No Remuneration Without Representation

Making a Case for Representative Fee Levies

Graphic Sophie Morro

A petition was recently circulated throughout the John Molson School of Business asking students about a possible referendum question that would determine whether or not they would continue paying for certain service- or research-based fees from independent groups, also known as fee levies.

In just one day, over 500 students signed the petition, indicating their desire to put the question to a vote, showing how pressing this issue is.

Based on a student taking 15 credits in a given semester, JMSB students pay between $216.60-$220.20 in fee levies, while fine arts students pay between $174.90-$179.40, engineering and computer science students $152.85-$156.45 and arts and science students $141.15-$144.75. The discrepancy in fees comes from the faculty-specific services offered.

Whether it be for an art show presented by the Fine Arts Student Alliance, a fund to purchase new equipment in the engineering faculty, or the Career Management Services office that focuses on helping JMSB students find jobs upon graduation, fees are split by faculty because each student group has different needs.

The fees that the petition focused on are Art Matters, Cinema Politica, Community University Television, Le Frigo Vert, the Concordia Food Coalition and Quebec Public Interest Research Group-Concordia.

A quote printed in The Link from Christina Xydous of QPIRG Concordia was as follows: “Certain fee-levy groups operate crisis service centres […] for people who are going through a very difficult and hard situation. […] Are we going to be carding people before being able to offer them services […]?”

This is certainly an understandable concern, but an invalid one. As a conscious decision, the JMSB petition did not want to remove any crisis and emergency service centres, such as the Centre for Gender Advocacy, a very effective and well-supported group across Concordia. The focus is on groups for which JMSB students as a whole do not get value for their money.

An editorial published in The Link stated that, “Automatically opting out every student in a single faculty would cripple these groups.” False. These groups will not disappear. They will simply operate within their financial means.

JMSB students are not saying these services are useless, simply that the money could be better invested in initiatives JMSB students actually want. A group for which a faculty would opt-out of would no longer have to offer services to that faculty. If services are offered proportionately to the number and distribution of students paying into it, there should be no impact on these groups.

“Just because a student refuses to peer outside the confines of their cozy building does not mean an entire organization should suffer. These groups, including The Link, rely on some of [students’] pocket change each semester to make this community a little better.”

This statement in The Link’s editorial unfortunately adds to the negative stereotype of JMSB that has been breeding distrust and disrespect for years across Concordia. JMSB does not want to remove The Link’s fee levy, and it is important that we maintain a respectful discourse by informing students of facts and letting them decide for themselves, instead of resorting to hyperbole.

It’s about stimulating dialogue and improving inter-disciplinary communication, not banishing JMSB students to their “cozy building.”

But the most important thing that needs to be addressed is the sheer lack of information about these fee levies across campus. The Link’s editorial continued that, “A Google search of the organization you don’t wish to fund, followed by the words ‘opt out,’ reveals that most of the organizations detail exactly how to get your money back.”

After discussions with many students across Concordia—many from outside JMSB—it became very clear that few students are satisfied with the current opt-out process. Even at the Feb. 12 CSU meeting, the consensus on council was that the current opt-out process is inefficient and cumbersome. Students are barely aware of the fees they pay, let alone what the opt-out process is.

As an alternative to an opt-out process, students across the university—again, many from outside JMSB—suggested that a more effective opt-in process be instituted.

For example, the few JMSB students who still wish to be part of services like Cinema Politica could very easily pay for the fee individually. This way, services will still be made available for students who really want them. The responsibility of communicating the value of a fee to students should be on the actual fee-levy group collecting the fee. Students should not have to sign a petition to prove they don’t want to be forced to pay for something.

Concordians need to remember that JMSB students are not the stereotypes certain people are trying to make them out to be. JMSB students pay significantly more than every other student at Concordia.

Respecting the diversity of opinions is what will allow student life to be rich across all faculties, and asking fee levy questions on a per-faculty basis will open the door for students willing to pay more for things that can truly have an impact on their education, taking Concordia’s student life to new heights.

Kabir Bindra is a John Molson School of Business councillor for the Concordia Student Union