This post was updated on May 11 at 10:50 p.m.
Students voted this week to approve a referendum that will create a transfer representative seat within the undergraduate student government.
The transfer representative referendum, which was placed on the spring election ballot after a unanimous vote by the Undergraduate Students Association Council earlier this quarter, will create a new USAC position to directly represent transfer students, who make up about one third of the undergraduate student body.
Students approved the referendum with 74.4 percent of the vote after four days of online voting this week. Because the ballot measure would change the USAC constitution, two thirds of voting students needed to approve it to pass.
Such a position is unprecedented because the transfer representative will be the only USAC office that represents a specific student constituency rather than the entire student body.
“I’m just so excited right now,” said third-year political science and transfer student Alyssa Nunez after the results were announced in Bruin Plaza Friday. “We put almost no money into this campaign, and we really just wanted to let the numbers speak for themselves. Clearly this is something students really wanted.”
Nicole Fossier, the student group liaison for the Internal Vice President’s office, said she thought the vote would be much closer than it turned out to be.
Supporters of creating the new position said it is necessary to adequately represent the large number of transfer students on campus.
Multiple USAC offices hold programs for transfer students, but supporters of the new position said these programs are not sufficient for a group that makes up such a large portion of the student body.
Nunez said she hopes the position will be able to co-program with other USAC offices to put on better events for transfers that will cater to their most relevant issues, such as transportation for commuters and improving the summer transfer orientation.
Some students expressed opposition to the transfer amendment in the past on the grounds that a special election would cost too much money for an office that would be up for re-election again in the same year.
Additionally, next year’s council will now have an even number of voting members, which could possibly lead to a deadlocked tie vote. However, USAC presidents usually do not vote unless a tie needs to be broken, so if USAC president-elect Devin Murphy follows tradition, a tie will not occur unless a councilmember abstains from the vote.
Because the USAC bylaws and constitution do not specify how a newly created position should be filled, the new council will have to set a new procedure.
The new position will be filled by a special election. The exact timing of such a special election is unclear, but supporters hope the election will be held early during fall quarter.
Nunez said she does not know how slate politics will affect future campaigns for the transfer representative position, but she said she hopes independent candidates are not discouraged from running because of the potential for slated opposition.
Election Board adviser Kris Kaupalolo said a special election could cost around $6,000, which would be about the equivalent the board spent on the spring election. However, Kaupalolo also said it is difficult to estimate the actual cost of a special election because preparations have not yet begun and he is not aware of the costs of any previous USAC special elections.
In addition to the monetary costs of running a special election, USAC may need to appoint a special Election Board to oversee the special election. The terms of the current Election Board members expire after the regular USAC elections.
According to the USAC bylaws, the council must select an Election Board chair before the first week of fall quarter. However, some councilmembers have said this deadline is not feasible, and previous councils have missed it by months.
This year’s council appointed Anthony Padilla as Election Board chair in January, and the rest of the board was appointed a month later.
The transfer representative will be a full-voting member of USAC and will receive a $672 stipend like all other councilmembers. The representative will have to assemble a staff after the special election in the fall, months after other USAC offices fill their staff positions.