UTM Campus Council moved ahead with student service fee increases despite UTMSU’s attempts to defer the motion last Thursday.
As previously reported in The Medium, the Campus Affairs Committee had passed a motion last month to raise fees for various student services, such as student fees at the RAWC. Once the motion had been passed at Campus Affairs, it was then moved to the next highest governing body, Campus Council, for approval.
The chairman of the council called this item “trickier than usual”, due to legal concerns raised by UTMSU. Representatives from UTMSU have taken issue with the processes applied by the Quality Services to Students committee. This committee is designed to make suggestions regarding the operation of UTM’s student services, including the budgets and fees involved in those services.
In a letter to members of QSS, Campus Council, and Campus Affairs Committee sent half an hour prior to the February 11 campus affairs meeting, UTMSU said that their voice as the student body was not being valued or heard and they would not participate in any further meetings with the QSS. In order for QSS to reach quorum at its meetings, UTMSU is required to be present.
UTMSU’s decision to boycott QSS prevented the meetings from being held and prevented any further discussion regarding fee increases.
“In the current cycle, after much debate, student representatives opted to not participate in a process where the quality of consultation was inadequate and most importantly the recommendations made by student’s representatives are not respected,” reads the letter. UTMSU alleged that the QSS and Campus Council have violated terms of the university’s protocol.
The protocol is a memorandum that is used to explain “the procedures and limitations associated with the establishment of and increases to compulsory non-academic incidental fees charged for university-operated student services,” according to the Campus Council agenda.
The fees in question, for example the shuttle bus and Career Centre fee, were originally presented as individual fees, but are now being presented as a combined fee referred to as the student service fee.
“This amalgamation of fees violated past practices where the University Affairs Board of Governing Council received advice on those services from QSS as separate fees,” wrote UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe in his letter to the Campus Council. “The impact of the amalgamation violates the protocol and the QSS terms of reference, in our opinion.”
UTMSU also argued that a new fee was introduced without consultation. This fee is called the Student Life Initiative.
“This is a new portion of the consolidated student service fee, resulting in a new fee of (full-time) $4.38 and (part-time) $0.88 for activities that were rejected for implementation at previous meetings of QSS,” reads the UTMSU letter. “Please note that NO referendum or meeting of QSS has endorsed the new fee or activities. This proposal violates the protocol and will be challenged by the UTM Students’ Union at all levels of governance and through other means.”
UTMSU’s presence at Thursday’s meeting was to advocate for the deferral of fee approval until further consultation had been arranged.
Mark Overton, the dean of student affairs, and Meredith Strong, who oversees the Office of the Vice-provost, explained that since the student union did not attend QSS meetings, the council could still vote for approval without the advice of QSS. Overton explained that moving forward without advice from the QSS puts a cap on the amount of fee increases that can be applied. Overton said that for two of the increases, the amounts were actually under the maximum allowed. These increases include the Physical Health and Wellness Fee, which will change from $171.76 per session for full-time students to $175.20 per session.
Principal Deep Saini also revealed that since his return from India with the Wynne delegation, he has consulted with the UTMSU president and they have discussed the union’s perspective.
“Among the concerns expressed in meetings with the acting principal and dean of student affairs was UTMSU’s call for a change in QSS’s role, from providing advice to governance on fees under the protocol to instead requiring QSS’s approval of fee increases before being sought through governance,” reads the agenda from the council meeting. “As explained, this would contradict the terms of the protocol, although procedural advice was offered on how changes to the protocol could be explored.”
UTMSU reaffirmed that their concern was the implementation of certain fees without the union having been represented.
UTMSU asked the council that the motion be deferred until outside legal advice had been sought. The motion for deferral failed and the motion for fee approval passed.
UTMSU was also seeking an increase in funding for services such as WUSC, the student refugee program, and the U-Pass. The increases were passed.