Grads have money to burn, now know where to light fire
By Kevin Gale
Western's graduate students said 'Yes' to freeing up idle funds collected from them by the Society of Graduate Students.
A referendum was held yesterday to decide whether or not to eliminate restrictions on the use of a $6.50 per term levy fee collected from grad students by SOGS between 1992 to 1996.
The vote was in favour by a margin of 185-22. In order for the referendum to be binding, 158 members had to vote.
"It gives the society more flexibility in determining its finances," the society's president Andrew Hui said. He added the 13 per cent turnout was higher than expected. "We are just happy we made quorum."
The levy was originally designed to help cover losses incurred by the Grad Club which peaked at $21,600 in 1992, said SOGS chief returning officer Jeff Carter.
Carter said the $111,000 collected from students could only be used previously to make up for daily operating shortfalls and capital investments for the club.
However, Carter said the club never actually used the fund as it was able to recover the losses on its own.
Bruce Fyfe, manager of the Grad Club, said he added a pool table and began serving non-alcoholic beverages, such as specialty coffees and juices in 1992, which turned the club around in a year and a half. "It wasn't necessary to rely on the levy," Fyfe said.
Held in conjunction with the vote was a plebiscite question where voters were asked to choose two uses for the money if the referendum passed, Carter said.
The most popular of the seven choices, receiving 83 votes, was to establish an endowment fund for student support in the form of bursaries and scholarships. The second and third choices were to put the money into the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund and give the levy funds back to the Grad Club, receiving 49 and 46 votes respectively.
Other choices included the transfer of the funds to the SOGS budget and a reduction of fees for full-time graduate students.
SOGS VP-external, Rebecca Fahrig, said the choices made by students will be referred to the society's finance committee. "A condition of the opinion poll was that assurance was given that the choices would be respected to the best of our ability," she said.
Hui said he expects motions will be put forth at the SOGS general meeting Feb. 13 with regard to plans for the funds.