According to UCR Policies, a referendum is a way for students to initiate a self-assessed fee in support of a registered student organization, student government, or other campus program. They must stand to benefit the student population as a whole, and not just the interests of any one specific organization.
The referendum document must involve information such as a title to refer to it by, a necessitated beginning line, an introduction, history, current services and current form of funding of the organization. The necessary submissions required for referendum approval are: the return to aid provision, student governance of the new fee, specifics of government structure and how they will govern that fee, when the fee will begin and ballot language which is basically a summary of the referendum to be worded for the election ballot.
According to Brendan O’Brien, the current Interim Executive Director of the Associated Students of UCR, before the referendum makes it to the election ballot, it has to gain approval through various levels of management. Starting with “Senate approval, it then moves to UCR and the University of California, Office of the President, then the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, then the Vice Chancellor of Planning, Budget, and Administration for budgetary review and approval, who then forwards it to the UCR Chancellor, then the UCOP Budget and Analysis and Planning Department, who finally sends it to the UCOP President who reviews it and sends a letter of approval to the UCR Chancellor.”
O’Brien does state there are a few shortcomings to the current instructions and that the Senate is working to streamline these processes and revise the instructions to make them more clear to students. Outside of the instructions that are provided, there is no designated staff to assist in the process because it can be a potential conflict of interest, but that they are considering hosting workshops and advertising more for the upcoming year to assist interested parties in interpreting the instructions and to formulate a successful referendum. They plan on clearly stating the turnaround time for each step in the process so that departments and organizations on campus can submit referendums with sufficient time for approval.
O’Brien states having high hopes for the future of the referendum process. “I just think that the threshold for approval is really high. This stuff is taken seriously by the Senate. It’s taken seriously by the campus. It’s not easy by design, but I do believe that ASUCR can revise or at least be more transparent with the process to help people with it and to give them the information that they need. I think that’s something that is going to be worked on this summer. It’s definitely in my notes for the next executive director to manage. I really would encourage students who are interested or concerned to come to Senate meetings, Wednesday at seven. They always start with public comment and it’s a great opportunity to speak directly to those that are representing your interests.”