Search this Site    --   FSM-A Home Page

FSM-A \ Free Speech Movement Archives FSM-A



     One of the most puzzling patterns of Administration action has been connected with the problem of compulsory ASUC. In 1955 the ASUC was made a compulsory organization as a result of a highly dubious election The reasons for making ASUC compulsory were, of course, financial. However, the consequences of compulsory membership were never made clear at the time.

     The June 22, 1960 issue of The Daily Californian announced that: "The Board of Regents last month authorized President Clark Kerr to end compulsory membership in the ASUC and make the Association voluntary if he felt such an act necessary." President Kerr has never acted upon this authorization. Moreover, since 1959, President Kerr has frequently used the accomplished fact of the compulsory nature of ASUC membership to deny the ASUC the power to express student opinion on political and social issues.

     Thus the compulsory nature of ASUC membership which was established by a questionable election and originally proposed as a solution to purely financial problems has provided a justification for administrative policies which have resulted in the effective elimination of student opinion on matters of political and social concern.

-- The Editor


     Up until 1955 the ASUC was a voluntary organization. The principal benefit of membership was the athletic privilege card. Other things (activities, vote in student government, etc.) were essentially fringe benefits. Since the number of students joining the ASUC varied from year to year, the revenues to be derived from sales of membership cards could not be predicted.

     In February 1955 the option on the land currently the site of the Student Union complex was due to expire. Thus, the major on-campus issue during Fall `54 was a new Student Union building--an issue which had been sporadically discussed for about eight years.

     It is unfortunate that the desirability of a new student union was intertwined with two other issues. First, there was the question of whether a new student union was necessary at all. There was also the question of financing. Third was the question of compulsory ASUC membership.

     The proponents tended to argue that the need for a new student union was an established fact. Nonetheless, the (voluntary) ASUC spent $1900. to present the idea to the student body and propagandize for it. (DC, 10 Jan 55, p.6) The Daily Cal ran no less than 4 editorials in favor of a new Union. The Academic Senate voted unanimously in favor. (DC, 8 Dec 54, p. 1) Understandably, the opposition spent some effort arguing that a new Union wasn't necessary or wouldn't unify the campus as some proponents felt. This issue need not concern us further.

     The first financing proposal--introduced in late November, 1954--was a "Universal Card" entailing complusory ASUC membership, the Athletic Privilege Card, and the $1.00 per annum contribution to the Union fund. On December 14, 1954, an alternative form of financing appeared in the Daily Cal--the so-called "Split Card" plan. This separated the Athletic Privilege Card from ASUC membership. Some of the opposition to the new Union had been based primarily on the high cost of the "Universal Card". Some of this opposition now came around to support the "Split Card" proposal--which was ultimately adopted.

     The third issue--compulsory ASUC-- was a poor cousin in the controversy. The ASUC bureaucracy and officers claimed that compulsory ASUC membership was a necessary prerequisite to the Student Union. Otherwise, the ASUC's finances would not be sufficiently stable (due to fluctuating membership) to enable the Regents to support the selling of bonds by the ASUC. (e.g., article by Bob Falk, DC, 8 Feb 55, p.8) Amazingly, no other argument for compulsory ASUC was seriously offered. While the opposition talked a lot about the evils of compulsion, there appears to have been little discussion of the possibility that Union finances be collected separately from ASUC dues. In light of the Administration's stand in the 1959 controversy, this is rather strange.

     The question of one student generation committing many future generations to pay for a Union was barely discussed. Further, it was pointed out for the first time in the just mentioned article that future students might have to pay more than 50 [cents] per semester. This, too, was never debated.

     A considerable controversy arose over the form of the ballot. Unfortunately, this controversy took place after the vote. The ballot was drawn up in the between-semesters vacation and revised at the last minute. In its final form it was rather ambiguous. There were four alternatives: First, a "Universal Card" financing of the Student Union. Second, a "Split Card" financing. The third alternative was a vote for the Student Union but against both proposed methods of financing. (That this was the only way a student could vote for the Union but against compulsory ASUC was never spelled out before the election.) The final alternative was simply one of opposition to the Student Union. Thus, the three separate issues, the Union, the financing, and compulsory ASUC membership, were thoroughly confounded on the ballot, just as they had been in the campaign.

