A week ago, the Kwantlen Student Association postponed a referendum on the U-Pass as negotiations hadn’t reached a conclusion before a target date set by TransLink set. This week, the negotiations were finalized, pending working out details in a couple areas.
The result is a recommendation that students vote in February 2011 to accept or reject a U-Pass.
One area that still needs to be worked out is the wording of the contract to include Adult Basic Education (ABE) students in the U-Pass program. ABE students are mature students who did not graduate from high school but are upgrading some education to continue in university education. Originally, these students were not included in the U-Pass program, since ABE credits do not count as regular full-time credits like most other courses do.
Another, more finicky area, concerns students who withdraw from courses after they receive a U-Pass.
Hypothetically, it may be possible for a student to register for one class, receive a U-Pass, then withdraw from that class. In this case, TransLink would charge Kwantlen an additional $50 to make up the difference between a U-Pass and a regular one-zone buss pass, as this person would no longer be considered a student at Kwantlen.
The problem lies in the fact that Kwantlen does not have the means to collect this fee from the student, and is wrestling with the question of whether a student can be prevented from registering for classes before paying back the institution.
Matt Todd, the Kwantlen Student Administration’s director of external affairs, said, “the university has this dilemma of would we really prevent somebody from furthering their post secondary education because they didn’t pay for their U-Pass?”
At the table, Kwantlen failed to negotiate an increase in the exemption limits from one to five per cent, something that Kwanten believes is a problem unique to the Fraser Valley.
“Because most of those students [in the valley] go to Kwantlen, we feel that this is a problem that is special to Kwantlen,“ Todd said.
The student association expects roughly five per cent of students will want to be exempt from paying for and using their U-Pass, because of a lack of reliable and frequent transit access in some communities of the valley. These students would be forced to pay for a U-Pass that they are likely to not use.
“We don’t think that’s fair to students,” Todd said.
According to Todd, there are two options: “Better service or exempt those students.”
If approved, the U-Pass system will be a two-card system for at least two years or until TransLink implements a smart-card electronic fare system.
This means the KSA will incur the costs of redesigning new student ID cards that include some features required by TransLink, as well as the U-Pass card itself. There are other expenses for implementing the U-Pass, such as hiring staff to deal with the new program, training staff and buying new software. All these costs are paid by participating schools and only an increase in student fees would pay for this.
“They have come to the table, they’ve made a big investment, but I don’t think [the province] realized how much it was going to cost,” Todd said.
Todd is recommending that the referendum be held in the first week of February next year.
Many students may not have noticed when the KSA held a referendum last fall to add new programs by increasing the fees students pay. But after paying this semesterâ€™s tuition, many more will have.
Every fee increase voted on during the fall 2009 referendum was approved.
â€œWe werenâ€™t expecting all of them to pass,â€ said Steve Lee, the KSA’s director ofÂ finance, â€œso when all of them did, it made things more challenging in terms of what resources would go where for this year, while keeping to the commitment of ensuring that the total increase would not be more than 15 per cent of what we were already collecting.â€
That 15 per cent restriction means that only five of the programs approved by students will be implemented this year. None of the other fees approved will be added until the fall, but fees will be adjusted on an annual basis starting in the fall of 2010, and each subsequent September, until all of the approved programs are up and running.
The KSA chose which programs would be implemented first, based on a combination of which referendum questions received the most student support and which programs could most quickly be put in place, said Lee.
The five program fees that the KSA decided to add to this semesterâ€™s tuition include the sub fee, START volunteer program fee, REEBOOT program fee, intramurals fee and the clubs and events fee.
â€œREEBOOT was ready for implementation, as was START,â€ said Lee. â€œEvents was a no-brainer, as that funding will help relieve pressure on our base budget.â€
Another one of the fee increases that will help the KSAâ€™s bottom line in 2010 is the sub fee increase. According to Lee, that fee will help the KSA to meet the repayment schedule on a $1.6-million loan made by the student association in the late ’90s to help pay for the social areas of the recently renamed G-Building, the Surrey campus home to the gym, fitness centre, KSA offices and the Grassroots CafÃ©.
