There are going to be five referendum questions to be considered this year.
I will post the final approved version of each question and a blurb about each including some background for some of the more contentious ones.
DASSS (Dalhousie Arts and Social Sciences Society): is asking for a $2/semester/student increase to their current levy of $6/semester/student. This will only be voted on those students that are currently enrolled in an Arts and Social Sciences course.
Whereas the Dalhousie Arts and Social Sciences Society (DASSS), funded by the Arts Society Levy, represents all undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), and financially supports all undergraduate FASS societies;
Whereas undergraduate FASS societies aim to build communities of students within a department or a program, and perform functions such as publishing academic journals, hosting social events, and engaging in community initiatives;
Whereas the number of undergraduate FASS societies has grown from 11 to 15 in the past 2 years, and with more currently seeking recognition, the financial state of DASSS is becoming increasingly unsustainable without a corresponding increase in the Arts Society Levy;
Do you support a $2 per semester increase in the Arts Society Levy from $6 per semester to $8 per semester per full-time undergraduate Arts and Social Sciences student?
DUNS (Dalhousie University Nursing Society): is asking for an increase of $10/full time student/year for a total of $40/student/year. This will only be voted on by DUNS members.
Whereas Canadian Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA) membership fees are increasing from $5 per full time student per year to $10 per full time student per year. Failure to pay fees would mean withdrawal from this association which represents nursing students and their interests on a National level;
Whereas Dalhousie University nursing students are putting forward a bid to host the 2013 CNSA National Conference, an event that will draw over 800 nursing students from across the country to Dalhousie University and Halifax. We must be a member school to host this conference;
Whereas Student involvement in DUNS events has increased, and we hope to sustain current events, create new events, and make events free or tickets low in price to allow access for all nursing students;
Whereas the Dalhousie University School of Nursing has informed us that due to cut backs they will no longer be able to provide the DUNS with the same level of financial support to host student/faculty events (such as the annual Wine and Cheese);
Whereas DUNS would like to offer a greater number of Travel and Study Grants to deserving nursing students to allow them to attend conferences and participate in other enriching learning opportunities and events (currently we offer 5 $100 grants per year);
Whereas Current BScN student fees are $30 ($15 per semester) with $5 funding CNSA membership and $25 funding DUNS operating costs and events.
Do you support a $10 increase, from $30 per year to $40 per year, for the BScN student auxiliary fee? Of which $5 would be used to pay for your Canadian Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA) membership fee and $5 would be used to fund Dalhousie University Nursing Society operating costs and student events.
DWC (Dalhousie Women’s Centre): is asking for a $0.79 increase that matches inflation since the student levy was introduced. All Dal students are able to vote on this referendum question. The DWC told Council they were running a parallel referendum question at King’s as King’s students also contribute to the DWC.
The DWC has had some issues since losing their long-term director Liz a few years ago. They have now hired two employees and a significant portion of their budget goes to their salaries (I’ve been told it’s something in the realm of 90%).
Whereas: The Dalhousie Women’s Centre has represented students who experience gender discrimination since opening in 1993;
Whereas: The Dalhousie Women’s Centre provides services to the Dalhousie community including, but not limited to: affordable childcare, support for low income families, sexual assault support and response, education programming and training for a variety of student union staff, students, and professors, and a supportive environment in a non-judgmental, positive space;
Whereas: The Dalhousie Women’s Centre has operated from a student levy established at $2.00 per full-time student in 1993 and increased to $2.35 per full-time student in 1998;
Do you support the direct levy to the Dalhousie Women’s Centre be increased by $0.79 per student to a total of $3.14 per year?
NSPIRG (Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group): is asking for an additional $1/semester/full-time student increase of their current levy of $2/semester/full-time student. This referendum question would also introduce a new levy of $1/semester/part-time student. So full-time students will pay $3/semester and part-time students will pay $1/semester if this question is approved. All Dal students are able to vote on this referendum question.
