Brock University to disregard Ontario’s Student Choice Initiative

Photo Credit: Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

Photo Credit: Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

The Student Choice Initiative (SCI) was introduced by the provincial government of Ontario earlier in 2019. The SCI 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 his March report of 2020, President Gervan Fearon said that Brock University would be going back to its original fee structure starting September 2020.

According to previous university reports, the majority of the students decided not to opt-out of the non-mandatory services.  However, student unions across Ontario condemned the initiative openly.

On January 15, President Gervan Fearon shared his report with the University governance, saying that Brock will not be revoking the SCI in respect of the judicial process. However, the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities have indicated that universities across Ontario will not be receiving any updates from the government in this regard, even though the government has shown interest in appealing the court decision.

“On November 21, 2019, an Ontario court struck down the provincial government’s ‘Student Choice Initiative’ (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 fund services like student clubs, student newspapers and food banks. When it was implemented at Brock as was required, the majority of both graduate and undergraduate students chose not to opt-out of most fees. Though some services like The Brock Press and BrockTV were impacted negatively,” said Fearon in his report.

President Fearon further explained that Brock University has taken ample time to review this decision. Brock University has consulted with legal counsel about the SCI scenario and upon receiving recommendations from other post-secondary institutions across Ontario, the administration has decided to adopt the original fee structure.

The report shared that Brock would re-evaluate if need be after the court’s decision on the provincial government’s appeal.

Interested individuals who desire to learn more about the situation regarding the SCI and what Brock will be doing next are encouraged to reach out to Brock central at central@brocku.ca for more information.

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