Carleton BoG votes to remove student unions, raise tuition fees  Banner Image

Carleton BoG votes to remove student unions, raise tuition fees

Article from The Charlatan

By Allison Gram, March 24 2016

Carleton’s Board of Govenors voted on bylaw adjustments and tuition increases on March 21.

An updated general bylaw was presented by executive governance chair Michael Wernick to ensure bylaws were up-to-date and allow the governance of the university to run smoothly.

The updates include the addressing of legal requirements of members, appendices regarding codifying procedures for meetings, and regarding the selection process of student governors.

Wernick said the bylaws needed an upgrade after 10 years to prepare Carleton for “compliance with the new not-for-profit corporations’ legislation and, frankly, to catch up with the realities of operating in the age of social media, video conferencing, streaming, and so on.”

An update that led to further discussion was one that declared board members from internal constituencies always be selected through at-large elections conducted by the university secretary, which would be a more transparent and fair process, according to Wernick.

This would mean the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) and the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) would not be reserved a seat on the board and would have to run in a second election.

“This is to eliminate a small but unfortunately very real risk of rigged elections,” Wernick said.

The motion made by CUSA president Fahd Alhattab to amend the bylaw to continue to reserve a seat on the board for a CUSA representative was defeated, with nine voting in favour and the majority voting against.

Alhattab said the removal of student representatives on the board is a huge issue.

“What they’re changing is that there’ll still be two undergraduate student members, but they both have to be elected at large through the board’s elections. So the CUSA president could still run in that, however they’re technically removing the CUSA seat,” Alhattab said.

Alhattab added CUSA is meeting with the university to make a case for why students should be allowed on the board.

“My hope is that we can bring it back to the board and get it fixed and present a strong enough argument for why a student association deserves to be on the board,” Alhattab said. “But unfortunately at this point in time, aside from next year, the 2017 CUSA will not have a seat on the board.”

Professor Root Gorelick also proposed 33 amendments to the general bylaws. Few of his amendments were seconded and those that went to a vote were defeated.

Duncan Watt, vice-president (finance and administration), gave a short presentation on rising tuition fees for the 2016-17 academic year. The fees will be raised on average three per cent, however the domestic tuition fees for undergraduate students in some programs, including engineering and information technology, will increase five per cent and there will be an eight per cent for international undergrads in these programs.

“Within the framework that the Ontario government provided for Ontario universities, the only way we have to increase revenue is by increasing tuition fees, and/or increasing the number of students,” Watt said, adding the latter was not possible considering the number of high school graduates has declined within the past few years. He added there was an extra $8 million increase in expenditures due to inflation.

“We are sensitive to the impact of this on students . . . It is unfortunate this is the direction we’re going,” said vice-chair Chris Carruthers, adding their hands were tied.

When asked what was being done help students gain a better understanding of the increase in fees, Watt said an open town hall meeting is held every year, and there is connection through the student associations, but more should be done.

“The reality of it is that university finances are fairly complex and hard to understand, and I don’t really think your average student wants to invest the time or effort to understand it. And maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe they should be focusing on whatever academic program they’re in,” said Watt.

Alhattab and student representatives Mohammed El-Kousey and David Andrews each abstained from voting for the bylaws.

Alhattab said that while some people consider it inaction, he considers it a protest vote against two options which don’t serve the interests of students.

“CUSA abstained. We abstained as a protest vote, because the options we are continuously given are both unfair to students,” Alhattab said. “On the one side, they’re saying if you vote yes, you are voting yes to increased tuition for students . . . If you do not vote yes but you vote no, then you are voting yes to cutting $9 million worth of services, because the costs of the university are going up.”

The GSA and the Carleton University Student Action Movement also organized a protest during the meeting. Students were holding signs in the River Building parking garage protesting the increase of tuition fees.

“The protest is to highlight the fact that the board is increasing tuition fees, as it does every year, and that students are left out of the process to the point they can’t even access the room where the decisions are being made,” said GSA president Michael Bueckert.

The protest then moved to Southam Hall, where a live-stream of the BoG meeting was available.

“[We want] to show that students are watching and paying attention and that they hear our message that tuition is already too high.” Bueckert said.