Struggle continues for PEIF pass

Lucy Hough

After 2,048 students voted last semester in favor of the campus recreation pass being added to tuition, some were surprised to find their tuition and fees for the Fall 2010 semester did not include the cost of a PEIF pass. Though NMU administration is making efforts now to see the pass through to fruition for all students, this comes after debate of whether the initial wording on the referendum ballot was confusing for students.

“I think when you get to money issues, you want to be clear. I didn’t want students walking in saying, ‘Well hold it, it was an advisory vote, now why are you charging me.’ I didn’t want to all of a sudden have a campus debate on was it real or was it not real,” said NMU president Les Wong.

The referendum process, which the PEIF pass initiative was a part of last semester, is a vote by students as to whether they are willing to increase their student activity fee or to increase tuition and fees for a student-related cause – like the PEIF pass for all students. Initiatives that are passed by a vote through referendum are then brought to the Board of Trustees. The PEIF initiative was never seen by the Board.

The wording as it was presented to students was thorough, detailing that students would be paying $50 a semester and informing students where the money would go if it passed. In addition, however, it also stated that the vote was non-binding, and that if it was passed, it didn’t necessarily mean that it would be passed as fact at NMU. Administrators felt that because this vote offered the non-binding proclamation and the others didn’t, though those are certainly non-binding votes as well, students might have voted for this one in particular as an advisory vote, not fact.

“I couldn’t help thinking that it was an advisory vote, that students weren’t saying, ‘Yep, go ahead and charge me the 50 dollars,’” Wong said

To rectify the situation, Wong asked ASNMU president Lucia Lopez this summer to prepare for an additional referendum this semester so that there wouldn’t be confusion if the charge were to be incurred by students. Though Lopez went forward with these plans, the ASNMU board voting August 23 to hold the referendum this semester, she was informed three days later that a vote would no longer be necessary.

“My old phrase that I use a lot is ‘better to have a plan and not need one then to need one and not have one,’” Wong said. “So I asked (ASNMU President) Lucia, maybe you can kind of set up everything and then, if you need it, you’re ready. If you don’t need it, then you thank everyone for their work.”

In deciding that a vote was no longer necessary, Wong said that Vice President of Finance Gavin Leach is working on a plan to implement the $50 into students’ tuition and fees by winter semester, that is if they haven’t already purchased the year-round pass. Specifics of this plan are unclear at this time as Leach was not available for comment.

I that the key point as I was thinking during my preparation for you was that everyone did the right thing, there was just that little hiccup but I think we’re going to get over that. So I hope students will be satisfied and we’ll see the service at the PEIF to be better,” Wong said. “That’s the nature of the university, you can get over the hiccups quickly.”

Lopez expressed concern that the vote was interrupted from being presented to the Board of Trustees by administration, especially when the result was overwhelming in the first place. She has said since that she is glad that administration has “come around.”

Efforts to add the PEIF pass to students’ tuition and fees have been ongoing for many years. Brian Gaudreau, associate director of programming for recreation sports, said that the key element to the initiative’s overwhelming success during referendum was the student groups’ passion for making it happen.

“I’ve learned a great deal about how important the student voice is, and I’m very proud of this group,” he said.

According to Gaudreau, if the initiative is passed for the fall semester, students will likely see the money returned to them in increased program and improved equipment. He said the assurance of $100 from each student every academic year will mean that income can be calculated at a time when rising costs and budgets cuts are uncertain.