Student Life Referendum asks for additional $20 per credit from students

Brock students are being called upon once again to vote on behalf of the final round of BUSU elections. Following the previous election, which saw an exceptionally high voter turnout of 27.4 per cent, this latest vote is in regards to student representation on the University senate and board of trustees and referenda.

How might this set of elections be of your concern, you may ask? Students will be asked whether Brock University Students Union’s (BUSU) Vice-President of University Affairs role should be split into two positions: one to handle internal issues and the other lobby externally for students.

Students are also asked to choose a side to the Student Life referendum when they vote March 26 to 28, which can be accessed and completed through student’s official Brock email accounts.

Upon voting, students will be asked whether they are willing pay an additional $20 per credit – or approximately an additional $100 a year – which will be put towards enhancing student health, recreation and athletics services at Brock for the entire undergraduate student body. This cost will add up to approximately $1.5 million in additional funding for the University.

Called the Brock University Student Life Fee, the money will be used to improve mental health support by creating a 24-hour social study space, and strengthening psychiatrist and psychologist support as well as an increased health and wellness staff on campus.

In voting yes to the Student Life Referendum, free access to the Zone, Brock’s fitness centre, will be provided for all undergraduates. That said, the word ‘free’ is very loosely applied in the given situation, as the $20 per credit fee to be paid by all students would replace the usual cost of a Zone membership which currently only interested students purchase. Athletics would also get roughly one-third of the cash, allowing there to be no cost for admission to all regular season Brock varsity sports games for undergrads. Support will also be provided to competitive and recreational sports clubs as well as to enhancing varsity athletics through recruitment, coaching support, and athlete therapies and support. However, it is important to note that any outdoor varsity games were previously free of charge to attend.

In concern with issues of mental health and student support, 27 per cent of the total funding to be collected through this referendum will be put towards supporting Student Health Services. This includes – but is not limited to – the creation of the 24 hour social study space, an increased psychiatrist and psychologist support network on campus, further establishing mental health and substance abuse support as well as assistance for student wellness engagements, including digital media creation and support.

Individuals organizing the ‘Yes’ side of the referendum feel as though there is much catching up to do in terms of the services which are provided to the students, as the school population has notably doubled over the past ten years. They argue that Brock has some of the lowest ancillary fees for students in Ontario, and the services provided in the three departments involved with the Brock Student Life Fee surely mirror that. They wish to express to students that is time that to catch up to the rest of the province in terms of the services provided, and the way in which to do so is by voting ‘yes’ to the Brock University Student Life Fee.

During a debate between the two sides of the referendum, held on Monday March 25 in Isaacs Bar and Grill, Vincent Tremblay – fourth-year Film major – expressed his concerns on behalf of students seeking further explanations as to where exactly their additional money will be spent.

In siding with the ‘no’ campaign on behalf of the referendum, Tremblay questioned whether or not the promises being offered through this initiative are somewhat intangible, such as the assurance of increased school spirit amongst the student body. Furthermore, Tremblay found it to be frustrating that no actual budget figures for the allocated funds were revealed during the extent of the debate. Brianna Veale leading the discussion for the ‘yes’ side, explained that any students looking for a budget breakdown are to see the campaign’s official website at bslf2013.wix.com/studentlifebu. However, this budget is general and does not provide fine details or specific information about the exact allocation of the funds that would be collected if this referendum is passed.

It is important to note that these referendums are organized and led primarily by the student body, not by Brock University or any of its staff members. Therefore, students should be aware that it’s ultimately the voters who will determine the outcome of this referendum. As a responsible student of the Brock community, be sure to get educated on both sides of the campaign before making a decision.

To learn more about the candidates and the referendum questions, visit BUSU at busu.net/representation/elections-and-referendums. 

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