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SFSS election ballot includes two referendum questions for students

Issues are U-Pass fee increase and Schools Building Schools levy

The U-Pass is one of two issues being brought to referendum during the 2016 SFSS election.
The U-Pass is one of two issues being brought to referendum during the 2016 SFSS election.
Image Credits: Alfred Zhang

In addition to the 15 positions that students will be voting on in the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) election, there are also two referendum questions that could slightly affect how much students pay in fees.

The first question is whether or not to increase the U-Pass fee collected from students as tentatively agreed upon by SFU along with other post-secondary institutions and TransLink. The second question proposes scrapping the student levy taken for Schools Building Schools.

Both of these referendums require five percent of the undergraduate student body to vote in order for them to count, regardless of the amount of yes or no votes. With 24,001 students in the current student registry, that means that 1,201 votes will need to be cast. 

Question one: U-Pass

“Whereas the current U-Pass BC Agreement expires April 2016;

Whereas the current and proposed U-Pass BC fees are:

Current fee: $38.00 per month of study

Proposed year 1 fee: $39.50 per month of study (May 1, 2016 – April 30, 2017)

Proposed year 2 fee: $41.00 per month of study (May 1, 2017 – April 30, 2018)

Whereas a “no” results for this referendum will result in SFU undergraduate students no longer having access to the U-Pass BC;

Are you in favour of authorizing the Simon Fraser Student Society to collect a mandatory fee of $39.50 per month of study for the participation of students in the U-Pass BC Program beginning May 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017 and $41.00 beginning May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018?”

This referendum comes since the current U-Pass agreement is set to expire, as it was a two-year deal that was struck in 2013. This current deal is also for two years, meaning it that should it pass it will expire again in 2018.

The proposal laid out was agreed upon by representatives from all schools and TransLink, and is the contract to which students have to agree. Should the vote not pass, it does not mean that a new proposal will be struck.

It is a $1.50 increase each of the two years, meaning that students will pay $3 more than they currently do for their U-Pass at the end of the proposed agreement.

There are fears that if not enough students vote or students vote no to this, they will lose their U-Pass until 2017.

According to Darwin Binesh, VP of Student Services, “Even if you get a ‘yes’ vote and 99 percent majority but less than five percent of eligible cast ballots, it doesn’t count. It’s not binding; we lose the U-Pass.”

Question two: Schools Building Schools 

“Whereas Schools Building Schools, a Canadian registered charity, currently collects an opt-out levy of $1 per term from full time SFU undergraduate students and $0.50 per term from part time SFU undergraduate students, which was voted upon in a referendum held in 2012;

Whereas, Schools Building Schools no longer wishes to receive financial support from the students of Simon Fraser University;

And whereas the SFSS is unsatisfied with project and financial information provided by Schools Building Schools;

Are you in favour of authorizing the Board of Directors, by ordinary resolution, to cease the collection and remittance of any funds to Schools Building Schools on behalf of the Simon Fraser Student Society?”

“This is a formality,” said VP External Kathleen Yang when describing this referendum question at the Burnaby SFSS debates.

As it stands currently, students pay either a $1 or $0.50 levy per term — depending on if they are full time or part time students — that goes towards Schools Building Schools, a student-led organization that build schools in Africa.

The reason that Yang is calling this a formality is that both sides have agreed that ending the levy is a suitable call, as they are moving in different directions than originally intended when the deal was first struck.

Both sides are encouraging students to vote yes; however, it is still a decision that falls on students, and needs five percent response to have any action taken.