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Beer Bike blanket tax passes

By Ellen Liu     3/29/12 7:00pm

Students enjoying Beer Bike this weekend can raise their glasses in celebration. The proposal to increase the Beer Bike blanket tax from $5 to $10 per year passed overwhelmingly in the Student Association Spring Elections after a voter turnout that exceeded that of the first round of elections.

SA Parliamentarian Jonathan Stewart said the Beer Bike blanket tax proposal received over 1,200 votes, with 87 percent in support, and only needed 750 total votes and 67 percent approval to pass.

Stewart, a Duncan College senior, said he believed that the number of students who cast their vote, more than the 1,042 who voted in the first round, was explained by the importance of the Beer Bike measure.

Campus-wide Beer Bike coordinator Philip Tarpley agreed with Stewart and said he and fellow coordinator Teddy Grodek were very excited about the news.

"We needed this money, and students listened," Tarpley, a Brown College senior, said. "I think we can confidently say that it was Beer Bike that brought out the vote. It shows how important the tradition is."

Tarpley said his goal was to make Beer Bike sustainable and preserve its old format. To do so in the face of rising costs, he and Grodek, a Martel College junior, decided at their first meeting as campus-wide coordinators to pursue a blanket tax increase.

"This effectively doubles our budget, so we should no longer be going into debt," Tarpley said. "We can take a financial burden off the colleges and let them do what is important to them."

As examples, Tarpley cited bringing bleachers back if desired and covering rising medical, security and facilities costs.

"There isn't a divide between campus-wide and colleges," Tarpley noted. "Our job is to support the colleges and make sure that they have the best Beer Bike, and this [blanket tax increase] is a way for us to do that."

Duncan College junior and former senator Estevan Delgado said he believed it was necessary to increase the blanket tax to keep Beer Bike alive and had worked with Duncan's Beer Bike coordinators to advocate for the proposal in his college.

"Our Beer Bike coordinators even went around at dinner with a laptop to make sure everyone voted," Delgado noted. "Beer Bike and the use of student money are important issues to [us]."

Delgado said he wanted to see Beer Bike stay consistent every year in terms of programming and traditions.

"If the extra money keeps this tradition running as strong as in the previous year, then I will be happy and think of my extra dollars as well spent," Delgado said.

SA President Sanjula Jain said she thought the high turnout showed how important Beer Bike is to students and that the new blanket tax will give Beer Bike more flexibility in its programming.

"It is interesting to see students who complain about the rising tuition and costs and then push for an increase in their own fees for something like Beer Bike," Jain, a Brown College junior, noted. "Students are very passionate about many things specific to Rice."

In addition to the Beer Bike blanket tax proposal and a few representative positions, the second round of general elections included only a write-in line for Sammy the Owl because no one decided to run for the university mascot, Stewart said.

According to Stewart, four undergraduates received over one percent of the vote, qualifying them as valid write-in candidates, and the SA will offer the position of Sammy to each of them, in descending order of write-in votes received, until someone accepts.

If none of the four write-in candidates accept the role, Jain said the SA will communicate with Rice's cheerleading and dance teams and athletic department to appoint Sammy.

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