Fee disclosure concerns raised by parent
By Sara Marett
Last night's meeting of the Board of Governors' Campus and Community Affairs Committee was bombarded with presentations by the University Students' Council and the Society of Graduate Students concerning student fees. It was the presentation of a Western parent, however, that raised the most questions involving the disclosure of how student fees are spent.
USC VP-finance Lucy Pinheiro began the meeting with a presentation on the escalation of undergraduate fees in recent years and how the USC operating budget works.
Following her information session, a presentation was made by George Burns, the father of a Western student who made the Board of Governors aware of his concerns regarding student fees.
"Ancillary fees are set unilaterally from the top down without paying attention to student input and the student council is allowed to set fees without any approval from anyone else this is a very unique situation," he said.
Burns' main complaint involved the lack of information provided to students and parents when choosing to attend Western. "There needs to be complete disclosure of what we are paying for a line by line budgetary breakdown."
He claimed the administration did not provide this information when requested by letter. President Paul Davenport said he did reply to his letter in April but had no confirmation that it had reached him.
Burns said he approached the USC and spoke with Pinheiro and President Ryan Parks regarding USC fees and student knowledge of their fee breakdown. He criticized the money collected by the USC for services such as the USC day care, lobby groups, campus media, community legal services, first nations services, the student health plan and the accessibility levy.
He asked why students were paying for these services when many do not use them. He encouraged the university and the USC to educate students on the breakdown of these fees through information sessions and on-campus media outlets.
Burns expressed his concern about the continual growth of the university, particularly as a retail operation and felt students do not need these kinds of services available to them on campus. "This place should be simply study and research why do we offer retail outlets and pubs?"
Davenport replied the university definitely does not feel as though it is expanding as government grants are being cut and the school has 20 per cent fewer full-time employees. He said the charging of fees for services such as day care and first nations services can be attributed to recruitment attempts to make the school attractive to a broad range of people.
"I meet a dozen students a year who say the availability of day care on campus is the reason they are able to attend. I think most people don't mind paying the fee when they know they are helping others in this way," he added.
Pinheiro said Burns' presentation was an inaccurate portrayal of the disclosure of budgetary information, particularly the breakdown of USC fees. This information is made available to anyone who wants it in many ways such as on the VP-finance website, in the USC office and published in the Westernizer, she added.