CSU Removes Student Majority Requirement for Fee-Levy Groups

Regulation ‘Restricted the Operation of the Groups’

Fee-levy groups at Concordia no longer need a student majority running their board of directors to apply for a levy increase from undergraduates via a referendum.

The Concordia Student Union adopted a motion at their first council meeting of the semester last Wednesday that struck down a shortlived standing regulation that required these groups to have a student-majority stake in their governance.

“Having these types of coercive measures that ignore the variability between organizations and the very distinct context that they’re working in is, to me, not the way that policy should function,” said VP Academic and Advocacy Gene Morrow, who put forward the motion to council.

Morrow filed the motion on behalf of the Fee-Levy Association at Concordia, an informal body of fee-levy groups representing at least 13 members.

FLAC members Julie Michaud of the Centre for Gender Advocacy and Christina Xydous of Concordia’s chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group told council that CSU standing regulation 138a point i restricted the operation of the groups by having such a rigid standard they need to meet in order to apply for fee-levy increase.

According to Larissa Dutil, member of both the Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore’s board of directors and the FLAC, having a student majority isn’t conducive to fee-levy groups that work both in and outside of Concordia.

“The easiest way to explain why it’s an issue for us is […] the vast majority of members became members when they were students, but it’s a lifetime membership, so just statistically, there will be more non-student members than there are [student] members,” she said, adding that even if all 35,000 undergraduates paid the one-time $5 subsidized fee to become members of the co-op bookstore, they would ultimately become non-student members in a few years’ time.

“The majority of the time it does end up being students that are on our board […] because they are the main stakeholders in what we’re doing,” she added.

However, Dutil warned that student representation on a fee-levy group comes with its challenges.

“The truth of the matter is students don’t have the experience, don’t have the time, don’t want the responsibility,” she said.

Xydous relayed similar sentiments to council last Wednesday.

“The board of directors are there to handle far more than day-to-day or month-to-month direction of the organization, and sometimes have to make decisions and also volunteer at a level that simply is impossible for board members who are also full-time students,” said Xydous, pointing out that these fee-levy organizations do not halt their services during midterms, exams or in the summer.

For Michaud, having the requirement might incite fee-levy groups to pick what she refers to as “placeholder candidates” that are only in a position of governance to fill a quota.

“It forces fee-levy groups to prioritize student status over the actual practical skills that are needed on boards,” she said.

According to Xydous, Michaud and Morrow, fee-levy groups were also not consulted before point i was originally added to article 138a in February.

While the majority of council voted in favour of the motion, some councillors were vocal in their dissent towards FLAC’s motion.

“Fee-levy groups are not their own personal little fiefdoms unto themselves,” arts and science councillor Wendy Kraus-Heitmann told The Link.

“They are akin to taxpayer-funded services by the government. So if we, the student government, should not be regulating them, pray tell who should?”

For CSU President Melissa Kate Wheeler, there are valid points to both lines of thinking.

“I think there’s also something to be said for having professionals who have more experience, and more training in the specific field that the organization is working in,” she said.

“I think there comes a point where one needs to consider whether the services themselves and the reason of existence of these groups is going to suffer by having a majority of students on the board in place of these professionals.”

Policy recommendations will be brought forward by the CSU’s policy committee and presented to council for their regular meeting in January.