Students at Brock University have decided not to increase funding to the Student Justice Centre on campus. 56.5 per cent of votes were cast against increasing per-credit funding to the Student Justice Centre (SJC) with 43.5 per cent of voters supporting the increased funding.
Brock University Students’ Union and Brock University Students’ Administrative Council moved to send the question of whether or not to increase per-credit funding to the SJC back to the polls following some controversy over the wording of the initial referendum.
The first vote, held in February, led to a majority of students voting to increase the fees from $0.91 to $4.88 per credit (with 2,541 votes for and 2,091 against, and 940 abstentions).
However, concerned students raised their voices over the fact that the words ‘per credit’ were excluded from the official question for the vote, sent through Brock e-mails. BUSU referred to the lack of the words ‘per credit’ as a ‘clerical error’ and sent the question of increasing funding back to the student body.
The referendum was held over the previous week, with polls opening officially at 12:01 a.m. on March 6 and closing on March 8 at 9:00 p.m. According to SimplyVoting, the independent vote tally service used to conduct elections by BUSU, 2,308 votes were cast in total, meaning the referendum achieved approximately 13% voter turnout. 1,247 votes were cast against increasing the funding, and 959 votes were cast in favor of increasing it. Additionally, a total of 102, 4.4% of voters, chose to abstain in the choice. Brock’s total voting population as of the March referendum was 17,759.
BUSU did not officially campaign on either side of the referendum for the re-vote; however, in the previous election, BUSU did run a ‘YES’ side campaign on the SJC. The campaign was headed up by outgoing Vice President of Student Services, Maddy Wassink.
“It’s unfortunate that the referendum didn’t pass, however, I’m happy with BUSU’s efforts to be upfront with students and make sure the question was redone for transparency’s sake,” Wassink said after the results of the re-vote were released. “I hope to see Brock move towards being a more social-justice driven campus in the future.”
“When the SJC referendum goes to a vote again in October (since their sunset clause is coming up), I really encourage students to delve deeper into the need for these services, including academic support through ombudsman, sexual violence support, support for marginalized groups on campus and more,” Wassink continued. “I pushed for this campaign not because I had to, but because I truly do believe we can see amazing strides towards a more educated and caring student body if this is to pass in the future. Thank you to everyone who voted.”
Prior to the re-vote, many students questioned BUSU’s choice to suspend by-law 401 for the duration of the second SJC referendum. In fact, an online petition titled ‘VERY Concerned Students for Referendum Fairness’ circulated on social media. The petition stated that the suspension of by-law 401 during the SJC re-vote would create “the most dangerous precedent in Brock history”.
By-law 401, in particular, sections 3.1 and 3.2, governs referenda run by BUSU and stipulates that all candidates in a BUSU election are to be treated fairly and equally, have access to funding, and that elections be consistent and transparent. BUSAC choose to suspend by-law 401 for the duration of the SJC re-vote. Steve Joseph, one of the representatives of the Concerned Students, shared his thoughts following the results of the re-vote.
“When I saw the revote results, I was not surprised,” Joseph explained. “From my petition, I learned that many students on campus didn’t know that the fee was per credit. So when the question included ‘per credit’, I knew that many people would change their original vote.
“I hope that BUSAC will follow by-law 401 for future referendums,” Joseph added.
Kayleigh Rossetto, who serves as Director of Government Operations, also spoke to The Brock Press following the re-vote.
“Irrespective of the outcome of the results, we are very happy that BUSAC gave us the opportunity to bring this referendum back to a re-vote,” Rossetto said. “We want to ensure student voices are heard and think it’s important that students exercise their democratic right to vote.”