â€œThe bulk of this (loan) has been paid back,â€ said Lee, â€œbut there is still some money outstanding and our goal is to eliminate that debt as soon as possible.â€
Any money left over after the student associationâ€™s debt repayment will be banked and earmarked for a new Student Union Building in Surrey, as well as for student centres on the Richmond, Langley and Cloverdale campuses.
The START volunteer program is aimed at getting more students involved in the KSA through volunteer opportunities. The KSA will hire some students as volunteer coordinators and others will be able to gain experience volunteering around campus.
Students who have computers in need of repair will be able to take advantage of the KSAâ€™s new REEBOOT program. The program will allow students to get computers and laptops serviced at a low cost.
The clubs and events program fee will be used by the KSA to offset money they are currently spending on events. This funding in 2010 will also go towards restoring the KSA staff position of events and clubs coordinator.
Students interested in athletics will be able to take advantage of the intramurals program, which will lead to intramural sport leagues. According to Lee, the intramurals program will be run in cooperation with the university, which has proposed matching the funds the KSA puts into the program dollar for dollar.
Student liaison Ken McIntyre has resigned from his position on the Kwantlen Student Association council to protest the handling of a referendum-approved 10-cents-a-credit fee to fund the Social Justice Centre.
McIntyre, who had been the liaison to the KSA for students with disabilities, one of seven positions that focus on social justice issues at the university, resigned Oct. 6 after the KSA voted to remove the 10-cent-a-credit fee from Social Justice and increase the KSAâ€™s building fee from 25 cents a credit to 35 cents.
The social justice fee was approved in the September referendum and would have been used to fund the liaisons and their Social Justice Centre, rather than having their budget come from KSA operating funds.
Derek Robertson, director of external affairs, made the motion to remove the Social Justice fee and increase the student union building fee instead.
â€œHis rationale was that we still had a budget for the previous year, even though it was taken out of the KSA operating expenses,â€ said McIntyre.
Because of the KSAâ€™s self-imposed student-fee-increase limit of 15 per cent (or $1.56 for next year) a year, the KSA council would be unable to introduce the social justice fee as well as raise the building fee.
McIntyre fears that removing the fee would mean there is no guarantee that social justice will receive adequate funding next year.
â€œAny other proposal that was put forward by myself or somebody else was, basically, swiftly voted down by [Robertson] and the council,â€ he said.
The motion was passed and McIntyre decided to leave the KSA in protest. â€œ[Social justice is] more or less one of their bottom issues that they pay lip service to,â€ he said.
A representative for the KSA said priorizing played an important role in the choosing of which of the fees approved by students would be implemented.
â€œWhen we put these questions forward, we didnâ€™t think they would all pass,â€ said Nathan Griffiths, director of operations.
All of the fees, save one CFS-related one, were passed, and the KSA was faced with the problem of deciding who receives money first while staying under the 15 per cent cap on student fee increases.
â€œLargely, more people voted for the student union building than people voted for social justice,â€ Griffiths said.
The referendum results released by the KSA show 58.5 per cent of voters were in favour of the student union building fee and 52.6 per cent of voters were in favour of the social justice fee.
One of the considerations for the KSA is the large mortgage on Surrey campusâ€™s G-building.
The building — which currently houses the KSA, the gymnasium and Grassroots cafÃ©, other facilities and classroomsz — was built in the 1990s. The provincial government had refused to pay for anything that wasnâ€™t a classroom, so the KSA held a referendum and raised the $1.8 million dollars needed for the other rooms.
The KSA has been paying a sizable mortgage since, and needs to pay it off before it can begin constructing a new student union building.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to pay the mortgage,â€ said Griffiths. â€œI donâ€™t think weâ€™d look bad for paying the mortgage.â€
Robertson echoed Griffithsâ€™ position, saying that he felt it would be better to pay off the mortgage more quickly, rather than having the 10 cents a credit go to social justice.