An issue with this referendum question is that proper procedure was not followed. Council needs two weeks notice before considering the referendum question. Then Council sends the proposed question to both the Board of Operations and the Elections Committee to review the proposed question. These two bodies then report back to Council. Council can then approve the referendum question by a 2/3 majority. The problem here is that no notice was given and last night’s meeting was the last opportunity to have Council give final approval to a referendum question before the election. Quick thinking meant that enough Board of Operations members and Elections Committee members were called in for an emergency meeting. The two bodies did reach quorum (7 at Board of Ops, 3 at Elections Committee) and returned the question to Council. Council then acquiesced and allowed the NSPIRG question to be considered (it required unanimous consent and there were a number of abstentions but no opposition). The councillors that abstained gave reasons that while they were against the running roughshod over procedure, it would be disrespectful of the Board of Ops and Elections Committee members that came in at 10pm. So, after ignoring procedure, Council voted to allow the NSPIRG referendum question to go to ballot.
The previous discussion does not comment on the merits of the referendum question. I assume that will occur in the comments or future Punditry posts. However, I do find it interesting that two societies have brought levy increase amounts tied to inflation but have come up with different amounts based on similar previous levies. I’m not terribly familiar with calculating inflation, but that might be something to look into. Also, on all of the other society questions, Evan Price (VP Finance & Operations) commented on the state of the societies’ books for informational value; I don’t believe he made a comment about NSPIRG’s books last night.
Whereas: The Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG-Dal) has worked for environmental and social justice on campus and in the community since opening in 1990.
Whereas: NSPIRG-Dal provides services to the Dalhousie community including, but not limited to: alternative resource library, Seymour Green urban garden and workshops, grassroots project funding and support, human rights advocacy, public lectures and seminars on environmental and social issues, original research and publications, training for a variety of students and professors, and a supportive environment in a non-judgmental, positive space.
Whereas: NSPIRG-Dal has operated from a student levy established in 1990 at $2.00 per full time student per semester and has not increased to account for inflation. The inflation on this amount since 1990 is calculated to be $1.00.
Do you support the direct levy to the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG-Dal) be increased by $1.00 per part time student to a total of $1.00 per semester and $1.00 per full time student to a total of $3.00 per semester?
ANSSA (Alliance of Nova Scotia Students Associations): is asking for a ‘top up’ of $3/full-time student and $2/part-time student. This levy will be added to the fee the DSU already pays to ANSSA but that currently comes out of the DSU’s operating budget. The current ANSSA fee has never been raised as a levy. All Dal students are able to vote on this referendum question.
ANSSA is hoping to expand its operations through the increase in fees. This includes hiring more staff (up to three staff members with the proposed positions being an Executive Director, a PR/Communications person, and a Researcher/Admin person. There is also discussion about expanding ANSSA’s mandate to include various things such as leadership outside the PSE setting while building on current leadership initiatives (such as working with student Board of Governors’ members).
What should stand out in this referendum question are the final five words in the question – “subject to ratification by council”. This was presented as a way for Council to ensure that certain changes were made that ANSSA has promised will be explored. Due to the new timing of the DSU elections, concrete changes have not been developed by ANSSA yet. There is a planning retreat scheduled for early March. This clause allows DSU Council to have similar powers that other member schools of ANSSA have over raising fees (Dal and SMU are the only two members that need to take the fee rise to their members via referendum; the rest are doing it through their councils) if what has been discussed does not come to fruition. What has been discussed includes professionalizing the Board in such a way that it will be efficient as well as creating some sort of body that will enable certain constituencies that are not always well heard at the ANSSA table to have more direct input (such as professional students, international students, graduate students – or the groups that did not get adequate protection under the new Memorandum of Understanding).
Whereas, the provincial government is cutting funding to universities with expectations of tuition increases;
Whereas, the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations (ANSSA) presents thoughtful solutions to make Nova Scotia’s university system accessible, affordable and of the highest quality;
Whereas, existing fee levels of $2.65 for full time students and $1.58 for part time students are insufficient to meet the member demands for an organization with increased capacity to deliver additional projects and campaigns, including expansion of services and outreach;
Do you support a Dalhousie Student Union fee increase of an additional $3.00 for full-time students and an additional $2.00 for part-time students per academic year, for membership fee increases to the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations (ANSSA), the Dalhousie Student Union’s provincial lobby organization, subject to ratification by council?