This year's University Students' Council ballot will feature two referendum questions. Here's what you need to know:

What's a referendum?

A referendum is generally a vote all students can take part in. Referendum questions let organizations hear from students directly, and those organizations, like the USC, can then make decisions about everything from "Should a student fee be lowered or raised?" to "Should this be an advocacy priority?" For example, in 2015, Western's marching band asked students for a fee increase to 50 cents per student — and it passed. In the case of the USC, referendum questions allow voters to inform the USC's future decisions. 

Notably, at Western, the results of any referendum are only binding if a minimum of 20 per cent of the student body vote. Historically, USC elections' voter turnout fluctuates around 20 per cent, meaning no referendum is a sure thing.

This year's referendum questions

CHRW Radio Western referendum

This year's ballot features a question about the campus community radio station, 94.9 CHRW/Radio Western. CHRW's student fee has been the source of heated debate in recent years, and the USC voted last year to put it to a student referendum.

The question: Do you support the decision of the University Students’ Council to maintain the status quo of funding CHRW Radio Western at $12.47 per student annually, to lower the funding for CHRW to $10.50 per student annually, to lower the funding for CHRW to $7.47 per student annually or to lower the funding for CHRW to $5 per student annually?

In response to the upcoming referendum, Radio Western started a campaign to showcase its value to the community.

Pam Haasen, CHRW's program director, said local news organizations and the community have been supportive.

“We are encouraging students to vote $10.50,… which we believe is fair. It is a lower fee as well, and it’s what we know how to work with.” Haasen said. “It’s in our plan to be able to help reduce the financial burden on students.”

Haasen said that she hopes the referendum has given CHRW some exposure and that it causes more students to volunteer at the station. 

“I think that we understand the purpose of the referendum and that if there is any sort of discontent, that open discourse for students to use their voice for power to change what they would want their post-secondary institution to be is fabulous, so we are in support of more students voicing their opinion as well,” Haasen said. 

If the referendum passes an option under CHRW's recommended $10.50, the radio station will have to cut staff positions and services available to students. 

Mental health referendum

A question about mental health will also be featured on the USC elections ballot. While the answer won't influence current funding, it's an opportunity for students to voice if they want more mental health and wellness support on campus going forward.

The question: Would you like to see student mental health and wellness included as a high priority of Western’s Strategic Plan in perpetuity, potentially at the expense of the funding and support of other priorities?

Students will answer the referendum questions online when they vote in the USC elections on Feb. 5 and 6.

With files from Karolina Jalowska.

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