Are Brock students taking elections and referendums more seriously now than ever before?
Last month, when the results for the February elections returned, many students were outraged to discover that the U-pass referendum had been voted against by 51 per cent of the students that voted. These results mean that several bus routes in Thorold could soon be discontinued due to lack of funding for the universal bus pass.
But perhaps the more interesting fact was that many students were more outraged at the lack of information presented regarding the referendum leading up to the elections. Some were even critical about the lack of information on the online ballot explaining what the referendum entails.
“I literally contacted BUSU and asked for additional information since students had no idea why they were voting, we were just told to ‘save the buses’,” said Brock student Cristina Agardi on BUSU’s Facebook post regarding the referendum results. “BUSU should’ve done a better job explaining the situation to students. I guarantee if everyone knew the situation and we did a re-vote, the results would be different.”
Another critique that the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) receives year after year is students claiming that not enough of the Brock population votes in order to make a decision, which is more or less students’ faults. According to statistics, only 32.3 per cent of Brock’s population voted in the most recent elections, and that’s a record high for number.
“Voter turnout needs to be addressed for next election,” said Brock student Liam Coward.
With the next set of elections and referendums approaching fast, March 28-30, it doesn’t seem like BUSU has taken this advice to heart.
The upcoming elections will have three referendum questions regarding the Clubs Referendum, OPIRG, and the Federal Advocacy Fee. But it seems like students aren’t aware of what these are yet and the turnaround time from campaigning week to voting days may be too short for students to make proper decisions regarding which way to vote.
So here’s some information regarding each of the three referendums to help you make your decisions:
Clubs Levy Referendum:
Put simply, this referendum is asking students to increase the mandatory amount they pay towards clubs fees as part of their tuition from $2.05 to $4.00 per credit. This means that full-time students (who have five credits per year) would go from paying $10.25 to paying $20 to support clubs. Part-time students would have to pay the fee increase as well.
The extra money from this referendum, according the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), would go towards: Increasing club funding available for all clubs, increasing staff support for clubs during the summer and academic year, increasing marketing and design opportunities for clubs, increasing training and development opportunities for club executives and increasing opportunities for new clubs to join BUSU.
An extra note about this referendum: The MOU states that if the referendum passes, the “clubs levy may increase by CPI or up to 5 per cent annually” by approval of Brock’s University Students’ Action Council. This means that the amount that Brock students pay per credit in their tuition could increase annually without asking them directly.
Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) Referendum:
This referendum asks for the removal of the $1.50 per credit fee for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPRIG), which would be effective May 2017.
Paying less money may sound great to some students but what exactly is OPRIG?
According to the official OPRIG website, OPRIG is a social movement dedicated to social, environmental and economic justice.
In 2008, OPRIG helped Brock complete a carbon audit which determined the university’s sustainability as a school that is part of the Niagara Biosphere Reserve.
The MOU for this referendum states that “all monies collected for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) fee prior to the spring of 2017 shall remain with the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG).”
Federal Advocacy Fee Referendum:
Similar to the clubs levy fee, this referendum asks for additional fees to be added to the tuition that students pay annually.
Unlike the clubs levy fee, which has been around for quite awhile, the Federal Advocacy Fee would be a new mandatory fee of $0.70 per credit regarding all full-time and part-time students. Although this seems like a small amount per student, the total Brock population would give $12,600 per year if the referendum passes.
According to the referendums MOU, the funds collected from this fee would “be used on federal advocacy expenditures and the costs associated with facilitating federal advocacy initiatives.”
What exactly does this mean? The Federal Advocacy Fee would go towards promoting awareness to students about advocacy initiatives regarding the federal government to ensure that the student voice is accurately represented when it comes to official government decisions that affect post-secondary education. Topics would include things such as financial assistance and youth employment.
So there you have it, some of the information regarding the three referendum questions in place for the upcoming elections.
We here at The Brock Press strongly encourage you to go out and ask further questions regarding the referendums to help you make the most informed decisions when the elections take place from March 28 — 30.