KSA program fee increases show up on tuition, five programs added

January 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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 semester’s tuition, many more will have.

Every fee increase voted on during the fall 2009 referendum was approved.

“We weren’t expecting all of them to pass,” said Steve Lee, the KSA’s director of finance, “so 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.”

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 semester’s tuition include the sub fee, START volunteer program fee, REEBOOT program fee, intramurals fee and the clubs and events fee.

“REEBOOT was ready for implementation, as was START,” said Lee. “Events was a no-brainer, as that funding will help relieve pressure on our base budget.”

Another one of the fee increases that will help the KSA’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 Café.

“The bulk of this (loan) has been paid back,” said Lee, “but there is still some money outstanding and our goal is to eliminate that debt as soon as possible.”

Any money left over after the student association’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 KSA’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.

New Translink tax means emptier pockets for students

January 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Kwantlen students got slapped with a parking-fee increase when they went back to school from their winter break on Monday, Jan. 4.

Parking rates have risen from $2.75 for every four hours to $3.25. For all-day parking at any of the campuses, it now costs students $4.75 instead of the $4.

Julian Jones, vice-president of business development at Impark, said the company isn’t collecting any extra revenue from the increase as it’s a result of a tax-hike introduced by Translink. He does, however, admit that “sometimes numbers have to be tweaked for a more user-friendly method of payment.”

The tax that Impark now pays to Translink, which took effect Jan. 1, has risen from seven per cent to 21 per cent and is a 300 per cent jump from 2009.

“Since the tax on $1 is 21 per cent, we can’t really charge 21 cents on that. It has to be something more convenient, like 25 cents,” said Jones. Gordon Lee, Kwantlen’s vice-president of finance and administration, said that students can expect another fee increase when the HST (harmonized sales tax) comes into effect in July.

“Kwantlen has been working with Impark for about 10 years and they’ve managed the lot since they won [the rights to the lots] through a bid,” said Lee. “The cost [of parking] goes towards servicing the lot. There are no revenues that the school collects.”

According to Lee, about 15 years ago, students didn’t have to pay to park on campus, but they had to start charging for parking “as the budget got tighter.”

“The thing is,” said Lee, “we don’t get money to make parking lots. But it is required that schools have parking lots that are safe and maintained.”

Opinion: U-Pass plan bigger than saving bucks

December 16, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

The Kwantlen Student Association’s plan to introduce a U-Pass by September 2010 looks like a win-win for Kwantlen students.

The KSA, in conjunction with the Ministry of Transportation and Translink, hopes to have the green light on a U-Pass plan, which is still being formed, in time for a standalone referendum in April.

“I really do feel that this is possible,” said Derek Robertson, director of external affairs for the KSA.

Transit ridership among Kwantlen students is estimated to be at only about 20 to 25 per cent. That leaves a jaw-dropping majority of students who, at first glance, will be paying for a service that they won’t use. And at an open-for-discussion $20-a-month objective, that’s a lot of money that three-quarters of the student population will be paying so the others can get cheaper transit.

What good is a U-Pass to us, the drivers, bicyclers and students who are dropped off?

I contacted Translink and the Ministry of Transportation to get answers. Sappy answers.

“Some students who said they wouldn’t use it do end up using it,” said Ken Hardie, director of communications at Translink. He also argued the merits of having a pre-paid ride home after drunken parties.

He even said “Translink itself does not have plans to expand the U-Pass program,” because it was not organized in a manner that would allow widespread implementation. Rather, it is taking its cue from the Ministry of Transportation, where government officials are aiming to fulfill a campaign promise of a universal U-Pass by next September.

More parking spaces, lower fuel emissions and less traffic was the best that Linda Gold, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation, could come up with.

Luckily, the KSA has their act together.

“We cannot put a U-Pass to the students that benefits some but harms others,” said Robertson. The KSA will spend the next few months compiling results from this fall’s U-Pass consultations and surveys to draft a proposal that will be discussed in meetings with the minister of transportation, Translink, local MPs and local MLAs.

The meetings will focus on “nonnegotiable” requirements for improvement to transit service before tentative agreements will be made. Robertson is planning to ask for improvements to transit service, which may involve requests for an increase in transit frequency and better campus, Skytrain and major urban centre connections.

He’ll also focus on adding extra services, including bike racks on transit, bike lockers on campus and regular on-campus bike clinics. Although there won’t be any opt-out for students, a carpool discount may be introduced with the condition that drivers be added to a registry that other students can use to discover local carpool pals.

Odds are good that Kwantlen will be receiving a U-Pass on the low end of the scale for colleges and universities in the U-Pass program, because the low ridership is subsidized by the greater student population. Currently, Translink charges students at the University of British Columbia $25 a month, the lowest price for any U-Pass in B.C., because of the school’s low ridership at the time the program was initiated. At present, the KSA is leaning towards implementing the U-Pass for both full-time and part-time students, which they hope will help more part-time students to transition to full-time status.

