By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma State University faculty leaders have asked the Sonoma County grand jury, state auditors and a college-accrediting organization if they would be willing to investigate how the election for a new student center fee was conducted.
Meanwhile, a new sampling of SSU student opinion is said to provide an unclear picture of whether students still favor the fee, which passed by a large margin in April.
Student and faculty opponents of the $300 annual fee have said the election was run improperly, with interference on the part of SSU administrators and unequal access to funding for the “No” campaign.
The Academic Senate in May voted to ask for an outside review of the election. And in September, SSU President Ruben Armiñana withdrew his request to California State University for financing approval for the proposed $65 million center.
He said that before going forward he wanted to see the results of a process called alternative consultation that also can be used to measure student opinion about new fees.
The results of that consultation, which included focus groups and presentations, showed “a very mixed opinion,” said Alex Boyar, president of the Associated Students organization. The organization includes SSU’s student government and endorsed and campaigned for the fee.
Boyar declined to further discuss the results of the consultation process, which will now be sent to Armiñana. He has the sole authority on whether to proceed with the center.
Academic Senate Chairman Ben Ford said the letters he sent to the grand jury, the Bureau of State Audits and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges were not requests for investigations, but inquiries to see whether any one of those agencies would be willing to conduct an investigation as an “impartial third party.”
There are differences of opinion in the senate about whether the election should be overturned if an investigation should conclude that there were “improprieties” in how it was conducted, Ford said.
“There are individuals hoping for both things, he said. “My primary focus is on fixing any policies so that future elections are more straightforward.”