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Thought for your pennies

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A week today, you will vote on a hodge-podge of requests from various student organizations, each seeking a bit of your pocket change to support services on campus. Their a-quarter-here-a-loonie-there requests add up to a bit more than $5.

There is always the chance that any request for money will be rejected simply because students do not want to pay more. We encourage you not to have a knee-jerk reaction and to think about each request seriously and based on its own merits.

Some of them seem simple to support—requests for anything from a dime to two quarters to support a foster child or a student from war-torn countries, or UTHIP, a plan that helps medical students work overseas helping those most in need.

These questions are about helping those in need—realizing that we do have a privileged lot in this world, and that pennies from us can save the lives of those less fortunate. Given how much these small requests could help people who desperately need them, it is likely they will enjoy wide support.

The other levies may prove more controversial in that they ask for a bit more money and may be seen as more political. Again, they deserve careful consideration. Campus services like the Free Friday Films at Innis College (asking for 50 cents) or the Varsity (asking for 75 cents) have run into increasing costs in the last decade.

In the case of the Free Friday Films, this has been complicated because the revenue they collect is very limited. In the case of the Varsity, the rise in costs has been complicated by a 30 per cent drop in advertising because of the economic slowdown, meaning the paper will have to dramatically cut back services without a levy increase.

The Achilles’ heel of these levies will likely be the commuter campuses, which have a hard time attending the Free Friday Films and are not the most avid readers of the Varsity. It is encouraging to see each organization addressing these issues by making the levy refundable.

Free Friday Films also has plans for a shuttle bus service in the works, while the Varsity board recently voted to create Scarborough and Erindale bureau chiefs to report on the commuter campuses for the benefit of UTM, UTSC and St. George readers.

Finally, there are two levies addressing equity. One is a request for $1.00 to help make the campus more wheelchair-accessible, the other is for funds to ensure multi-faith awareness in the wake of September 11 and ongoing concerns in the middle East. If they were alone on the ballot, they would likely fly through. Bunched in with all the other questions, they risk being lost. They shouldn’t be, because they are about building a campus that respects the needs of all, and creates an environment that is open as possible to all.

So what to do about all these levies?

Some would say it is best to give them a chance, and if they do not accomplish their goals, to have a referendum to reverse them. Some would object to any increases. And some would note that they are refundable, so even if you don’t necessarily agree, you should give them a chance by voting yes and then getting your money back.

Just make an informed choice. On one hand, it is only $5 to improve campus life; on the other, money is money and it may be a concern.

Either way, all the groups behind these questions have been doing their best to make this campus a better place.

And for that reason, when you log onto www.rosi.utoronto.ca next week to vote, they certainly should enjoy the right to have each voter giving them thorough and fair consideration.