â€œThis was not an attack on our liaisons. This was not an attack on social justice at Kwantlen,â€ he said. â€œThe whole argument that the KSA is underfunding liaisons is just not true.â€
Robertson said that the KSA provides funding for social justice but sees little of that money being used. â€œEvery single year, the KSA puts money towards the Social Justice Centre and liaisons, and every single year a majority of it is not spent,â€ he said.
For Griffiths, this is enough to make him reconsider sending more money to social justice. â€œMore money doesnâ€™t necessarily equal more social justice,â€ he said.
McIntyre explained the lack of spending is a result of the culture towards social justice within the student association. He said that the unused funds come from vacant liaison positions or are the result of provisions that state only a certain percentage of money can be spent at one time.
He also said that many liaisons donâ€™t focus on large scale, high-expense events, as â€œthe amount of money thatâ€™s available, with the lack of cooperation and manpower from the rest of the society, sometimes doesnâ€™t make it worth doing.â€
According to McIntyre, indifference towards social justice extends past a lack of funding and into where the liaisons actually work.
The possibility of turning the Social Justice Centre into extra office space for KSA staff, and instead issuing liaisons low-end laptops on which to work, has been discussed among members. The belief was that since the liaisons are multi-campus positions, making their workplace mobile was a natural step.
McIntyre countered however, saying that the KSA executive are technically multi-campus positions as well, but receive both office space and laptops.
â€œItâ€™s adding insult to injury, as far as Iâ€™m concerned,â€ he said.
â€œI still believe that the student association is good for the students at Kwantlen,â€ said McIntyre. â€œAs far as social justice issues, I have lost faith in the student association to make any headway.â€
Robertson said that he will fight to make sure social justice gets the same funding as last year, but McIntyre wasnâ€™t impressed.
â€œGuaranteeing funding for the amount of money we got last year is a good first step,â€ he said. â€œBut, at the same time, if you take a look at other students unions, and what they have for social justice, itâ€™s going to take more than just an empty promise.â€
Twelve of the 13 items on this Septemberâ€™s referendum ballot were approved, a result that the Kwantlen Student Association, who planned the referendum, never foresaw.
Student fees will increase $1.56 per credit for the spring, summer and fall 2010 semesters to fund the creation of student union buildings, the START volunteer program, the REBOOT computer service, intramurals and clubs and events. This means that full-time students registering for 15 credits should expect their spring semester bill to be $23.40 higher.
The KSA plans to begin START, REBOOT and intramural programs in January and is discussing holding a referendum asking students for permission to raise student fees more than 15 per cent per year to hasten the introduction of other items that were approved.
â€œThis is quite historic,â€ said Steven Lee, director of finance for the KSA. â€œThe KSA wasnâ€™t expecting all of [the referendum items] to pass. We wanted to see what students wanted us to do, so it was kind of a referendum slash opinion poll.â€
Fees collected for the student union fund will be put toward building planning and paying off the $1.6 million G-building mortgage from the 1990s, which was partially covered through the KSAâ€™s reserve funds last year. The clubs and events fee will be used to offset current clubs and events spending, which totaled over $150,000 last year.
Less than half of one per cent of Kwantlen students voted: 494 ballots were cast, surpassing the 250-minimum required to make referendum results binding.
The turnout was â€œquite good for a referendum,â€ said Lee.
The Canadian Federation of Students fee increase, the only item that failed, will not affect Kwantlenâ€™s CFS membership. The proposed increase was questioned by Shamus Reid, chairperson of the CFS-BC, as an amount he was not familiar with and something that would not normally appear on a referendum ballot.
â€œI donâ€™t know where that number came from,â€ he said.
Desmond Rodenbour, general manager of the KSA, said that the CFS adjusts membership fees for inflation every year and that the KSA reached the $1.78 fee increase by calculating the CFSâ€™ percentage increase.
After consulting the University Act and the College and Institute Act, the KSA determined that it has â€œno legal authority to increase student fees without a referendum,â€ said Rodenbour.
