UTMSU led a passionate but unsuccessful protest against planned ancillary fee increases for 2015/16 at last week’s Campus Council meeting. The student leaders also hope for reform of campus governance to give more power to students. However, UTMSU’s VP external, Ebi Agbeyebge, has unfairly criticized the current Campus Council structure by claiming that “only two seats on the council are for undergraduates”. This was unfair for two reasons. Firstly, there is no reason to discount the important voice on the council of graduate student Sara da Silva, who also pays tuition and ancillary fees, just like all graduate and undergraduate students. Secondly, Agbeyebge’s claim that there are only two council seats belonging to undergraduates is simply untrue. As the incumbent of the third undergraduate UTM council seat, I was surprised to find that the part-time undergraduate UTM perspective seems to have been overlooked by UTMSU. This is unfortunate because we don’t qualify for the government’s so-called 30% tuition discount available to almost all full-time students and are often very vulnerable to financial pressures.
Amid the bullhorns and banners of the “Degree, not Debt” protest, some important facts were overlooked. The fact is that students have meaningful votes not only on Campus Council, but also on its various committees, including the Campus Affairs Committee, which recommended the modest ancillary increases. Also overlooked was the student voice on several advisory committees that had the opportunity to comment and make recommendations concerning ancillary costs. The Student Housing Advisory Committee, Food Service Advisory Committee, Resident Student Dining Committee, and the Transportation & Parking Advisory Committee all include significant student membership. It simply isn’t true that students weren’t adequately consulted, or that we had no say in the decision-making that approved the ancillary cost increases.
I applaud UTMSU’s efforts to keep student expenses from rising. However, students also want better campus services and facilities. More and better services cost money. UTMSU should understand this—the rate of student society fee increases has significantly outpaced both tuition and student services fee increases over the past few decades. They have used their fee increases to deliver exceptional services and facilities to UTM’s students. The modest ancillary fee increases as approved will likewise be used to deliver exceptional services and facilities that UTM’s students want and need. The new parking deck will give us 300 much-needed new parking spaces, for example, and new restaurants and the Davis food court will provide us with better meal options. Let’s just remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
UTM Campus Council