Referendum for BUSU to tap expansion fund

After the municipal election, students will have an additional voting opportunity Nov. 21-23, at Brock University.
The two questions that the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) referendum will address include: accessing the Strategic Expansion Plan fund for a proposed Learning Commons and the potential introduction of a new optional student fee for a dental plan.
The dental plan comes with little controversy, as BUSAC would like to describe it as “optoutable”. Lauren Souch, BUSU vice-president of student services, is fulfilling a campaign promise and is glad to bring this to referendum for students.
“[BUSU] did the dental survey last year and it looks like students did want it,” she said.
The Learning Commons proposal would involve one million dollars from the Strategic Expansion Fund student fee to pay for the project in increments over the next five years.
Margaret Grove, a Brock university librarian said, “This is a major interior renovation project that will completely transform the space on the main floor of the Library.”
Students will be voting on whether or not to help fund the 3.5 million dollars for the first phase of the project, by donating $1 million to the project. The full project renovation is estimated at six million dollars. Some hesitation has arisen from James O’Brien, Brock University Students’ Administrative Council (BUSAC) Social Science Representative. He feels that BUSAC should not be running a “Yes” campaign in support of the transfer of funds.
O’Brien is concerned that student funds will pay for a coffee bar that will be run by Sodexho, not BUSU.
Addressing whether he thinks the other phases will also ask for funding from the student fee he said, “I know that no clear answer was given on that question when it was asked.”
Another recent election concern involved an estimated $1,300 ad that appeared on the back page of the Nov. 7 Brock Press. The ad simply tells students to vote, the dates, the question and a picture rendition of what the Learning Commons will look like.
Chris Green, chief returning officer, said, “I interpret that an independent third party placed this ad.”
The ad will hopefully increase the number of potential voters: “This would in turn increase the chances of reaching quorum, which I feel is in the best interests of every student regardless of the outcome of the vote.” said Green
A last minute “No” campaign arrived by Graeme Reniers.
“Is it really a democracy if only one side is campaigning?,” he said. He is also concerned about the high price of the project. “I was not even given an answer when I asked how many phases there are. Why are we investing in something when we don’t even know what we are investing in?”
Reniers additionally had concerns about the type of area that is being created. “This proposed learning centre will actually result in less [individual] study space for students.”
In contrast, Grove said, “High quality student study space will be a major feature of the Learning Commons, with a mix of tables for group work, lounge seating, and individual carrels.”
From the earlier BUSAC meeting that discussed the Learning Commons, it was presented that the individual study spaces provided by the carrels would be removed during the proposed first phase of the project. Further development beyond phase one would see additional carrels added to another portion of the library.
The “No” campaign will potentially increase the number of voters helping the referendum reach quorum, which is often one of the biggest challenges to any vote. Ten per cent of full time equivalent students need to vote to have a referendum pass.
Election dates are set for Nov. 21, 22 and 23. Campaign from both campaigns will take place in the halls of Brock starting Nov. 13.

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