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SSMU votes to investigate proliferation of ancillary fees

Motion passes after extended debate

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Following a poorly attended General Assembly (GA) at the end of last month, the SSMU Legislative Council met for its bi-weekly meeting this Thursday to debate the motions originally submitted to the GA — declared at the time a consultative body when it failed to meet quorum.

Council first passed both the Motion Regarding Conflict Minerals with 22 for, and four against, and zero abstentions, as well as the Motion Regarding Support for the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office unanimously.

Council lacked active debates until the Motion Regarding Fair Tuition and Fee Charges, submitted on the floor by SSMU Political Campaigns Coordinator Christopher Bangs. Bangs, who was sitting in the gallery at the time, was given special privilege to address the questions raised by the councillors.

The Motion Regarding Fair Tuition and Fee Charges urged SSMU to conduct a comprehensive review of tuition and fees charged by faculties and/or schools to ensure that such practice adheres to internal regulations set by the University’s administrative body, as well as within Quebec and Canada.

The motion, which was passed at the GA with 37 for, two against, and one abstention, urges the VP University Affairs and the student senators to lobby McGill for a formal review of fees through various administrative channels, such as the Senate and the Senate committees.

SSMU VP University Affairs Haley Dinel first asked Bangs to clarify the situation at the University of Toronto (UofT) referenced in his motion, where an ancillary fee research was conducted to identify illegal financial charges that its administration allegedly imposed on the students. “In [UofT], there was an actual law that changed in the provincial level, and [UofT] did not adhere to such law which was what was problematic. Using it as an example is not at all in the spirit of what this motion is about,” she said.

SSMU VP External Robin Reid-Fraser stated that the conversations at the recent Free Education Summit also included the topic of university finances in general. “Ancillary fees vary depending on the university…. They depend on their discretion. McGill has the highest ancillary fees [in Quebec]…. Having a clear understanding of McGill [will] be a useful thing to do especially when [the issue of fees] will go up to the provincial level.”

On the usefulness of the motion, Reid-Fraser continued, “If we conduct this research immediately, this will only contribute to the information that TaCEQ can work around with.”

Initially, the Motion Regarding Fair Tuition and Fee Charges failed to pass with four for, seven against, and 12 abstentions. The motion was reconsidered, however; Inter-residential Council Representative Sarah Southey expressed her concern over the high number of abstentions amongst the councillors.

During the extended debate, SSMU VP Clubs and Services Allison Cooper also emphasized that student jobs will also be created as a result of the research. “The point is to get more information about something that we don’t know much about,” she added.

Clubs and Service Representative Geneva Nam requested to table the motion to ensure the possible involvement of faculties to better analyze the fees behind offered courses; this suggestion did not pass with 13 oppositions of the 23 available votes.

The motion ultimately passed with 21 for, 0 against, and 1 abstention.

Without significant opposition, the council also passed: the Notice of Motion Regarding Amendment to Building Committee Terms of Reference, Motion Regarding Endorsement of Student Service Ancillary Fee Referendum Question, Motion Regarding Endorsement of the Equity Fee Referendum Question, and the Motion Regarding Endorsement of the SACOMSS Fee Referendum Question.