The Campus Council meeting last Thursday passed a motion for the 2015/16 ancillary fee increase proposal for parking, meal plans, food services, and residence. It also voted for a 300-place parking expansion.
UTMSU arranged a rally around campus before the meeting. Around 60 students chanted against the proposed fee increases: “Education is a right; we will not give up the fight,” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! Higher fees have got to go.”
The proposal involved a 5.5% increase for residence, 1.5% for meal plans, 2.8% for retail prices, and 3% for parking. The adjustments will be applied on May 1.
Students entered Council Chambers and stood with signs in their hands. Before the vote on this motion, Ebi Agbeyegbe, UTMSU’s VP external, told the council committee that UTM’s tuition fees are the highest in Canada, and that students are in debt and still trying to get an education.
He showed the committee the over 1,300 signatures that UTMSU collected, after seeing the meeting’s agenda, from students opposing the motion. Finally, he urged the committee to say no to or abstain on the fee increases.
The motion carried nonetheless.
UTMSU and the students were disappointed and thought it was a “shame”.
The proposal was submitted and recommended for approval by Campus Affairs Committee, responsible of approving the operating plans for all UTM service ancillaries each year, on January 8.
The advisory committees for Student Housing, Food Services, and Transportation and Parking also viewed the proposal and discussed the issues that can affect each ancillary, such as “the mandatory nature of meal plans, the need for building a reserve for an extension onto the existing parking deck, the management of parking supply and demand, and sustaining residence guarantees for new and international students”.
According to Chad Nuttal, the chief housing officer for UTM Residence, unexpected maintenance took place in the residences in 2013/14, which was expensed for 2015/16 with an advance of $1.3 million that has now been repaid.
Nuttal said the accumulated deficit of $400,000 at the end of 2014/15 would no longer exist by 2016/17.
Additionally, Nuttal said when compared with other local universities like Ryerson and McMaster, UTM’s residence fees are competitive.
The background for the fee increases for food and the meal plans was also discussed.
Vicky Jezierski, the director of Hospitality and Retail Services, talked about food services. She said that there would be a new food services contract as well as the possibility of a separate catering contract.
She also mentioned that the loss of 100 Erindale Hall rooms from now until 2017—due to the transfer of departmental offices to the building in advance of work to be done on North—would have an impact on the meal plan revenue.
Jezierski also said that based on the 2013/14 marketing comparisons in an annual food price survey with 33 other Canadian universities, UTM food prices came in, on average, at the eighth-lowest.
Further plans for campus food development involve a permanent food court in Davis in 2016, a Tim Hortons in Deerfield Hall, and a support space in the reconstructed North Building Phase Two in 2017, as well as a Starbucks 10-year facelift in 2018.
As for the parking fees, Donoghue said that the campus population is growing, meaning that the parking space will need to be expanded this year—a year earlier than anticipated because of the impending loss of parking lot 1 during the construction of North Building Phase Two.
Donoghue said that the proposed parking fee increase will allow the ancillary service to operate without a subsidy from the university’s operating budget and provide for all costs of capital renewal, including deferred maintenance.
He also talked about a motion detailing the proposed parking lot expansion.
UTM would build a second single-level parking deck with 300 spaces above a portion of parking lot 8 at the south end of campus, across from the RAWC and beside the existing parking deck.
By building another level over an existing lot, UTM will reduce the environmental impact and avoid stormwater management issues, he said.
The funding for the project is to come from the UTM Parking Ancillary’s capital reserve and from a transfer to the ancillary from UTM’s general capital reserves.
This motion was also approved.
“We are very disappointed with the outcome of the meeting. We have been trying to lobby the administration to see things our way in regards to fee increases since the beginning of the year. But with the outcome of this meeting, we see our voices and our concerns have been ignored,” Agbeyegbe said in an email after the meeting.
As for their future actions, Agbeyegbe said that UTMSU will focus on governance reform that will better represent what students want, noting that under the current structure, only two seats on the council are for undergraduates.
Both undergraduate seat holders, Nabil Aref and Alice Li, voted against the fee increase motions at the meeting.
“As a student, I greatly believe that we are the primary stakeholder[s] of this institution,” said Aref. “We should be consulted ahead of time in order to make a just decision when it comes to crucial matters such as these.”
Agbeyegbe said UTMSU will continue to fight fee increases.
In addition, he mentioned the Drop Fees Coalition with meetings held every Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Student Centre’s Green Room, calling on angry students and those who want change to come out.
The next Campus Council meeting is scheduled for March 5.