BUSU targets $1.3M/yr in referendums it will repeat until students vote yes

‘Engagement’ and ‘social justice’ add to student debt burden

Three proposed BUSU fees total about $1.3M per year.

The Engagement Levy and Brock SJC 2018, both as-yet-not-approved, are together are worth about $900K per year. BUSU has plans to expand the Engagement Levy by another $25 “upper year” fee for all students (an estimated $400K per year, additional.)
Taken together — including that each fee can increase five percent per year — the total of $1.3M illustrates how much money BUSU is currently targeting.

This impact on the student economy is a total that does not include third-party fees or the university itself. For example Brock Radio is currently asking for $1.75/credit (about $200K/yr), and Brock University recently secured $5M in funding thanks to BUSU to construct an expansion to The Zone.

‘Programming’ tried twice before, now its an ‘Engagement’ fee
The Engagement levy —to be voted on Oct 23–25 by undergraduates — is another version of the Programming Fee which failed in 2014 ($32/student), and again in 2016 ($100/first year). If passed, it would fulfill a long-standing agenda for BUSU to subsidize O-week.

The first MOU was 1125 words, the second was 1062 words, and this year’s MOU is 423 words. The oversight committee has been removed.

“We are looking forward to a concrete budget” — 2014 Yes campaign

“We will not miss out on cool opportunities for events during the year because of our budget (i.e. last-minute concerts).” — 2018 Yes campaign

The 2018 Yes campaign website is titled #MemoriesNeverFade.

The “Why” section has a background of a BadgerFest party and claims Brock’s “reputation” would be improved by “[ensuring] BUSU is following the leading funding model”, noting other institutions that do have a mandatory fee.

When asking itself in the FAQ, “is it fair?”, the Yes campaign says, “ any high school student will be able to see this fee listed in their ancillary fees of their tuition before they make their decision to go to Brock.
Like all other fees that we, as undergraduates, came into there is just no way that we could possibly take incoming students’ vote before their O-Week. 
This is why we are tasking YOU, the students who have historical knowledge about events/services, to make the right decision for incoming Badgers.”

BUSU published a video through its official Facebook on Oct 15 and posted about the referendum and MOU on Twitter on Oct 16.
The Brock Press published a report about the levy on Oct 16.
A No campaign emerged which is employing memes on Oct 16.

The previous two referendums for this fee did have ‘No’ campaigns. 
In 2014 No-campaigner Jason Tucker stood against the fee (then-$32/student) because, “there has to be a voice for students who are tired of BUSU helping themselves to our money.” 
2016 had timely Press coverage, later called the fee “controversial”, and published an editorial from BUSU veteran Chris Yendt that said it was “common sense” to vote No
“I find it confusing that the solution to declining interest in ‘Gold Card/VIB’ sales is not to question programming, but instead force all students to pay for something most did not want,” Yendt wrote.
The 2016 “No” campaign was led by former BUSAC councilor and former exec candidate Calvin Eady who said the fee was “one of the most unfair fees that’s ever been proposed”, citing concerns — no sunset, no opt out, not fair to charge people who aren’t voting — that were not resolved in time for 2018, and were, in fact, repeated:

Internal opposition came from VP External Affairs
This year, the internal opposition on those same concerns came from VP External Affairs Peter Henen, who broke from the executive and the rest of council in voting against the motion to put this fee to referendum.“My guess is because it’s easier for students to vote yes on something they aren’t paying for”, he said in council, questioning the “morality” of the fee.
However he did not take it upon himself to lead the a No campaign. He did publish a rap video to promote municipal elections.

“It is moral to do this in my opinion, because we have such oversight; we have all of BUSAC, we have committees… […] So we’re not going to be able to just take the money, spend it it on Drake, and not do programming the rest of the year”, said VPSS Joyce Kouzam.
She also suggested this fee is a precursor to a $25 “upper year” fee, saying, “it makes sense to build it up with momentum, and have our team get ready.”

SJC will be back to referendum — probably

The Brock Student Justice Centre (SJC) is sure to come back for referendum — possibly (if not probably) as soon as this winter 2019, because it’s sunset clause expired this October
The SJC proposal — $4.88/credit — was worth nearly half a million dollars per year. Students were narrowly saved from paying the BrockSJC fee by a clerical error and a failed re-vote
It remains to be seen if there will be changes — such as a reduction of the fee proposal to something lower than $4.88/credit, or improvements to the heavily criticized MOU — if and when BUSU brings it back to referendum.

Sunset clauses go into the sunset
Unlike in the past, such as with BrockTV and BrockSJC, recent Memorandum of Understandings (MOU’s) have not had 5-year sunset clauses.
In other words, once students vote Yes — even on a rushed process which was rubber stamped by council, with no debate, where 80%+ of the population didn’t vote — the monies will be collected year after year: forever. 
As long as it is in the interest of the corporation, it will never be repealed — unless there is some sort of student-led repeal movement.

A single referendum is worth millions of dollars to BUSU’s future budgets. It comes from students pockets — it comes by half from OSAP loans. And today’s few will decide for tomorrow’s many.

Whose money is it anyway?

According to Brock University, at least half of the student fee economy comes directly from OSAP. An unknown number of students receive student loans from a private source.
A student loan means that $100 spent in your first year will amortize with the rest of your loan and actually be a lot more by the time you pay it off in 15 years. Notably, the value of the the future currency with which student loans are repaid also would need to be adjusted for inflation.

The question is, who is impacted by this? Some invisible loan fund which will have to fork out an additional $1.3M, or thousands of real students who each will be burdened with coming up with $100 (and more) to buy food, rent, books, etc.? I patiently await BUSU, Brock University or the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, to answer this question
Either way, each individual debtor will be required to pay back each dollar spent, plus interest.

Campaign period continues until next week. Voting is conducted Oct 23–25 through Brock email .

Sandor Ligetfalvy is a graduate of Niagara College Journalism-Print, a former student of Brock University Interactive Arts and Science, a former member of BrockTV/BUSU, and The Brock University Gadfly. @brockbug