Increasing residence fees

By Kirstin Morrell

Over 75 students staged a sit-in to voice their anger over potential residence fee increases. Led by Residence Students Association President Sarah Wilson, students met Ancillary Services’ Director Peter Fraser for a 45-minute question and answer session on the morning Fri., Mar. 28.

The student concerns were simultaneous increases to tuition and the cost of living on campus, including a potential five per cent increase to annual services fees.

“We end up paying five per cent of our fees more than once, because residents use so many of the services around campus, like food services, books, parking, and residence fees,” Wilson said. “It’s outrageous that they expect us to keep forking over money to them. We’re being double, triple and even quadruple taxed.”

Fraser is sympathetic but maintains that the increases are necessary to keep residence running because of increased overhead.

“A huge part is utility rates going up,” he said. “The university has been decimated, just like everybody off campus.”

According to Fraser, many of the students at Friday’s sit-in were there because of outdated or incorrect information. He said Ancillary Services has worked to lower the amount students pay to stay in residence.

“We’ve been working quietly behind the scenes, whittling down what students were going to have to pay,” Fraser said.

He also insisted that the senior university administration has the students’ best interests in mind.

Wilson is not convinced.

“Comparing the amount of ancillary fees that we are charged at U of C to the amount that other schools are charging back to their university’s central budget–which is between 0-3 per cent for some institutions–you’d see just how much students that use these services at the U of C are being ripped off.”

The RSA president also said students are frustrated by what she sees as a lack of concern by the Board of Governors, and U of C President Dr. Harvey Weingarten in particular, toward students’ situations.

“We did meet with Dr. Weingarten, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to give us the answers that we were, and still are, looking for.”

Many other students also feel alienated and believe that, while they have made a strong showing at protests like the sit-in, their efforts will have little effect on the decisions of administration.

Heather Osborne, a third-year resident of student housing, is moving off-campus next year due to the cost. While she understands the rationale behind a fee for the use of residence land, she is upset that students’ voices are not being heard.

“I was devastated at the Board of Governors meeting,” Osborne said. “It turned off all my faith in the ability of protests to work any change. I think it’s a noble effort, but futile. It’s like the university is the Borg.”

She also cited a common concern among tenants, such as lack of upkeep; unrepaired holes in walls, vandalism, and old furnishings.

“There is a myth that the mattresses we sleep on now are possibly the same ones we were conceived on when our parents lived in Rez,” Osborne said.