Liaison quits KSA over social justice spending decision

October 20, 2009 by  

Ken McIntyre has resigned as a student liaison after a KSA decision over an referendum-approved charge for a Social Justice fund. (Mitch Thompson photo)

Ken McIntyre has resigned as a student liaison after a KSA decision over an referendum-approved charge for a Social Justice fund. (Mitch Thompson photo)

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 KSA’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.

“His rationale was that we still had a budget for the previous year, even though it was taken out of the KSA operating expenses,” said McIntyre.

Because of the KSA’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.

“Any other proposal that was put forward by myself or somebody else was, basically, swiftly voted down by [Robertson] and the council,” he said.

The motion was passed and McIntyre decided to leave the KSA in protest. “[Social justice is] more or less one of their bottom issues that they pay lip service to,” 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.

“When we put these questions forward, we didn’t think they would all pass,” 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.

“Largely, more people voted for the student union building than people voted for social justice,” 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 campus’s G-building.

The building — which currently houses the KSA, the gymnasium and Grassroots café, other facilities and classroomsz — was built in the 1990s. The provincial government had refused to pay for anything that wasn’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.

“We’ve got to pay the mortgage,” said Griffiths. “I don’t think we’d look bad for paying the mortgage.”

Robertson echoed Griffiths’ 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.

“This was not an attack on our liaisons. This was not an attack on social justice at Kwantlen,” he said. “The whole argument that the KSA is underfunding liaisons is just not true.”

Robertson said that the KSA provides funding for social justice but sees little of that money being used. “Every single year, the KSA puts money towards the Social Justice Centre and liaisons, and every single year a majority of it is not spent,” he said.

For Griffiths, this is enough to make him reconsider sending more money to social justice. “More money doesn’t necessarily equal more social justice,” 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 don’t focus on large scale, high-expense events, as “the amount of money that’s available, with the lack of cooperation and manpower from the rest of the society, sometimes doesn’t make it worth doing.”

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.

“It’s adding insult to injury, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

“I still believe that the student association is good for the students at Kwantlen,” said McIntyre. “As far as social justice issues, I have lost faith in the student association to make any headway.”

Robertson said that he will fight to make sure social justice gets the same funding as last year, but McIntyre wasn’t impressed.

“Guaranteeing funding for the amount of money we got last year is a good first step,” he said. “But, at the same time, if you take a look at other students unions, and what they have for social justice, it’s going to take more than just an empty promise.”


4 Responses to “Liaison quits KSA over social justice spending decision”

  1. Steve on October 20th, 2009 10:09 pm

    Quote: “…so the KSA held a referendum and raised the $1.8 million dollars needed for the other rooms.” Comment: This is actually not quite true. A referendum to raise the money was never held; although permission to go ahead and secure a demand loan was sought and approved by the membership at the 1996 annual general meeting, with an increase approved at the 1998 annual general meeting (see page 8 here for 1996: and funnily enough on page 8 here for 1998: ).

    Just over 1.6 million was borrowed through CIBC and under an agreement that was signed with Kwantlen we gave Kwantlen $1.6 million to build the “social spaces” of G-Building (the Gym, Conference Centre, Fitness Centre, Cafe space and student association office space). In exchange for that money, we got to have the student association offices and we were able to run the cafe and the fitness center (although if you ask me, we should’ve been running all the social space, but I digress).

    So we have a loan from CIBC and under the terms of that loan, we pay back $80,000 a year to them. As of December 31, 2008 we had $840,000 left outstanding on the loan. At the end of this year, we will have $760,000 left to pay.

    I personally feel it’s a bit of a misnomer for Derek to state that the money moved to the Student Union Building fund will help “…to pay off the mortgage more quickly,” as it is my understanding that the fee being collected should generate about $100,000 – which would help cover the 2010 allotment of $80,000 (which would leave us with $680,000 left to pay off on December 31, 2010), and give us a bit of money to put into savings or use to cover the costs of the consultant we’ve engaged to help us map out a future Student Union Building (SUB) in Surrey, as well as to expand our footprint on the other campuses. But it certainly would not help us to pay off the loan more quickly. And until we get a firm commitment (i.e. a signed & sealed deal) from Kwantlen in regards to the SUB there isn’t really a need to speed up our paying down of the loan.

    Now, the $80,000 that the SUB fund will help cover, will allow us to free up $80,000 in our main budget. That, combined with the events fee, will help us free up a total of about $250,000. This year, the KSA actually committed to going into a reserve of money that has built up over time in order to balance our books for this year’s budget – to the tune of about $300,000. There are some areas in the budget as well that won’t have to be as high as they have been recently, so we should be able to have a budget for the 2010 fiscal year that does not have us having to rely on our reserves to balance.

    It will still be tight but no area should see cut backs.

    Ultimately, we’re working hard to do a lot for students. And the liaisons and social justice is no different. The positions have existed since 2001. In 2005, under “RAF” they actually cut a few liaison positions (under a proposal brought forward by Ken if I remember correctly). But when “RAF’ was booted out, the KSA restored all seven positions. It is true that funding for the positions has been tight in the past – in 2002 the funding available for each position was $2000. But it is also true that over the years funding was cut until in 2008 funding for each position was only $450 – which you can’t do much with. But this year, we were able to restore funding to the 2002 levels. But to date, nothing has been spent by any of the five liaisons… although we do have two new liaisons who have some plans, in addition to the other three active liaisons.

    In time, the full amount of the social justice fee will be in place.

    The only downside to not having it in place now is that at the end of 2010, any money left over and unspent by liaisons will just go into the general reserves. Whereas, if the fee was in place in 2010 any money left over would have to stay ear-marked for social justice.
    I hope the above information made sense. I tend to babble a bit…

    - Steve Lee, Director of Finance / Chairperson, KSA

  2. Steve on October 20th, 2009 10:13 pm

    One last thing I should have emphasized in my last few paragraphs > in 2010, right now, there are no plans to lower the amount of money allocated from the base budget to the liaisons and social justice. In fact, if I can, I will increase it. And if it desired, Council could certainly move a motion to internally restrict any unspent social justice surplus from the 2009 fiscal year so that it could only be spent in future years on social justice initiatives.

    - Steve, Director of Finance / Chairperson, KSA

  3. Ken McIntyre on October 21st, 2009 11:22 am

    Ah right I forgot about that. The RAF dominated council back in 2005 wanted to get rid of all Liaison positions, however I had tried to persuade them otherwise. As a result a compromise was struck were some Liaisons would be kept and some would be cut, otherwise there would have been no Liaisons during the RAF period at the KSA. Unfortunately they ended up giving me the responsibility to decide on which ones we should keep and which ones should be cut. So I drew up the proposal in an effort to try and save what I could of the Liaison positions at the time. Steve is right all seven positions were restored once RAF left office and that was awesome that they were.

  4. Scott Clark on November 5th, 2009 12:52 pm

    Seems to me that there is a disconnect between the KSA and the students. I have come back here since January 2009, and outside of election time, referendum, and the odd social event, I have no idea what you the KSA is doing. I am sure your busy but I am sure the majority of students have no idea what you do. What is clear is that we all pay fees regularly and therefore there is a significant budget entrusted to the KSA. Perhaps you spend some of that money and hire some of our marketing students to inform us on what you are doing.

    Anyways, I speak from a space of ignorance, and am curious as to why issues of social justice are not address by the KSA. The provincial and federal governments are cutting funding to students and KSA is silient on these issues. Not a word from KSA on the Security, Prosperity, and Partnership or the Copenhagen Climate Treaty.

    more later, regards Scott

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