Lee believes the item failed because â€œthe students that voted are already familiar with the KSA, so they know how the CFS has been treating the KSA.â€ Everything else passed because â€œwe were able to get different people [campaigning] that were interested in different areas.â€
One-and-a-half years of bad blood between the Kwantlen Student Association and the Canadian Federation of Students, B.C. Component are about to culminate in a court battle set for Oct. 29 â€“ 30.
The KSA filed a court petition with B.C. Supreme Court in June to settle a dispute over the CFS-BCâ€™s refusal to ratify Kwantlenâ€™s elected CFS-BC representative in May 2008.
â€œNow we find ourselves going to court, but Iâ€™m not sure why,â€ said Shamus Reid, chairperson for the CFS-BC.
The CFS-BC did not ratify the nomination to appoint Derek Robertson, Kwantlenâ€™s elected director of external affairs and ex-officio representative for the CFS-BC, to the executive committee because of â€œactions that he took to deliberately undermine the CFS-BC,â€ said Reid.
â€œThat individual was unfit as a director. The executive committee felt he couldnâ€™t uphold his responsibilities as a director.â€
The CFS-BC suggested, prior to court proceedings, that the KSA nominate a different individual to the executive committee. â€œThe KSA has always had the opportunity to appoint another representative to the CFS,â€ said Reid.
Robertson said the KSA appealed to the courts for acknowledgement that the CFS-BC has no authority to disallow a member student bodyâ€™s elected representative from joining the executive committee. Doing so would set a precedent avoiding future ratification disputes and would place Robertson on the committee.
â€œIâ€™m not always just another CFS voice,â€ he said. â€œAt times I have been very critical of the organization, and I feel that the organization could be doing a much better job.â€
Robertson was a member of the CFS-BC executive committee until he resigned in February 2008 prior to a Kwantlen referendum on CFS membership. â€œI did not feel that I could be faithful to both organizations so I did the right thing and resigned,â€ he said.
After resigning, Robertson campaigned to convince students to vote against continued CFS membership. Reid said Robertson â€œwas not forthright about his participation in a campaign to undermine the federation.â€ Documents that show Robertson joining anti-CFS Facebook groups before his resignation are under consideration by the B.C. Supreme Court. Following the referendum, which reaffirmed Kwantlenâ€™s CFS membership, Robertson was re-elected and re-nominated as the CFS representative according to procedures guided by CFS bylaws but was not ratified by the executive committee, which is made up mostly by representatives from other B.C. post-secondary institutions.
The nomination and ratification processes are guided by provisions in the Societies Act and in CFS bylaws, which are being pitted against each other in the court case. While the Societies Act states that a director must act honestly and in a fitting manner, Desmond Rodenbour, general manager of the KSA, said this does not permit an organization to disqualify a person from a board of directors position if they believe someone does not have those qualities. A CFS bylaw states that the provincial executive representative shall be determined in a manner consistent with the bylaws of the local student association.
â€œThe problem is that the CFS is somewhat secretive and chooses not to publicly post many of their internal documents,â€ said Rodenbour, a sentiment that Robertson shares.
â€œFrankly, itâ€™s absurd for the CFS to climb in and say, â€˜Well yes, thereâ€™s a process, but thereâ€™s also another process which weâ€™re not gonna tell you about,â€™â€ said Robertson.
Rodenbour doesn’t want to elect another person to the position, calling it an issue of principle. â€œIf they honestly believe theyâ€™ll work best only with people that theyâ€™ll agree with, theyâ€™re missing the point of democracyâ€¦ If you only want one viewpoint, you can do that with one person.â€
The court petition, filed during the universityâ€™s summer session, has not been revealed to students through public announcements from either organization. But Kwantlen students will be paying legal fees for both sides of the battle.
Rodenbour said legal fees could range from $10,000 to $25,000, â€œa very reasonable cost to have the petition resolvedâ€ when compared to the $150,000 turned over to the CFS every year.
Robertson agreed, saying, â€œThe funny thing about this case is that Kwantlen students are being charged twice, because theyâ€™re getting charged once for legal fees with the KSA and theyâ€™re also being charged through membership dues to the CFS, which are going to this case.â€
CFS membership benefits during the period without representation are questionable, according to Rodenbour, who likened the fight to the United Statesâ€™ taxation without representation battle cry.
