The Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU) is proposing a referendum that will ask students for a $3.00 fee increase from $9.50 to $12.50 per term commencing in the 2017–2018 school year. This new fee would also include a “cost-of-living adjustment” that would automatically tie the fee to inflation.
ASSU successfully sought a levy increase in 2010, from $7.50 to $9.50. According to ASSU President Ondiek Oduor, the union currently funds 66 course unions, 11 of which were added since the previous fee increase. Oduor said, “If this levy increase is successful, it will allow us to increase our funding towards our Course Unions which [allows] them to host more of their events, seminars, and socials.”
Oduor also highlighted how fee increases would support the ASSU’s grants and bursaries. He noted that with the previous fee increase, “we have increased the amount of money designated towards awards and bursaries from $15,000 to over $35,000.”
Since the last increase, ASSU also dedicated over $8,500 to create the ASSU Travel Grant Fund, a total of $150,000 to scholarships, and $10,000 to a joint fund with the Dean’s Office for undergraduate research. “If this referendum is passed,” Oduor said, “We will continue to follow the same pattern to ensure that more financial aid is given back to students who need it.”
Lobbying efforts would also be supported by the fee increase, Oduor said. ASSU has committed to meeting with the Dean’s Office to push for the establishment of a longer Fall Reading Week — which would fulfill the results of last year’s referendum on the topic — and the union is also meeting with the university to advocate for the release of written comments from student course evaluations in the interest of “academic transparency.”
Additionally, the fee would support the union’s event programming, which includes academic talks and Exam Jam de-stressors.
Oduor noted that expenditures have outpaced the ASSU’s ability to maintain healthy finances: “We are now operating on a budget that now far exceeds our income,” he explained. “Over the last few years we were able to sustain ourselves by dipping into our reserves; however, our auditor has recently told us that this is not good practice.”
In addition to the proposed fee increase, the ASSU is slashing “approximately $100,000 in line items in our operating budget this year to remain fiscally balanced,” Oduor stated. “Previous to this revision, we were already operating at one of the lowest levy [rates] for a Student Union in Canada.”
The referendum for the $3.00 fee increase and cost-of-living adjustment will be proposed on October 3 at the first ASSU council meeting of the 2016–2017 school year. If the motion passes, the referendum will be held from November 2–3.
The ASSU constitution currently does not allow for online voting, but constitutional changes are being proposed for online voting via the Office of Student Life’s system. Computers will be available for on-site voting during the referendum in the Sidney Smith lobby.