Student fees regain mandatory status

Legal battle with provincial government not impacted by pandemic

Walkhome was the only organization to voluntarily request a decrease in its mandatory fee
Walkhome was the only organization to voluntarily request a decrease in its mandatory fee.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Several student fees regained mandatory status for the 2020-21 year due to the suspension of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI).

The Board of Trustees approved the student ancillary fees for the 2020-21 year at a meeting on May 8. These include fees for Accessibility Queen’s, the AMS Membership Fee, the Ban Righ Centre Mature Student Bursary, and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.

The Journal, Queen’s Legal Aid, the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, the Sexual Health Resource Centre, the Work Bursary Program, and the World University Services of Canada also regained mandatory fee status.

Following the implementation of the SCI in 2019-20, these services lost significant funding, including the Queen’s Legal Aid (QLA) clinic, which saw a $22,000 decrease in funds.
QLA did not respond to The Journal’s request for comment in time for publication.

The provincial government introduced the SCI in January 2019, giving students the choice to opt out of paying fees deemed non-essential by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU). 

The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O) and the York Federation of Students applied for judicial review of the SCI in May 2019, denouncing its implementation as an overstep of the Ministry’s mandate. 

The SCI was ruled unlawful by the Divisional Court of Ontario on Nov. 21, 2019. However, the provincial government later appealed the decision, arguing it restricts the government’s authority to attach conditions to public funding.

Kayla Weiler, national executive representative of the CFS-O, wrote in a statement to The Journal that the organization is currently waiting to hear back from the Court of Appeal about when the hearing will be scheduled. There have been no changes in procedure since the beginning of the pandemic.

At Queen’s, the list of fees passed by the Board of Trustees in May also reports that the AMS Food Bank and Golden Words secured mandatory status through student referendum this winter.

CFRC radio station, which had a mandatory fee prior to the implementation of the SCI, secured optional status in a March referendum. 

Walkhome was the only organization to voluntarily request a decrease in its mandatory fee, from $21.54 to $17.54.

Ben Davies, Walkhome head manager, told The Journal the decision was made after the AMS reviewed the Walkhome fee for the 2020-21 year.

While the AMS was solely responsible for funding Walkhome in the two years prior to 2019-20, the service received an activity fee from both the AMS and the SGPS last year. Davies added that increased enrolment from year to year has inevitably resulted in higher funding for the service. 

Davies also said the new scheduling and payroll system implemented in the fall of 2019 introduced key operational controls that assisted management with scheduling staff and controlling costs.

“[T]he reviews conducted of the Walkhome 2020-21 fee projected surplus, which is unnecessary to run the service,” Davies said. “The AMS reduced the fee given the efficiencies gained through increased management tools and passed the reduction along to AMS undergraduate students.

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