Nova Scotia student unions representing 37,471 members have voted unanimously to oppose any new ancillary fees until their institutions agree to clear and binding terms of consultation. Students will boycott any event that could be considered a ‘consultation’ around new fees, unless they receive written assurance from their institution that the event will not be considered a ‘consultation’.
The membership of Students Nova Scotia made the decision after a number of universities have introduced or moved to introduce new ancillary fees either without meaningful student input or in defiance of student opposition. The annual fees include a $180 athletics fee at King’s, a package of fees worth roughly $250 at NSCAD, and a proposed $150-$200 athletics fee at SMU.
In the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the province and its universities, ancillary fees are defined as “fees for non-academic services”. The MOU specifies that universities must “consult” with their student unions well in advance of approving a new fee to “allow for effective student input into the proposal prior to the decision.” No further definition of a “consultation” is provided such that there is no mechanism for students to approve, reject or modify any projects or services financed through new fees. This is in contrast with Ontario, where all new ancillary fees must receive approval from the campus student association.
“Universities’ ‘fee proposals’ are generally done deals by the time students are approached, making these ‘consultations’ little more than a show and tell to which students can neither offer meaningful input or opposition,” said StudentsNS Chair, Kyle Power. “We have been asking for meaningful consultation for a long time, our patience has been exhausted and that’s why we are beginning this boycott.”
“All StudentsNS members agree that if a university wants to levy a fee on all students for something that is ancillary to their education, it is only fair that students should have a mechanism to say yes or no,” said Jonathan Williams, Executive Director of StudentsNS. “We cannot accept consultations on new fees where students do not have the power to say yes or no.”
At a recent SMU Q&A discussing that school’s fee proposal, the student association did not recognize the event as a legitimate consultation. Nevertheless, students were told that this was their opportunity for input and that the fee would proceed.
“We held student elections in mid-February and students approved every student fee proposal raised by the student union and other societies, so why didn’t the university actually seek student input and put the proposed new fee to a vote?” asked SMU Students’ Association President Jared Perry. “This isn’t about the individual fee proposals, it’s about students having the right to decide.”
In a November referendum, students at King’s overwhelmingly rejected an additional $180 fee to help Dalhousie construct its new recreation facility. The next day that university’s Board of Governors ignored the students and approved the new fee.
“We’re calling on the Province to reject all new fees until institutions agree to acceptable consultation processes with their student unions”, said Williams. He noted that StudentsNS has already requested a meeting with Minister More.
A copy of the motion passed by StudentsNS members can be found here: http://studentsns.ca/2013/03/a-motion-to-define-student-consultations-respecting-new-ancillary-fees/
For more questions and inquiries please contact:
Jonathan Williams, StudentsNS Executive Director
Phone: 902 422 4068
Cell phone: 902 483 5480
Kyle Power, StudentsNS Chair
Phone: 902 585 2127
Jared Perry, SMUSA President
Phone: 902 496 8701