Students deserve a say on where their money goes

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 31, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Last week, the University Students’ Council rejected a motion to hold a student referendum on whether or not to help fund Western’s Student Refugee Program with a 22-cent student fee. SRP sponsors refugee students so they can attend Canadian post-secondary institutions.

The initiative is admirable and would provide many advantages, such as helping refugees from areas of the world without the educational resources and access to financial aid available in Canada.

The federal government has recently cut funding toward similar programs and a student levy would provide a stable income source for Western’s refugee program.

Western can also benefit from the added diversity of international students who bring different perspectives and cultures to the classroom and community.

The effort would also be good for the school’s image.

However, some students may object to paying a mandatory student fee to SRP because supporting a particular cause should be a personal choice. Obligatory support may counteract the altruism behind the act of giving.

As well, many students already depend on student loans or struggle to make ends meet, so it might be unfair in principle to ask them to contribute to the tuition or living costs of other students. Yes, the student fee is just 22 cents, but donating to one cause could open the door to countless other donations.

Lastly, some students may have political objections to supporting such a cause.

There are other ways for groups to raise money, and as it stands, the program receives much of its funding through fundraising and partnerships with Western.

Yet beyond the argument itself, perhaps the largest issue is why the USC didn’t let Western students decide for themselves whether or not to add the fee.

The USC could’ve accepted the motion and let the question go to a student referendum. Instead, councillors voted without the input of the students they supposedly represent. Many students were unaware this vote was occurring.

The USC could’ve treated the issue like last year’s recreation centre student fee and run another “yes” and “no” campaign.

Eighty-five per cent of SRP’s fees come from student levies, and many other Canadian have already tackled the initiative by adding a yearly student fee.

Hypothetically, the USC could reopen the debate and gather the perspectives of students via plebiscite. This would give the students an official medium to speak on the issue without binding the USC to any course of action.

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