Victoria – As British Columbians were focussed on Canada’s 2015 Federal Election, the B.C. government quietly proposed amendments to the University Act that could result in funding cuts to vital programs and services for BC’s college and university students. Bill 41 – the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act – is set for a second reading today.
“If the proposed amendments to the University Act are adopted as is, it is possible we could see deep cuts to crucial support programs that students rely on – particularly for students from traditionally marginalized backgrounds,” said UVSS Director of External Relations Kenya Rogers. “We are hoping that the B.C. government will halt this legislation, give it the second thought that it deserves, and open it to broader consultation with student societies and university administrators.”
In May 2014, the B.C. government amended the Society Act, concluding a multi-year consultation with stakeholder groups across the province. The outcome was a series of fair and reasonable legislative changes that took into account many different viewpoints, including post-secondary students. The government is now amending the University Act to reflect changes made to the Society Act – particularly around which student fees will remain mandatory if a student has resigned as a member of the society.
“We’re definitely not assuming any ill intent on the part of the provincial government,” said Rogers. “We just think that in the government’s haste to amend the University Act and potentially make some student fees optional, we will face the unintended consequence of cuts to services that we provide to students. Services such as our food bank, sexual assault centre, support programs for students with disabilities, childcare assistance, student refugee program, and bursaries for low-income students.”
Under provincial law, all student society fees collected at post-secondary institutions must be democratically decided via a referendum put to all registered students. Unlike a tax that can be arbitrarily imposed by government, student society fees are the result of students coming together and democratically deciding to fund a service or program that provides direct and tangible benefits to all students on campus.
“The government has indicated that it intends to consult with student societies around fee collection,” said Rogers. “We’re just asking to have that conversation now rather than after the fact when these changes are set in stone.”
The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) was established in 1964 and represents the 17,000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria. The UVSS would like to recognize that the University of Victoria is built on the unceded unsurrendered territories of the Lekwungen and WSANEC Peoples and its presence on this land is in itself an act of violence.
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Kenya Rogers UVSS Director of External Relations – firstname.lastname@example.org