Volume 97, Issue 1
Thursday, May 22, 2003

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Admin to USC: No student dental plan

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Western's Board of Governors has refused to approve introduction of the fees required to fund the University Students' Council's dental plan.

The proposed $116 student fee increase that would have come with the dental plan's implementation – approved by students via referendum this past February – was nixed by BOG, a decision which means it will not be in place in September for incoming students.

Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer explained that BOG acted on a recommendation from the Campus & Community Affairs Committee to reject the plan; a recommendation that was rooted in the controversy surrounding the referendum's result.

"The USC [should] consider redressing these problems by holding another referendum if it wishes to bring the fee forward next year," stated the Committee's written recommendation, which BOG supported.

The original vote was challenged because of what the Committee recommendation termed "technical and substantive irregularities," which included the rewording of the question midway through the referendum and a small voter turnout. The votes in favour of the plan were 2, 138, with 1,840 against.

"This is not the BOG overturning a referendum result; there were problems in the referendum process," said USC President Paul Yeoman.

"The Board doesn't want to be in the position of second-guessing the students' decision to pay the fee, but the size of the fee made it inappropriate to pass," Mercer said.

The $116 per student increase was the highest fee increase the USC had ever requested, larger than both its predecessors, the bus pass and the health plan, according to Yeoman.

"People sometimes accuse the USC of trying to push the dental plan through – the USC has no vested interest," stated former USC president Chris Sinal, who oversaw the referendum during his term in office.

Sinal also expressed concern with the vulnerability of the institutions. "A significant problem with any student government, especially referendums, is that some students will come out to vote, and some to contest. Those who contest can seem to represent a larger number than they do."

"It goes back to the procedural difficulties the [referendum] had – that's where most people have concerns. [The USC] just has to make sure those are corrected in the future," Yeoman said.

Yeoman said he wasn't jumping the gun on the possibility of a second referendum. "We're going to take it to council in the fall. There'll be a debate and discussion – based on what council wants to do, we'll execute that."

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2002 THE GAZETTE