Faculty leaders at Sonoma State University voted Thursday in favor of an outside review of the April election in which students voted to assess themselves $150 a semester toward a $65 million student center.
The resolution, which faculty introduced after students against the fee raised concerns about how the election was conducted, also calls for a revision of policies that govern student referenda elections.
It wasn't determined who will conduct the evaluation, and neither step will change the result of the April election. But supporters say they will ultimately make future elections run more smoothly and be more transparent.
The Academic Senate passed the resolution — which was rewritten to be less confrontational than the original version — by a vote of 19 to 13.
"It's acknowledging that the policy needs to be revised and that it has input from an impartial third party, which is critical," said freshman Anthony Gallino, who campaigned against the fee and whose complaints led to the faculty's action Thursday.
He and other students, and faculty supporters, said the election was weighted in favor of those backing the fee. Their complaints included that there was not equal access to campaign funds, and that SSU's auxiliary organizations, which are to fund the center's construction and operations, advocated for the "Yes" campaign.
Faculty opposed to the resolution argued it would not resolve anything to anyone's satisfaction. They said that the most effective approach was to examine and, if necessary, change SSU's election policies, which are less clear about how referenda are to be run.
The resolution, which originally called for an investigation into the election and for its results to be suspended, was introduced by mathematics professor Sharon Cabaniss.
In a nod to concerns other senate members raised at a previous hearing, Cabaniss softened the resolution's language, calling for an "evaluation" by an impartial third party of the election, rather than an investigation. She also dropped the call for the suspension of results.
"It in no way says this side is wrong and this side is right, it's just calling for an evaluation, so that future elections can be done better," she said.
The resolution was amended after anthropology professor Richard J. Senghas argued it should also include a stipulation that starting in fall 2011 a policy be created to govern advocacy activities in referenda campaigns.
After several alterations, the final resolution said that the student government and the SSU administration should revise the policies governing the referenda campaigns.
"It was a terrific addition," said sociology professor Noel Byrne, who called it "a two-pronged approach" to be conducted externally, by an independent third party, and internally.
"If it had been any other way, there would have been continuing discontent," Byrne said.