Despite the serious concern expressed by multiple councillors on the proposal’s wording, the Concordia Student Union’s council passed a motion to put a fee-levy increase for the student centre project to referendum in Nov.
Students will be voting yes or no on the question “Do you agree to contribute $0.50 per credit through the CSU for a student centre project while allowing a $0.50 (per credit) extension per semester for the following (4) semesters?” While a slightly different question may appear on the ballot, at the discretion of the chief electoral officer Oliver Cohen, this wording was ultimately approved in a motion by council.
Confusion over the wording was the subject of serious debate at last week’s council meeting, prompting discussion that lasted over an hour and a half before councillors finally passed a motion to include the question on the ballot.
Many councillors expressed concerns that it would be unclear to students that the levy would rise on a staggering system before ultimately stopping at $2.50, and that students are already paying a $2 levy for the student centre.
Independent councillor Ethan Cox expressed the greatest opposition to the wording.
“First of all, that question is totally misleading. I’m opposed to it on principle on the basis of that question because that’s not telling students the truth and that’s inviting students to misunderstand,” he said. “It’s worded in a way that seems to me very tricky and to be perfectly honest with you it’s the exact same way the Charest government raises tuition.”
Consequently, Cox proposed a motion to amend the wording. He motioned to add “for a total of $2.50/cr at the end of 4 semesters,” in order to clarify what students would ultimately be paying. Cox then amended his own motion, adding the statement “on top of the $2.00/cr for a total of $4.50/cr,” so that the existing levy was referred to in the question.
Councillors voted down both of Cox’s amendments, however, the former in a tight 8 to 12 vote. In response, an angered Cox said “so to be clear, everybody wants to mislead students,” before leaving the meeting and not returning.
The majority of councillors were in favour of the student centre itself. Rasim Hafiz motivated for the levy proposal, emphasizing the importance of just getting it on the Nov. ballot and letting students decide. “As councillors, this is a great opportunity for us to at least raise the question,” he said. “And again we’re not here to question the intelligence of the student body. We know they are more than capable to make the choice themselves.”
But many councillors also raised concerns about putting the question back on the ballot considering 72 per cent of students voted against the fee-levy last spring.
“I think the problem is that we all sit here representing the students,” councillor Taylor Knott said. “When 72 per cent of our constituency have voted it down how can we all sit here and vote yes to put more money towards another campaign.”
It was a motion from Knott, however, that ended up pushing councillors to put the fee-levy to referendum. She motioned that “council recommend to the CEO to revise the question to address the following ambiguities,” referring to the various elements of the wording that were debated at the meeting. Councillors almost unanimously approved Knott’s motion, after which they also approved putting the question on the ballot.
The debate followed a presentation by VP external & projects Adrien Severyns on the student centre in which he outlined its history, the potential benefits of the project and a few of the details that have been worked out.
The centre will be financed in three ways, Severyns explained. Student fee-levies will present the largest portion of funding, and are already responsible for raising $6.7 million towards the purchase of a space for the centre. The university administration will offer a smaller contribution as they will only control 38 per cent of the facility space, as well as infrastructure and parking. Finally, revenue from commercial spaces in the centre will also help alleviate some of the mortgages in coming years, Severyns said.
The CSU has also set up a blog which asks students to suggest what they want out of the student centre.
Other than to alleviate student space problems, Severyns sees the student centre as one solution to the growing apathy of students at Concordia. “When students don’t have student space, how do you expect them to start interact with one other and actually start politicizing the issues that are going on at Concordia?” he said.