Passing the rez fee buck
By Karena Walter
Western's residents' councils will have to find their own meal tickets as the administration is no longer going to collect residence fees next year due to the risks involved.
The decision has left residence councils wondering what will happen to them. "It's a big blow to all residences. Especially the smaller ones," said Sean Martin, president of Saugeen-Maitland Hall residents' council. Councils are now worried about finances and restrictions on events.
"There was no notice, no discussion regarding these issues. No student input. And that's a big concern for us," Martin said.
Currently, residence students pay $33 each which is collected by the administration and distributed among residents' councils. However, on Thursday, Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer told a group of residence councillors the university will no longer be responsible for collecting the fee.
"We've done that as a courtesy but we're not going to do that right now," Mercer said. Although the administration has collected the fee it is not accountable for the way it is used, Mercer explained. Residences hold activities the university could be at risk for such as activities off-campus or those involving alcohol which have the potential for injury, he said.
The decision is not only motivated by legal and financial matters though. The reputation of the university is also an issue, he said. "Times have changed and the residences now are seen as integral not just in social life but in academic life," Mercer said.
"The University of Western Ontario's reputation is not one which says we spend too much time on academics," he said.
Some students have chosen not to attend Western because residence life is seen as a party, he said. However, the university is the landlord. "We have a responsibility to monitor what goes on inside them."
But Martin said residences do not promote Western's party image. "A lot of our programming is beneficial to students," he said, adding Saugeen added an academic convenor to its council just two weeks ago.
The $33 pays for formals, yearbooks and social and academic programming, Martin said. "One of our big concerns is finding another source of revenue."
Mercer said the administration will work with council to provide funding for programming activity. "We're not running a boot camp."
University Students' Council president Dave Tompkins said the USC will discuss various options with the residents' councils. Some ideas are to loan them money, fund them with a small fee from all students, make them an accredited group with more autonomy or a combination of various ideas.