Beginnings of Fee Referenda

T. Greg Doucette discusses the implementation and operation of the first fee referenda in the early 2000s.

Interview on 2011-10-05


00:00:00.000 So the very first year we created a special election focusing on the fee referenda and the administration like literally refused to participate, would not give me any information at all.
00:00:12.507 All I had was the public records that were given to the board of trustees.
00:00:15.977 So I created ballot wording that was as balanced as I could saying what the fee was about, what it was supposed to go to, and in the ballot provided a direct link to the board of trustee document.
00:00:29.246 We said, hey, we're going to have this election. Let's do it. We talked with Technician, Technician was publicizing it, and we had it and it turned out fairly well.
00:00:38.468 Turnout wasn't that great because it had never been done before. I think we had just over a thousand students vote.
00:00:42.771 But if you were to look at the breakdown of who voted it was like twenty percent freshmen, twenty percent sophomores, twenty percent juniors, twenty percent seniors, twenty percent graduate students. You couldn't get a more even distribution,
00:00:54.032 and in terms of distribution by college there were votes from every single college roughly in proportion to their overall enrollment. It was like a statistician's dream as far as exit poll results, you know, it was perfect.
00:01:06.782 So as we did it the second time through I told them at the beginning of the year we're going to have these referendums,
00:01:15.485 and I also wanted to have the committee's deliberations videotaped
00:01:21.120 so we can put videos online and instead of linking to the board of trustee documents link to the videos and let students do it that way.
00:01:29.433 I worked with Dr. Stafford and we came up with a compromise for that so the videos were put online. I mean no one watched them but like thirty-something people
00:01:37.158 but at least it was there. Students had, for the first time ever in NC State's history, all of the exact same information as all the fee advisory people.
00:01:45.657 They knew in advance the referendum was coming, the different campus units wanted to make sure their supporters turned out to vote for it, and you had more than triple the turnout. I think we had like three thousand one hundred and eighty-ish turnout in the second election, more than triple.
00:02:00.360 So by that point I'm like, okay, this is entrenched, this is on its way, this is cool,
00:02:05.911 and that was kind of where we went with it, and I think the year after I graduated they did it again. I think the Rally for Talley referendum had like eight thousand-something people, just huge numbers of folks,
00:02:14.455 that we never had had the ability to do that before, and it was done out of desperation because I recognized the senate was losing its ability to influence the fee debate.
00:02:24.449 By putting that in place you now had fee committee deliberations, a student vote, then a senate vote based on the student vote and then the fee advisory committee had a final vote where they now had student feedback, senate feedback, everything else. It completely altered the landscape of the process.