     Considering this confusion, it is no wonder the results had to be "interpreted" after the election. (e.g., DC editorial, 17 Feb 55) 15,303 students were eligible to vote. 14,111 ballots were cast, and there were 13,176 valid ballots. (DC, 17 Feb 55, p. 1 & DC, 8 May 59, p.1) The results of the valid ballots were: 26.94% for a "Universal Card"; 30.81% for a "Split Card"; 9.99% for some other form of financing the Union; and 32.27% opposed to the Union. This was most widely interpreted as 67.74% being in favor of a new Student Union. However, only 485 of the entire student body voted in favor of the first two alternatives, the only ones explicitly including compulsory ASUC. This fact was never brought out in 1955. It is also not clear why 1035 ballots were invalidated. (DC, 17 Feb 55, p. 1)

     On February 18, 1955 (after the election), the Daily Cal printed excerpts of a letter from Richard Fresco to then-Chancellor Kerr. He contended that both the campaign and the form of the ballot were one-sided. He charged that the voting was inadequately supervised and that the ballot box was so inconspicuously placed that it could easily have been stuffed and that many students didn't realize that it was there and therefore didn't vote. Most important, he charged that while the campaign was on the Union, the vote was on compulsory ASUC. Kerr promised to look into these charges, saying "they deserve careful study". Nothing more was heard of the matter.

     The whole issue was again raised in April, 1959 as part of the ferment which led to the exclusion of graduate students from ASUC membership. On April 13, 1959, a petition for voluntary ASUC was announced. There was some discussion in Ex Com and the administration whether this should even be allowed on the ballot, but it was soon decided that such a petition could go on the ballot. The circulators made only half-hearted attempts to have the vote taken in the registration of study list line.

     There were far more letters in the Daily Cal than during the 1955 campaign and the issues were much clearer. While the Daily Cal again editorialized for complusory ASUC, it gave fairer treatment to both sides than during 1955.

     After some internal debate, SLATE came out in favor of compulsory ASUC. At that time, SLATE felt that it had a chance to be a major influence with the ASUC by turning it into a political body, rather than an arm of the administration. (This hope was dashed at the end of the semester when the Graduate Students, who provided the margin for Dave Armor's victory as well as leadership in Ex Com through the two Grad Reps, were disenfranchised.)

     From a historical perspective, two interesting issues were raised in the campaign. Vice Chancellor Sherriffs made it very clear that voluntary ASUC would not effect the payments for the Student Union. (DC, 14 April 59) The ASUC bureaucracy claimed that if membership were to become voluntary, the Activities budget would be reduced. (DC, 24 April 59, p. 1) Proponents of voluntary ASUC argued that activities were maintained when the ASUC was voluntary before 1955, but no fiscal analysis was ever presented.

     Of the 5,622 voting in the primary election--a record turnout--2,074 voted for voluntary ASUC, 3,100 voted for compulsory ASUC, and 448 didn't vote on the initiative. A popular interpretation of the election results was that "Activities" was the decisive issue: "Activities Majors" voted to keep the ASUC complusory so that everyone would pay for activities which preoccupied an indeterminate number of students.

     In conclusion, we see that in the three separate "elections" determining ASUC membership (the two covered here, and the one covered in Evan Alverson's article on Graduate Students), three different types of voting occurred. In the first election, a majority of voting students, but a minority of all students, voted for compulsory ASUC in conjunction with a new Student Union. In the second election, only those students who bothered to go to the polls (less than 1/3 of the student body) had their votes counted. And of this minority, 2/3 would have to had to have voted for the initiative in order to return to voluntary ASUC. In the final "election", only graduate students voted. They were not allowed to abstain, for a blank ballot wascounted as a vote Against belonging to the ASUC; voting was done in the study list line and there was no ballot box.

     The above is an accounting of what I consider the central facts. We may, perhaps, speculate on two related matters. It appears that the administration wanted a compulsory ASUC in 1955 and helped to confound the issues so that the desired result was more likely to occur. The administration did not change its stand in 1959 and would probably not have allowed another reg line vote. The administration did want the grads out of the ASUC when it became evident that a handful of graduate students could have a decisive impact on student "government". Finally, we are led to wonder how the undergraduates in 1955, 1959, or 1963 would vote on compulsory ASUC if the vote was taken in the study list line.

     -- Phil Roos

Search this Site    --   FSM-A Home Page