As October continues so does the season of referendums within Brock University. This season’s upcoming referendums are, as always, geared towards bettering Brock as an institution and providing for the changing needs of students.
A ‘referendum’ is a standard political practice that constitutes a general vote by the electorate based on a political question that has been brought up by and is in need for a direct decision. The process involves putting a motion forward, gathering enough petition signatures and then putting it to a student vote. Referendums happen three times during the school year: now, February and later in March.
On the docket for this years’ referendums are four platforms:
1. Amendments to the BUSU constitution
2. Removal of Brock University Student Radio Fee
3. Continuation of the Student Justice Centre levy, and
4. Removal of the Student Life Fee.
Amendments to the BUSU Constitution under the question, “Do you support the amendment to the Brock University Students’ Union Constitution, as presented in the Memorandum of Understanding?” If passed, the following changes to the BUSU Constitution will take effect on May 1, 2014. This section of the referendum can be broken down into several parts:
1 ) Increase the minimum number of student signatures required to initiate a referendum from 2% to 7%.
Currently, to start a referendum as a student a petition needs to be filled with signatures from 2 per cent of undergraduates, which is approximately 370 students. While the school has increased in size, the required percentage of student representation has not been adjusted with the changes. Raising the amount of signatures to 7 per cent of the population of undergraduates means approximately 1300 student signatures would be required to initiate a referendum.
2) Increase quorum (minimum number of votes) for BUSU elections from 10 per cent to 14 per cent.
Quorum is the number of total votes that have to be cast in an election for an election to count. Should this pass, at least 14 per cent of all students must be represented in the vote, or it will not take effect. October 2012 saw a turnout of 11 per cent, followed by 27.4 per cent in February 2013 and March of this year saw 23.4 per cent. Therefore, this amendment should only serve to better support the increased student votership seen in past years.
3) Mandate a one year waiting period before a failed referendum can be resubmitted.
This means that if a referendum that deals with adding, removing, changing a fee is not successful, it is not allowed to be run again for a full fiscal year. For example, at the moment if the Student Life Fee is repealed it could simply be resubmitted at the next opportunity for referenda. Should this amendment pass, it would keep failed referenda from being repeatedly proposed to the student population.
4) Mandate that Referendum MOUs must contain a detailed per-credit-cost breakdown of any fees associated with that referendum.
An MOU, or Memorandum of Understanding, is a document that explains the details of what you’re voting on, instead of putting all the information in the question. Currently, proposals follow the basic format of “Do you support this fee to support this cause as outlined in the MOU” and then the MOU breaks down the structure, budgeting, details, etc. This amendment would ensure transparency in the proposed costs to students.
5) Remove the BUSU executive position “Vice President, University Affairs”.
Currently, the BUSU executive team is made up of president and three vice presidents. Last year there was a successful referendum to create a new vice president position to deal with External Affairs. In light of this new position, VPUA will be removed due to the overlap in duties.
And the last few points are self-explanatory and deal with BUSAC more closely,
7) Clarify and define the role of committees in Brock University Students Administrative Council (BUSAC), so that students who take on the job have a way to resign or to be removed.
8) Amendments to Board of Directors section to reflect two-year terms.
9) Allow Student-At-Large members to be removed from the Board of Directors by a two-thirds majority BUSAC vote.
CFBU: The radio station has been a part of Brock for over thirty years, offers regular broadcasting time and is constantly looking for volunteers to host and deejay shows. CFBU operates under Brock University Student Radio, which is a not-for-profit cooperation. Should the fee be removed, members of the “yes” side campaign have stated intention to seek reform in the station’s internal structure to accommodate more student involvement.
SJC: The Student Justice Centre came about from another referendum back in 2010, where the motion was intended to give students a safe space to talk about the injustices on campus. To date, the SJC has a drop in centre for anyone to visit, hosts several workshops and events and continues to develop spread advocacy throughout campus. If the ‘no’ side passes, funding for the SJC will have to come from other resources, if at all.
SLF: The referendum that will undoubtedly gain the most attention is the potential repeal of the Student Life Fee, which was passed from last March’s referendum period. The Student Life fee was comprised of three main parts; a mental health portion, ancillary fees for varsity athletics and funding for the gym on campus, the Zone. Cost $20 per credit the fee amounts to around $100 per for every full course undergrad student. Since the referendum passed, a full time psychologist and psychiatrist have been hired at Brock. Students are now able to access the Zone for “free” (as in, students pay an average of $38 for membership) and take advantage of the various fitness programs and clinics like running club or spin classes.
Adam Marshall is the Chief Returning Officer for BUSU says that no matter which direction any of the referendums take, the most important thing for students to do is to make an informed vote. “We’re all on the same team, we all want an informed vote. The point of doing coverage of elections is to ensure the quality of the result by getting as much information to students possible” said Marshall.
Over the upcoming weeks it will definitely be interesting to see how the campaigns for each referendum play out. Campaigning begins on Oct. 21 and the voting period for referendums will take place between the Oct. 29-31 with results announced on Oct. 31.