The CFS-BC is a liaison between B.C. post-secondary institutions and the government and lobbies for benefits including the reduction of tuition fees and student debt. â€œThe CFS continues to work on issues that Kwantlen has identified as priorities,â€ said Reid. â€œKwantlen students have given very clear direction that they want to work with other student unions all across Canadaâ€¦ Iâ€™m fairly mystified as to why the board of the KSA chose to [petition the court].â€
Meanwhile, signatures are being collected at Kwantlen campuses to call for another referendum giving students the option to defederate from the CFS this April, when the required two-year period following CFS membership referendums has ended.
Old issues between the Kwantlen Student Association and the Canadian Federation of Students have been brought back to the forefront in this weekâ€™s fee referendum.
The referendum, which runs from Sept. 21 to 24, concerns a number of proposed new fees to be paid each semester.
The KSA is supporting most of them, writing in its pamphlets, â€œThis is your chance to build Kwantlenâ€™s future.â€
Some of the fees are aimed at improving existing services offered by the association, such as a 65-cent-a-credit fee to provide funds for student clubs and KSA-hosted events.
Other programs suggested are 13 cents a credit for the creation of a volunteer-run online radio, Radio Free Kwantlen and a $2.50 fee per credit to aid in the creation of new student union spaces.
â€œWe want to help the university make the transition from a university-college, to a university,â€ said Richmond campus director for the KSA, Reena Bali.
â€œA lot of the questions that are proposed, we donâ€™t have the funding to do it without increasing the fees.â€
But the KSA is certain that these programs would be worth the added cost.
â€œThe event [proposal] is really good because it gives us a chance to work with the school, and throw correlated events,â€ said Bali. â€œIf students come in and say, â€˜We want this type of event,â€™ we have the funding to do so.â€
Bali also supports the Students Taking an Active Role Together, or START, program, which offers volunteer opportunities to students, as well as free or discounted job-related training, such as first aid or Food Safe.
However, one question on the referendum, question 11, doesnâ€™t deal with new programs, but rather an increase in the membership fee to belong to the Canadian Federation of Students.
The $1.78 increase doesnâ€™t sit well with the KSA, which says that it has been directed to up the cost by the CFSâ€™s â€œthree separate legal entities.â€
The issue is over why the increase is needed, and what it will be used for.
â€œIâ€™ve gone to two CFS meetings and theyâ€™ve never discussed it publicly in the meetings. When you do try to question them in budget, they do not answer your questions, or they say you do not have speaking rights,â€ said Bali.
Instead of approving the increase without student consultation, the KSA has decided to put it to vote.
â€œWe believe students should decide whether itâ€™s worth it to pay the Canadian Federation of Students more money than we do already,â€ said Bali.
Dave Molenhuis, the treasurer for the CFS, has a few criticisms of the referendum question.
â€œIn the past, students at Kwantlen voted and have voted since on continued membership to belong to the Canadian Federation of Students, and at that time voted on the basis that there would be a membership fee,â€ he said.
The membership fee is set at a national general meeting of all CFS members, including the KSA.
â€œThe premise of the question thatâ€™s being asked is that the CFS has directed the KSA to do â€˜X,â€™ when in fact the student unions resolved to do this at a federation meeting.â€
The 2009/2010 fee is $3.99 for CFS membership and services, as well as a $3.99 fee at the provincial level. This is then adjusted for inflation using the Canadian consumer price index.
Molenhuis said that this yearâ€™s fee is equal to last yearâ€™s, and the adjustment for inflation doesnâ€™t equal $1.78.
He doesnâ€™t see where the KSAâ€™s increase is coming from.
As to the stonewalling of KSA delegates looking for information on what the fees are used for, Molehuis is also skeptical.
â€œI havenâ€™t been asked by the director at the Richmond campus for any information. All the documents, by-laws, constitutions, are housed in the offices of the student associations,â€ he said.
