UF's Supreme Court weighs 3 referendums


Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 1:15 a.m.
University of Florida students may see three referendums on the ballot during the Student Government elections at the end of February.
Questions asking students if they support an extra fee to help pay for renewable energy programs, a student-run homeless shelter and a student-run coffee shop on campus are all being reviewed by the UF Supreme Court to determine if they will appear on this semester's ballot, Supervisor of Elections Brian Aungst said.
Referendums simply affirm the opinion of the student body regarding a specific issue.
As such, there's no guarantee that what they propose will actually materialize even if passed by those students who vote.
"A referendum is basically a poll," Student Body President John Boyles said. "It asks a question of the student body."
The two questions on last semester's ballot - supporting an on-campus Moe's and a students-only tailgating section of campus - passed with a resounding majority.
However, despite heavy student support, neither issue has received much consideration since the fall election.
Proponents of a certain issue can use a referendum to support a cause much like a Student Senate resolution, Aungst said, but similarly it is nonbinding.
On the other hand, initiatives, which also appear on the ballot, have the ability to become Student Government law if passed.
"The good thing about this is that the people proposing the referendum are committed to a cause," Aungst said. "So, it's not a political motive."
Brendan Moore is president of Gators for a Sustainable Campus, which is sponsoring the renewable energy referendum that will ask students if they support the creation of a 50-cents-per-credit-hour fee that will be used to support energy efficiency projects on campus.
"I think that having a referendum is a good way to show the people who make the decisions that there is student support," Moore said.
"A lot of other state universities in the South are in the process of getting these kind of fees together. It's a really good way for students to have a personal connection to making a difference," he said.
Besides the sustainability referendum, UF graduate student David Reznik and the sociology class that he teaches are sponsoring a referendum that will ask students if UF should allocate funds to support a student-run homeless shelter in Gainesville. It also asks if UF should require all incoming students to visit the shelter as a part of the "Preview" orientation.
The third referendum supports the creation of a coffee shop on campus that would be fully owned and run by students for the "benefit" of students.
This referendum was not submitted as a question, and thus may not pass muster with UF's Supreme Court, student officials said.
Supporters of each of the three proposed questions gathered signatures from 1 percent of the student body, or 500 signatures.
The official deadline for UF's Supreme Court to make a decision on all three referendums is Feb. 13. Student Government elections are scheduled for Feb. 27-28.

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