Fee increases cause confusion

Students have been confused in the past week about the fee increases proposed by UTMSU to expand the current Student Centre, according to UTMSU’s president, Chris Thompson.

The referendum proposes a $75 increase in fees, bringing the total tuition levy for the regular fall-winter academic year to $100. The UTMSU is proposing a temporary increase of $27 per semester for the Student Centre levy. This amount will be in place for no more than three years, during which time the levy will generate $2 million that will be matched dollar for dollar by the university to raise the total of $4 million that the expansion is estimated to cost.

In addition to the temporary increase, UTMSU is also proposing a permanent increase of $10.50 per semester, including the first three years. This works out to a total levy of $100 per year for the first three years, and $46 per year from then on. UTMSU currently collects $12.50 per semester, a total of $25 for the regular fall/winter year.

“The misconception students have is that it’s a $100 increase,” said Thompson. “When talking about finances, it’s very tricky. When you do, you want to give context. […] When I talk to students, I give context to where these numbers came from.”

Students are confused about the definition of a “session”, which is the word used in the referendum preamble to explain the breakdown of the fee increase. The preamble gives the figures on a sessional basis, which is one semester. Last week’s article in The Medium explains the fee increases on both a per-semester and per-year basis.

“I’ve been talking to a lot of people while campaigning on the ground, and they’re confused,” said Khogali.

The permanent increase, which will fund “additional programming and activities”, according to the preamble, would generate approximately $250,000 per year for UTMSU.

Fifth-year student Thomas Kristan said he thinks the referendum will fail.

“I do have a sneaking suspicion that the referendum will fail, though, as most of the students who will be paying this new fee will not be around to enjoy the expansion—either at all or possibly only for just one year,” he said. “So many students probably will not be taking into consideration the needs of future students, but rather their own wallets.”

Students have voiced concerns about being asked to vote yes on the Student Centre expansion. One student, who goes by the name of Wilson on Facebook, posted on UTMSU’s page: “You, the UTMSU, were campaigning against tuition hikes nationwide, and yet here you are campaigning for a tuition hike?”

The student continued, “The union is trying to fool students into believing the increase is lower than what it really is, and sweet-talking about additional ‘services’ to passersby […] because they know students will oppose a $75/year tuition increase and vote no.” The student pointed out that UTMSU “needs 5% of the entire UTM student population to vote in this referendum to make this election valid, so even if 95% of students don’t vote, and 5% vote yes, then we all have our tuition hiked up”.

After The Medium investigated why the preliminary blueprints for the proposed Student Centre expansion were not posted online, UTMSU requested permission from the university to post the sketches. After obtaining permission from the offices of the Dean of Student Affairs and Food Services, UTMSU posted the preliminary sketches on their Facebook page.

There is no designated study space in the current blueprints of the Student Centre. The multipurpose rooms would be converted into study space during exam periods.

When asked why the fees are not advertised on the flyers that are being handed out by campaigners, Thompson said the purpose of the flyers was not to advertise the proposed increased fees.

“The actual fee component was the first thing that went out,” said Thompson. “Normally if you want to endorse a project and get people on it, you probably start with the good, the really nice, pretty stuff. […] The flyers had a second purpose, which is to show students what the expansion is going to provide.”

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