Story By: Lauren Hicks, photos by Trevor Swann

The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) referendum on the proposed Student Union Building has failed, with nearly 65 per cent of undergraduate student voters choosing No and 35 per cent voting Yes.

“A lot of people are unhappy with the way that CUSA is spending money and representing the student population,” said Sophie Hayes, the head of the referendum’s No committee. “[CUSA] needs to work on knowing what the student body actually wants . . .  The lack of trust from the student body made it hard to believe [CUSA’s] proposed benefits for the Student Union Building.”

Students were asked to vote on whether or not they supported building an extension to the University Centre, at a fee of $40 per semester for future students once the building was completed. The fee would be tied to inflation.

Required voter turnout for the referendum to be valid is 15 per cent. Over 41 per cent of eligible students voted, marking one of the highest voter turnouts in Canadian university referendum history, said Fahd Alhattab, CUSA president.

Out of a possible 25,611 voters, a total of 10,601 votes were cast. The results were 3,557 Yes votes and 6,589 No votes. Only 455 voters abstained.

“[CUSA] definitely underestimated students,” said Ruth Lau-MacDonald, an arts and social sciences councillor on CUSA council and guest of the No Committee.

“[The results] speak to the power of grass-roots word of mouth campaigning. During the campaign, CUSA felt so strongly about the project and how it could do no wrong that they blinded themselves to real concerns,” Lau-MacDonald said. “Because of this, there was not really an opportunity for discourse ahead of time.”

CUSA has spent a large amount of time and resources on the Student Union Building project, as planning for it started in September of 2015.

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Alhattab, a major proponent of the building, said he accepts the results of the referendum and is content with how students voted.

“Students are challenging us to be more creative. Challenging us to find other solutions that are not as resource extensive. A lot of students support what we are doing, and the issues we are trying to address, but want us to solve those problems in a better way,” Alhattab said.

Alhattab said CUSA plans to collect and analyze the feedback on the referendum from Facebook comments and past consultations as a wrap up to their Student Union Building project.

“Our team will be focusing on one or two issues addressed in this referendum and trying to solve those,” Alhattab said. “We will pass on the file of our findings to the next executives and see if they want to continue the consultation process to make [the Student Union Building] happen in the future.”

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