Earlier this year, the KSA declined participation in OnePassNow talks, which pushed for a $25 U-Pass for all Metro Vancouver students, because the transit-improvement needs for Kwantlen students were greater than the needs of the student unions represented. Robertson feared that Emily Carr and Vancouver Community College would not act on Kwantlen’s behalf to request transit improvements, and said that Kwantlen students would be paying for lower service than other participating colleges would receive.

“They have arguably the best transit in the province,” he said. “They are not seeking transit upgrades.”

Robertson also explained that the age-old offer of a $19 U-Pass for Kwantlen students was turned down because there would not have been any transit upgrades, which rendered it useless to the better half of the student population.

The KSA wants the province introduce a U-Pass levied at different rates according to school ridership to make it revenue-neutral for Translink, as is currently done, but with a universal provincial subsidy to keep the price down.

The requirement for transit improvements is a good one. I’d gladly pay an extra $80 or so each semester for a shorter ride to campus. But there’s a lot of work to be done before transit service south of the Fraser River is worth a dime or two. The KSA doesn’t have much time to move that mountain before its plan for a U-Pass vote by April passes Kwantlen students by — again.

Liaison quits KSA over social justice spending decision

October 20, 2009 by · 4 Comments 

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.”

KSA terms referendum results ‘historic’

October 20, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Twelve of the 13 items on this September’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.

“This is quite historic,” said Steven Lee, director of finance for the KSA. “The KSA wasn’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.”

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 KSA’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 “quite good for a referendum,” said Lee.

The Canadian Federation of Students fee increase, the only item that failed, will not affect Kwantlen’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.

“I don’t know where that number came from,” 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 CFS’ percentage increase.

After consulting the University Act and the College and Institute Act, the KSA determined that it has “no legal authority to increase student fees without a referendum,” said Rodenbour.

Lee believes the item failed because “the students that voted are already familiar with the KSA, so they know how the CFS has been treating the KSA.” Everything else passed because “we were able to get different people [campaigning] that were interested in different areas.”

KSA takes CFS-BC feud to B.C. Supreme Court

October 18, 2009 by · 4 Comments 

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 – 30.

The KSA filed a court petition with B.C. Supreme Court in June to settle a dispute over the CFS-BC’s refusal to ratify Kwantlen’s elected CFS-BC representative in May 2008.

“Now we find ourselves going to court, but I’m not sure why,” said Shamus Reid, chairperson for the CFS-BC.

The CFS-BC did not ratify the nomination to appoint Derek Robertson, Kwantlen’s elected director of external affairs and ex-officio representative for the CFS-BC, to the executive committee because of “actions that he took to deliberately undermine the CFS-BC,” said Reid.

“That individual was unfit as a director. The executive committee felt he couldn’t uphold his responsibilities as a director.”

The CFS-BC suggested, prior to court proceedings, that the KSA nominate a different individual to the executive committee. “The KSA has always had the opportunity to appoint another representative to the CFS,” said Reid.

Robertson said the KSA appealed to the courts for acknowledgement that the CFS-BC has no authority to disallow a member student body’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.

“I’m not always just another CFS voice,” he said. “At times I have been very critical of the organization, and I feel that the organization could be doing a much better job.”

Robertson was a member of the CFS-BC executive committee until he resigned in February 2008 prior to a Kwantlen referendum on CFS membership. “I did not feel that I could be faithful to both organizations so I did the right thing and resigned,” he said.

After resigning, Robertson campaigned to convince students to vote against continued CFS membership. Reid said Robertson “was not forthright about his participation in a campaign to undermine the federation.” 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 Kwantlen’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.

“The problem is that the CFS is somewhat secretive and chooses not to publicly post many of their internal documents,” said Rodenbour, a sentiment that Robertson shares.

“Frankly, it’s absurd for the CFS to climb in and say, ‘Well yes, there’s a process, but there’s also another process which we’re not gonna tell you about,’” said Robertson.

Rodenbour doesn’t want to elect another person to the position, calling it an issue of principle. “If they honestly believe they’ll work best only with people that they’ll agree with, they’re missing the point of democracy… If you only want one viewpoint, you can do that with one person.”

The court petition, filed during the university’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, “a very reasonable cost to have the petition resolved” when compared to the $150,000 turned over to the CFS every year.

Robertson agreed, saying, “The funny thing about this case is that Kwantlen students are being charged twice, because they’re getting charged once for legal fees with the KSA and they’re also being charged through membership dues to the CFS, which are going to this case.”

CFS membership benefits during the period without representation are questionable, according to Rodenbour, who likened the fight to the United States’ 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. “The CFS continues to work on issues that Kwantlen has identified as priorities,” said Reid. “Kwantlen students have given very clear direction that they want to work with other student unions all across Canada… I’m fairly mystified as to why the board of the KSA chose to [petition the court].”

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.