

Also on the referendum ballot was a vote to continue ASUM's funding level at $1 per student per semester. The vote passed the graduate students' vote with 69 percent voting to continue the organization's funding and passed the undergraduates' vote with 76 percent for it. Combined, 75 percent supported it and 25 percent voted against it.

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