The Council on Student Services (COSS) has rejected proposed fee increases for Hart House, the Office of Student Life (OSL), and the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE).
The UTSU’s Board of Directors voted to direct representatives on COSS to oppose the increases. Student representatives form a majority on the council.
Hart House had requested a fee increase of 5.2 per cent, so that full-time and part-time students at St. George would have seen an increase of $73.39 and $15.89 respectively, while fees at the UTM and UTSC campuses would have been an extra $2.44 for full-time students and $0.49 for part-time.
While acknowledging that Hart House plays an important role in campus life, the UTSU representatives voted against the fee increase on the grounds that “the responsibility of [increasing] costs have continually fallen upon students who already cover a substantial part of the operating budget, whereas the central university contributes zero dollars while benefiting from the publicity of Hart House’s successes,” according to a report by the union.
In September, Hart House announced a series of belt-tightening measures as administrators sought to close a budget deficit of a half-million dollars. The Hart House Finance Committee has called for funds to be diverted towards building maintenance as a long-term financial priority.
“This is one of the most precious, favoured places in the city and we just face enormous demand,” Hart House Warden Bruce Kidd told The Varsity in September. “This is a way of both dealing with our financial challenges and also using our space in an effective and productive [way].”
The UTSU report also described concerns that while Hart House has indicated that it intends to increase participation with the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses, they “hesitate [to recognize] the substantive importance on a tri-campus level.”
The Office of Student Life had proposed a fee increase of 4.99 per cent that would only affect students at the St. George campus. Full-time students would have seen an increase to $133.14 and part-time students an increase to $26.63.
The OSL’s reasons for the proposed fee increase included funding to cover the costs of increased compensation, hiring a full-time staff member to administer the co-curricular transcript, and expanding the team of staff working on student academic success to three full-time employees.
According to the report, the UTSU recognized that OSL is a vital department at the University of Toronto but defeated the fee increase on the “principled basis that students are continually paying too much for their university experience [and] cannot continue paying increasingly high ancillary fees while the university fails to invest in student life programs.”
The Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) proposed a fee increase of 3.21 per cent. Full-time students at the St. George campus would have seen an increase to $154.83, part time students $30.97.
The report opposed the fee on the basis that, while kpe is the largest employer of students on campus, and has been “very receptive in implementing recommendations and policy changes to reduce costs for campus groups,” students continue to pay to cover the majority of the operating costs while funding from the university has remained static.”