The Student Choice Initiative (SCI) was introduced by the provincial government of Ontario government earlier in 2019. The initiative allowed students to opt out of incidental fees that were deemed non-mandatory by the government.
In November 2019, the Ontario Divisional Court (ODC) found that the SCI was inconsistent with the minimum standard of autonomy that Ontario universities are to be guaranteed under the law.
In late December 2019, after a full month review the Ontario government has made it known that they fully intend to appeal the decision.
In light of the court decision given by ODC, University of Toronto shifted back to its original fee structure where students will pay all the mandatory and non-mandatory fees for the winter term. Brock University has not decided to do the same. President Gervan Fearon is to address Brock University’s first governance gathering of 2020 on January 15, where he will speak about Brock’s standing on this matter.
“As discussed at the last Senate meeting, an Ontario court has struck down the provincial government’s SCI, finding that the government’s directives were ‘not authorized by law and are inconsistent with the autonomy granted universities.’ The SCI requires universities and colleges to allow students to opt out of ‘non-essential’ ancillary fees that funded services like student clubs, student newspapers and food banks,” said Fearon in his report to Senate.
The court decision was celebrated by student activists. Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) openly condemned SCI and joined their protest against the Initiative with the Ontario Undergraduate Students Association (OUSA). The Canadian Federation of Students shared a similar sentiment.
“The government has subsequently announced in December 2019 that it is appealing the ruling. The University respects the judicial process in this matter and will await its conclusion before taking further action,” said Fearon in his report.
Fearon further explained that it is imperative that Brock University is mindful of the judicial process and is respectfully patient before it makes any decision to revoke the opt-out option introduced in September 2019.
Student unions across the province hope that the matter is settled before the start of the next academic term.