BUSAC elections and referendum debate

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

BUSU elections this October will introduce new members to the Brock University Students’ Administrative Council and determine the fate of this iteration Student Engagement Levy.

On Monday, students present at the debate at Isaac’s witnessed a short introduction to some of the candidates running for the five available BUSAC student at large positions and one of the candidates running for the two available senate positions. After the introductions, a debate concerning the referendum ensued between Mel Gencer and BUSU president Aidan Hibma, with Gencer representing the “No” side and Hibma speaking for the “Yes” side.

The Student Engagement Levy as proposed by BUSU would create a $100 annual fee to be added to the tuition of incoming first-year students, beginning next Fall, which would primarily be used for programming and events.

According to Hibma, the $100 figure was arrived upon through extensive comparative research which found that on average schools in Ontario charge a fee of approximately $98, which is dedicated to programming and student engagement efforts. Brock is currently one of the few schools in Ontario that does not have such a levy and Hibma claims that the quality and quantity of events during and after O-week suffer as a result of it. The inclusion of the fee into tuition is so that it can be covered by OSAP and not come directly from the pockets of incoming students. Gencer, however, disagrees.

“Why is Brock following what happens at other schools? Students have to pay back OSAP one day, whether included in tuition or not. The fee will end up coming out of the pockets of the students anyway and $100 is a lot of money for someone who can’t afford it,” said Gencer.

Many students may wonder how this will impact them specifically, especially considering the proposed fee would not be charged to their accounts.

“BUSU spends 80 per cent of the funding they receive on O-Week alone,” said Hibma. “The passing of the referendum would end the subsidization of O-Week fees by every other student which amounts to about $100,000. The new funds can then be allocated towards events all through the year instead of just having a big O-Week and nothing much afterwards.”

One of the predicted benefits to the levy should the referendum pass is that access to many events would not require an up-front fee. Gencer cited fear that in the future BUSU might attempt to implement a mandatory $100 fee for upper-year students as well.

It is important to note that a similar referendum was attempted twice in the past four years, in both 2014 and 2016, and both attempts failed; this point was highlighted by Gencer in the debate. Hibma did address this by noting that the referendums were proposed at a time when BUSU wasn’t selling out events. He stated that current BUSU events are held at a high standard and BadgerFest, among other events, has been selling out over the last two years.

“If BUSU is selling out events that’s a good thing but then shouldn’t there be no need for them to implement a mandatory $100 fee? I don’t dispute that BUSU needs money, but I don’t believe that a mandatory $100 fee with a potential 5 per cent annual increase should be implemented to get that money,” said Gencer.

Gencer’s primary concern is with the students who will struggle to even afford maintaining insurance or simple things like buying groceries, who would have an extra $100 social cost they could not opt out of. This is particularly notable with the many fee raises that have been occurring at Brock.

The BUSU president however, indicated that there is no correlation between other fee raises that occur at the university and BUSU. From his standpoint, the fee would be a small investment that would pay for itself throughout the year in value of events.

“$100 in my first year can afford me access to events that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience throughout the year? That’s worth 110 per cent in value,” said Hibma.

Students are encouraged to ensure they have informed themselves before submitting their vote. With voting occurring online, students can check their Brock email accounts to submit their vote between October 23 and 25

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