The Student’s Representative Council (SRC) voted unanimously in a council meeting Friday, February 17 to include a referendum in the upcoming student elections to add an Advocacy Fee to student’s tuition. The fee would add an additional $12 to student’s tuition fees and would go into effect the 2018-2019 school year.
The council initially voted to have a referendum on this at their last meeting on January 16, however this vote establishes when and where the vote will take place.
The purpose of the fee would be to cover New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) and Canadian Alliance of Student Associations’ (CASA) membership fees. Both are organisations that advocate for students at the provincial and federal level respectfully. The UNB-SRC are currently full members of both and pay approximately $18,000 a year for the memberships.
Jordan Tracey explains “[the advocacy fee] would allow [the SRC] to advocate to governments both provincially and federally so it wouldn’t take such a hit on our operations budget and so we could expand our operations budget.”
During Friday night’s meeting, members of the council held reservations about adding the referendum to the ballot, considering the short amount of time they have left to advertise and get the word out on the referendum.
“I’m not happy about doing this at the last minute. But I take council seriously and it’s my job so if it has to be done, it’ll get done,” Science Representative Hannah Wallace said during the meeting.
Jayme Dixon, Mature Student Representative, noted “I think it’s gonna look worse on us if we decided to vote on something and then just all of a sudden – a week before – we back out.”
Wallace agreed, “We planned to do this and now if we’re going to pull out, that’ll look bad on us.”
Much of the debate seemed to stem from VP External Kjeld Conyers-Steede’s comments regarding who should be responsible for leading the campaign to raise awareness amongst the student body of the benefits of NBSA and CASA.
“[Because of] the stuff that I’m dealing with and the stuff with the SRC and my personal stuff I have to deal with, I cannot commit to spearheading and leading fully,” Conyers-Steede said. “I could provide all of the information that people need but I can’t spearhead it.”
SRC President Jordan Tracey noted to Conyers-Steede “You were the spearhead behind this [since the January 16th meeting].” He continued, “And yes, I understand that you are running in the election but I don’t think that you should be able to flop and flip for both things.”
“Regardless of what happens, I’m still going to do my job,” Conyers-Steede defended. “But the reason why I’m flopping and flipping is because in [the past month], things have happened like being pulled into the task force for international students and stuff like that; so other advocacy-type things have come up and that’s my primary job. And I did say, from start, that I would spearhead it but things have come up that I feel we could have benefitted more for our students and my priorities shifted.”
Some members of the council were clearly frustrated with Conyers-Steede’s comments as Dixon noted, “If there had been a [notice to the council] made three weeks ago about it being too much for [Conyers-Steede] to handle, I’m sure many [members of the council] would have jumped at the opportunity to help.”
The Baron reached out to Conyers-Steede for further comment to which he reiterates “The SRC will be offering assistance to the international student task force” as well as “personal issues that had arisen during that time”. He also states further SRC advocacy initiatives were discussed in camera, meaning during a private session during the meeting that is closed to non-council members.
Regardless of how the SRC raises awareness of it, the referendum will be a part of the SRC elections ballot from the week of February 27 to March 3. It will be open to all students through eservices.