By Riley Hill
University of Calgary students will be heading to the polls October 25-27 to vote on the current student levy on the Women’s Resource Centre. The referendum will decide whether the Students’ Union will stop charging a levy on students, in light of new money made available with the introduction of the controversial General Non-Program Fee. Currently all full-time U of C students pay $1 to the Women’s Resource Centre, and all part-time students pay $0.50. This grossed approximately $45,000 for the centre in 2010.
The SU is trying to eliminate this fee through a referendum, since the university has agreed to cover the WRC’s costs with funds from the General Non-Program Fee.
“There’s a student services fee the university is now charging students each year,” said SU president Dylan Jones. “Through that fee, they’re including the cost of running the Women’s Resource Centre. So because the fee is now being covered through the student services fee, we’re running this referendum so students will not be charged twice.”
The money set aside comes from the General Non-Program Fee, a $450 fee increase for students introduced last year. The fee’s purpose was to cover a number of school services, including the WRC. When asked about the money set aside for the WRC, associate vice-provost of enrolment and registrar David Johnston explained, “the expectation at the time was that the levies would come off and we would fund the three services that had levies.” These three services are the Women’s Resource Centre, the Disability Resource Centre and Career Services.
“After the mandatory general fee was implemented the university understood that the Students’ Union was going to stop charging a levy. They felt that they had to go to referendum,” said Johnston.
Since the General Non-Program Fee’s passing, the other two student levies have been dropped through a referendum last year. The levy on the WRC though remains, and the university has decided not to provide funding for the program until the levy is cancelled.
“The commitment we’ve made is if the referendum agrees to take the levy off, [the fee] will be removed from students’ accounts effective winter.” The referendum is necessary due to SU by-laws.
Student funding for the WRC was first introduced in 2007 by student referendum. To reverse a decision made by referendum, it’s necessary to hold another — a law designed to hold SU decisions accountable. If the referendum doesn’t pass, students will continue to pay the levy on top of the money they’re already charged through the General Non-Program Fee.
“If it’s passed, we’ll still be paying the same $450 fee to the university, but the cost of running the Women’s Resource Centre won’t be fully utilized,” said Jones.
Explaining the General Non-Program Fee, Johnston said “The money for the General Non-Program Fee goes into this general pool, and then is redistributed to the specific services. Because we are still collecting the fee, that money is not being directed to the Women’s Resource Centre. We haven’t been told exactly where it’s going.”
When asked about what happens to the money set aside for the Women’s Resource Centre if the referendum does not pass, Johnston said the money “goes into the university budget.”