Commentary | It’s fee votin’ time

Editorial

The referendum voting period began Friday and runs until Thursday. Students can vote on a variety of student and administrative fee renewals and increases, and decide which first-year students can pad their C.V. with a spot on the First Year Committee to Council.

With no conveniently assembled list of the fees available in one place, we thought we’d break it down, fee-by-fee, and offer our opinion on how to cast your clicks at vote.electionsmcgill.ca. Plus, a lot of the preambles to the fees are super jargony, which is annoying.

Last winter the Quebec government required increases in university ancillary fees of more than $15 per year be approved by students, and SSMU and the faculty associations agreed to allow students to decide through referenda when the increase is greater than inflation. Two ancillary fee increases are up for approval, as are three others.

Application Fee increase – No

The first would increase application fees for prospective undergraduate students to from $80 to $85 for students from outside Quebec, and from $60 to $85 for students from inside Quebec.

The Daily strongly opposes this increase. Though it will not affect any of us, we don’t see why our soon-to-be-fellow students should be forced to pay, as the administrative double-talk puts it, “significantly improve the effectiveness of communication to prospective students through new communication tools and media and by leveraging existing technology.”

While the other claimed benefit – speeding up application and scholarship decisions – is laudable, we wonder what they will precisely do that they could not have done already. The six per cent increase for students from outside Quebec is high enough, but the 42 per cent increase for Quebec students – many of whom are admitted days if not hours after the application deadline – is far too steep.

Student Services Fee increase – Yes

The other administrative fee increase would add $10 per semester to the Student Services Fee, for a total of $125.50 per semester. McGill has been quietly raising the fee from eight to 12 per cent annually since 2005-2006, and with the aforementioned provincial government’s ruling requiring student approval on such increases, for the first time the decision is in your hands.

Six dollars of the increase – 1.5 times the rate of inflation since 2005 – will go toward maintaining the current level of service, while the other $4 will improve the Student Aid Office, the Office for Students with Disabilities, and Student Health, on both the Downtown and Macdonald campuses. The Daily strongly supports these causes, and thus supports the fee increase.

However, there are several problems with the question. The University should provide a breakdown of the fee to inform students how this money will be used specifically – and even split up the various uses, not all of which we support, to allow students to make specific decisions of where they’d like their money spent. For instance, we take issue with many of the the Student Affairs Office using student funds in “stewarding donor relations,” or to “benchmark [McGill’s] position within the G13 Universities.” These should be the administration’s responsibility to fund, not students’.

McGill Undergraduate Students’ Fund Fee renewal – Yes

The first SSMU question asks students whether they want to renew the $19 semesterly fee that SSMU collects to support three worthy funds for the next five years. Here’s how the money breaks down: $8.50 for the Access Bursary Fund, $2 to the Campus Life Fund – including funding for clubs, productions, events, and more – and $8.50 for the Library Improvement Fund.

The Daily strongly supports this fee, as the three funds support important purposes. However, we encourage students to take action on these issues beyond the fees. For instance, while the Access Bursary Fund allows SSMU to lighten the financial burden for those in need, the Students’ Society should continue to lobby at the provincial and federal level for accessible education for all students.

QPIRG Fee increase – Yes

The Daily strongly supports this 75-cent fee increase for Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill, the first since the organization – which supports student groups on and off campus focused on social and environmental issues – was established via a student vote in 1988.

Even though QPIRG hasn’t raised its opt-outable fee since the majority of U1 students were born, the small increase doesn’t even cover inflation. Yet, QPIRG continues to sponsor a wide array of working groups that you hear from often in these pages, including the Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective, Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui, and Greening McGill, to name a few. And SSMU clubs and services like the Plate Club, the Black Students’ Network, and the McGill AIDS Coalition were once QPIRG working groups.

QPIRG also co-hosted this year’s Culture Shock with SSMU and the McGill Anti-Racist Coalition, hosts the annual Radical Frosh, and produces the School Schmool agenda. All this proves QPIRG’s work extends beyond its office on University, and has become an important aspect of student life.

Athletics and Recreation Facilities Improvement Fund renewal – Yes/No

This question asks students to contribute $10 per semester for the next five years to complete the Athletics Complex and to create more student space in Athletics, which we hear is very popular for those who have time to go the gym. The McGill Fund Council has matched this student fee dollar-for-dollar since 1982, and now the fee is up for renewal.

The Daily supports the intentions of the fee, but we could not reach a consensus on the issue. The 70 per cent of students who participate in some kind of sport or activity certainly deserve good facilities, but we’re unsure as to why this SSMU fee is necessary on top of the administration’s mandatory $107 semesterly Athletics fee.

We do not contest the importance of students having access to athletic facilities, but the description includes few details on the fee’s application and the justification for them. We’re also unsure where this money goes, and whether it is fairly distributed. Students should vote their conscience on this one.


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