Some Queen’s students are proposing a new, $70 opt-outable fee to go towards the University’s operating budget in light of the projected operating deficit of $8.3 million for the 2009-10 year.
Undergraduate student Trustee Morgan Campbell said she and James Simpson, ArtSci ’11, proposed the idea.
“We thought it would be best handled to go towards the operating budget, such as paying of TAs, maintenance of rooms, and provision of teaching materials,” she said, adding that the money wouldn’t go towards paying the University’s debt.
Campbell said the students are holding off on proposing the fee in the upcoming referendum.
“We did a bunch of polling with students and the general consensus wasn’t positive right now,” she said, adding that the students tried to obtain a general opinion on the matter from a random sample of 50 to 70 students.
“The general sentiment on campus is that people aren’t aware,” she said.
“People don’t know all the arguments well enough.”
Discussions about the fee with University administration have been more positive, Campbell said. “The reason we’ve been thinking of this idea is because other universities did,” she said.
“[The University of British Columbia] did this several years back when the province capped their tuition and it wasn’t enough to pay for all the services they wanted to offer.”
Campbell said the School of Business has an opt-outable fee that goes towards the Goodes Hall Expansion Project, so she thinks the idea is nothing new.
“The most important thing is that it’s entirely opt-outable,” Campbell said.
“Contributions we were budgeting for is assuming that less than half of the students would opt in,” she said, adding that the school would accumulate over $1 million in three years if half of undergraduate students paid the fee.
Campbell said she thinks contributing to the operating budget would impact students’ quality of education.
According to the Principal’s financial update, she said, the province used to contribute 70 per cent to the operating budget but now contributes less than half.
“The amount our tuition can increase each year does not keep up with rising costs,” Campbell said.
“There’s a 15 per cent cut in all faculties within the next three years,” Campbell said.
“The kinds of cuts we’re asking faculties to make are going to destroy them.”
Principal Daniel Woolf, whose vision statement was released last Friday, has also been made aware of efforts to introduce the fee.
“We will watch this initiative with great interest though, as always, remaining at arm’s-length from what must be a student decision,” Woolf told the Journal via e-mail.
“I applaud the initiative being taken by the students in proposing this question, in recognizing the significant pressures that our current financial circumstances are placing on the quality of the educational experience.”
Campbell said student contributions to the operating budget would make a big difference and would also send a message to different groups.
“It sends a strong message to the province,” she said.
“We want quality and we’re not getting that right now.” She said the opt-outable fee would also signal to alumni that students need their help right now.
“Last time we were in a severe economical situation, alumni helped as well,” she said. “Many alumni don’t understand what’s going on right now.”
It also sends a signal to other groups on campus who have already made cuts that students are willing to help, she said.
Despite her support of the fee, Campbell said she recognizes that contributing to the operating budget isn’t students’ responsibility.
“We’re at the point where we can’t say whose fault it is that we’re in this situation. Right now we need to figure out how we’re going to get out of this,” she said. “The biggest sentiment is that this isn’t students’ responsibility to pay this, but we’re running out of other options.”
If the motion were to be introduced on a future referendum, it would have to pass by a vote of 50 plus one per cent, she said, which is approximately 5,000 students.
Campbell said the money students would pay for this fee would come back to them quicker than other projects they’re currently paying for, notably the Queen’s Centre.
The Queen’s Centre fee, which was $71 this year, is mandatory and goes towards construction that many students won’t see during their time here, she said.
“This would specifically go towards improvements we would see that year,” she said, adding that the fee would be temporary and not mandatory.
Campbell said she and the students who proposed the fee are still looking for more feedback about the idea.
“I think more students will start to realize why this would be beneficial to them.”
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