USC decides to increase refugee program funding

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The University Students’ Council voted last Wednesday to support the Student Refugee Program.

Two weeks ago, Council defeated a motion proposing a referendum on whether or not to introduce a 22-cent student levy to help fund the program. The program sponsors refugee students obtaining a post-secondary education in Canada.

The new motion increases the USC’s Financial Committee Grant fee and directs the finance committee to donate the money to the SRP, avoiding any direct agreements between the USC and the SRP.

The possibility of a student levy was abandoned by Council due to its potential legal liabilities.

“The new motion sidesteps the key legal implications of a student levy,” Dolan said. “It wouldn’t have been responsible to enter into agreements that put us into legal trouble.”

Dolan said although there will be no referendum, students were very involved in the USC’s decision.

“Students spoke and wrote to councillors and to The Gazette over the past two weeks expressing their support for the program,” he said. “The USC was elected to make decisions regarding student fee increases of up to $4 before a referendum needs to be called.”

By passing the new motion, Council avoids the high costs of a referendum. The fee increases can also be implemented much sooner, Dolan added.

Some students at the meeting expressed concern about the new motion.

Matt Fisher, USC chief returning officer, said he spoke against the motion because the USC is raising student fees without directly asking students their opinion.

“I wanted to make council aware that democratic decision-making options were still available,” he said.

Stephen Lecce, a USC senator, also spoke against the motion.

“As a matter of personal conscience, students should be able to choose the charities they wish to donate to,” Lecce said.

“Council only has the authority to allocate spending for delivering student services. I don’t believe that supporting charities is within our jurisdiction.”

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