He also explained how the money is used.
â€œThe fees are spent on anything from campaigns to the preparation and production of research, to travel for students to participate in lobbying sessions,â€ he said.
The animosity between the two organizations is not new. In 2008, the KSA held a referendum asking students if they wanted to leave the CFS: 56 per cent of Kwantlen students voted to stay.
These referendum questions could be foreshadowing another showdown.
â€œLast time it was pretty close,â€ said Bali. â€œWe do have a petition asking students if they want to defederate.â€
Regardless of association politics, Bali and the KSA hope that Kwantlen students take the time to cast their ballot.
â€œI would hope that all students would vote. The only way we can operate properly as a society is to come out and vote,â€ said Bali.
The release of Kwantlen’s first student-run newspaper has been delayed after DJ Lam, who first dreamed up the idea, was injured and left paralyzed from the neck down over the summer. After hiring an assistant and working hard since then, Lam now anticipates the first issue of the paper will be published January 2009. Â
Students having been paying for the student newspapers, at the rate of 75 cents per credit, per semester, since September.
Lam has spent the months since his injury, “crunching through numbers, putting together plans, getting a lease signed to get office space, trying to space on campus at first, and trying to put this together the best I could.
“Some of it, to be honest, would have been done a little bit sooner, but I did break my neck and I’m a quadriplegic now, so I’m half paralyzed.Â
“A lot of the work now involves just finishing up the work that we started in the summer.”
A society has been created, called Polytechnic Ink, and while a name for the paper is still being considered, the same name may be on the table.
“Built into the rules of the society, are that there have to be nine contributors, no matter what,” said Lam. “Those nine contributors are generally people that have contributed three or more stories, photos or any kind of content, within the last calendar year. In this case that will obviously be waived because everyone will be new. But amongst those contributors, they will elect amongst themselves, the first set of editors.”
Lam confirmed that staff members on the paper will be paid a salary. Contributors who have work featured on the front page, or provide the top news piece, or graphics used for the head of a section, will also receive compensation.
The new advertising director, Matt Huff, is on campuses raising awareness and talking to students. He will be recruiting the first group of contributors and, Lam said, right now is the best time to get on board.
If you can’t find Huff on your campus and want to get involved, you can contact him at by email.
The society has leased office space near, but not on, the Surrey campus. Though on-campus space was desired, none could be found. The off-campus space does have its advantages, Lam said, such as the ability to run production late into the night after campus hours. For students, this is important as production work has to fit around around class schedules.Â
Other major details have been worked out. Lam has confirmed that the publication will begin as a bi-weekly. he hopes it will eventually become a weekly, as long as “the quality can be maintained and we can put out a paper that is nice and fat, enjoyable to read and has content that makes it worth publishing.
“Quality over quantity is what its going to be at first.”
There are many advantages for students who get involved, said Lam, such as learning how to write, having an opportunity to express themselves, getting involved with the student issues, learning to edit and produce a paper, and even things like the opportunity to sell advertising, for which students will receive a commission.Â
“We want everyone to have a chance to get involved and so we need to put the message out there and say, ‘Come, see, come play a part in your campus community and learn how to edit, write, do graphic design, be published, do photography, do all those wonderful things.’
Lam looks forward to giving students, “something that’s theirs, written by their peers, and produced and photographed by their peers, that has to do with information that’s valuable to them, in their hands.”
Students will be given, as promised, an opportunity to opt-out of the newspaper fee they are currently paying to the KSA.Â
“But come January, I can guarantee people that this is something that they won’t want to opt-out of. At the end of the day, for the average student it will come out to around $6.25 per student, or damn close to it, and really, if it helps them connect in a way, or helps them realize the idea that they can have campus community and this is a tool to do it, then it’s probably better than some of the other fees they paid for other things this semester.”
(Editor’s note: The Kwantlen Chronicle, while it is produced by students, is not a student-run newspaper. The Chronicle is produced by second-year journalism students as part of their coursework. It is an independent online and print newspaper, and not connected with the university administration or any other body on campus.)