The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Board of Directors approved fee increases for the Health and Dental Plan and the Student Commons at its March 31 meeting.
The Health Plan fee was increased by 8.51 per cent or $6.93 per session and the Dental Plan fee was increased by two per cent or $1.45. Memmel stated that such fee increases are usually a response to premium increases but, given this year had no premium increase, the fees “will go to additional coverage as well as an increase in the Reserve Fee.”
The Student Commons fee was increased by 10 per cent or $0.93 per session. During the meeting, Memmel spoke on the Student Commons, saying that the increase would be allocated to operating costs. “This building is a mess. We can’t afford it,” he said.
There was discussion about the negotiations between the university and the union in regards to the Student Commons Agreement. Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS) executive and sitting member of the Governing Council Susan Froom suggested bringing the issue to the Governing Council. Memmel responded that, while deferring to the university is tempting, “this one falls on the UTSU.”
There was a debate between University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) Executive Director Munib Sajjad and Memmel. Sajjad asked why the previous year’s Board of Directors had only increased the Student Commons fee by 3 per cent. Memmel stated that the low increase was a “dumb decision.”
The UTSU released a report on the financial status of the Student Commons on April 2. The report, entitled Student Commons: Analysis and Update to Members, outlines the timeline of the Student Commons project; it includes the initial agreement, mistakes that were made by the UTSU, and potential steps for the future.
The report states, “In order to overcome the structured operating deficit,” the UTSU will consider “a range of additional revenue streams from charitable donations to business operations that might provide our members with useful product or service offerings.” The report continues: “This is very challenging especially considering that little to no work was done on this until last year.”
The report introduces a Student Commons Management Committee to inform students of the progress and receive input. It claims that “operational viability is achievable,” although there will be “obstacles to overcome.”
In an email to The Varsity, Memmel added that if the UTSU does not increase the fee, then “the building will bankrupt the UTSU.”
The CPI increases follow a UTSU members’ referendum that approved CPI fee increases. Statistics Canada calculated that the Ontario December 2015 to December 2016 CPI increase was two per cent.
The approved CPI increases were the following: the membership fee by $0.37 per session, the Student Refugee Program fee by $0.01 per session, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and CFS-Ontario fee by $0.16 per session, the Downtown Legal Services fee by $0.02 per session, the UTM Downtown Legal Service fee by $0.06 per session, and the Bikechain fee by $0.01 per session.
Memmel said that the CPI fee increases were “just to account for inflation.”