The Undergraduate Student Government Senate voted to give students the power to pass referendums at the weekly Senate meeting Tuesday night.
Senator Daniel Newman proposed two amendments to the referendum proposal, which had been introduced by Senator Sabrina Enriquez two weeks prior.
By the original language of Enriquez’s proposal, any referendum must be approved by USG’s Judicial Council, bear signatures from 10 percent of the undergraduate student body, be affirmed by two-thirds of the Senate, and be passed by a majority vote of students.
Newman suggested establishing a threshold that referendums must be voted on by at least 25 percent of the student body to be passed, due to concerns that low voter turnout could result in a referendum being passed by an insignificant fraction of students.
Enriquez responded that worries over low voter turnout were unfounded, given that there is no threshold in place for general USG elections, though USG wields an immense amount of control over student policies.
“The concern was, ‘What if two people in the entire University voted on it? Should they be able to make the decision?’” Enriquez said. “To that, I would say that if two people were also the only two people to vote on every Senator and President and Vice President of USG who later appoint so much staff, which in all amounts to 2.56 million of student fees, then we have a much greater issue on our hands.”
Senator Paul Samaha also raised concerns that the amendment would establish too high of a barrier to passing referendums, given that voter turnout has declined to near 30 percent in recent years.
The Senate ultimately voted to pass the referendum proposal without the suggested amendments.
Senators Tingyee Chang and Daniel Million, who had not been allowed to participate in last week’s Senate meeting as a consequence of failing to pass a parliamentary procedure test, expressed concerns that they had been disenfranchised without due process. To address those grievances, Senators decided to allow one retake, after which a Senator who did not pass would have to meet with the USG Parliamentarian.