I don’t like my student union’s Education is a Right campaign and I don’t go to social events on campus like the Winter Challenge. I don’t need the transit pass and don’t generally associate myself with the politics of my student union at the University of Ottawa, where I study part-time. So why should I have to pay to be a member?
Edward Inch didn’t think he should have to pay and so he tried suing the Student Federation at the University of Ottawa (SFUO) in small claims court for the $92.60 they charged him one semester after he opted out of the union in 2012.
In a court decision yesterday, deputy judge Lyon Gilbert decided Inch must pay up anyway. “As a student, Mr. Inch is bound to the terms and conditions of enrollment,” Gilbert said, according to The Fulcrum student newspaper.
Gilbert may not support Inch’s argument, but I do. I don’t agree with SFUO’s political causes and I don’t use the services, so why should almost $100 come out of my pocket to pay for it?
The SFUO, like most other student federations, has services that are useful for many students. Our federation provides us with a health plan, U-Pass and social events. But I only make it to campus once or twice per week at best, I already have a health plan and I can’t use the U-Pass. The $90 I could use. I’d much rather spend it on a year’s supply of ramen or a communications textbook.
It’s also a matter of principle for me, as it was for Inch. The SFUO is extremely politically charged and doesn’t hide it. They hosted a National Day of Action against tuition fees last year, gathering students from across the country to protest. With a float, a DJ, and professional banners, I bet it cost students a pretty penny. Last year I asked how much it cost but never got an answer.
SFUO also spent at least $1,000 to rent a coach bus to shuttle about 50 protesters to protest in Toronto during the G20 summit in 2010. If I want to support a political cause like that, I would find a way. My student federation should focus on improving the student experience—and that’s it.
To opt out of one’s student union should be an option, as should be getting a refund. I don’t pay for a drink with my Big Mac if I don’t want the drink. I don’t want to join a student union when I pay my tuition; I just want to complete my degree. It’s too bad Inch didn’t get his money back.
Jane Lytvynenko (@JaneLytv on Twitter) is Ottawa bureau chief of the Canadian University Press.