Inch shouldn’t have to fund the student union

Ottawa student lost bid to have student fee returned

GoodNCrazy/Flickr

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.




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Inch shouldn’t have to fund the student union

  1. That’s just silly. What if you just wanted to use part of the services? Would you ask for a partial refund? If you don’t need the services, you are probably well off, so why don’t you just consider that your contribution helps keep the fees low enough that less fortunate students can afford them.

    • In Reply to Gina:

      Please see my comment in reply to Bruce.

      Suggesting that if someone “dont need the services, you are probably well off” is also a ridiculous statement. In all respect, I query if you think that the majority of students use these services? Do you have any numbers? Why would voter turnout be 2.6% (last by election) if students cared so much about the student corporation?

    • I’ll be honest with you Gina, I’m not well-off. I’m independent, I work over 40 hours per week, go to school, and provide for myself, but I am not well-off. Because I don’t use my student union’s services doesn’t mean I don’t use similar services which I get elsewhere.

      The issue is that students have no option but to ‘afford’ these services — they are forced on us whether we like it or not. I neither like them nor can I afford them, which is why I am arguing against them.

  2. Students’ Unions are a layer of government. They provide services to all students, including political representation. You can’t opt out of your Canadian taxes if you don’t agree with the Harper government’s activities or don’t make use of certain federal departments’ services. Taxes are one of the two certainties in life, the other is dying. Students had better get used to the realities of the adult world. Lytvynenko is being naïve to think opting-out would be viable for any layer of public administration.

    • Firstly, comparing a student union (which is a corporation) to a form of government is ridiculous. Student corporations increase the cost of attending university significantly, under the disguise of “lowering tuition fees”. It is clear you may not be aware of the costs associated with student corporations.

      Secondly, student unions provided services that are already offered to the general public through the city, province or other charities. Therefore students paying for the same service twice (through taxes, or their parents) and student corporations fees is redundant.

      Third, in Australia and New Zealand, students have a right to opt out of paying student unions fees. It is so far successful in that many student unions went bankrupt. That being said, allowing for students to opt out will ensure greater financial accountability and the student corporation will then be forced to provide services and goods that the students truly need.

      Thank you for your comment.

    • Layer of government? BS! Student “governments” are mere playthings for a handful of apprentice politicians with too much time on their hands. The fact that university administrations play along with them is a disgrace.

      Gina, the two plaintiffs made it clear that they neither need nor want to be involved in childish student activities. Your suggestion that they are “probably well off” besides being irrelevant is off the wall since, if you re-read the background material, you will discern that they are both mature students with real jobs trying to better themselves with post-secondary classes. They are not archetypical upper middle class twits who attend university as a rite of passage and can play around with student council silliness.

      • Wow, thank you for your comment, I appreciate that very much.

    • Yes, that’s exactly what we all need, more government.
      Just because taxes are a foundation of keeping a civil society running does not endorse misspending and lackadaisical accounting.
      It’s because of people like yourself that governments run amuck without consequences.

  3. (Comment did not show up so I am putting it in again. In response to Bruce) Firstly, comparing a student union (which is a corporation) to a form of government is ridiculous. Student corporations increase the cost of attending university significantly, under the disguise of “lowering tuition fees”. It is clear you may not be aware of the costs associated with student corporations.

    Secondly, student unions provided services that are already offered to the general public through the city, province or other charities. Therefore students paying for the same service twice (through taxes, or their parents) and student corporations fees is redundant.

    Third, in Australia and New Zealand, students have a right to opt out of paying student unions fees. It is so far successful in that many student unions went bankrupt. That being said, allowing for students to opt out will ensure greater financial accountability and the student corporation will then be forced to provide services and goods that the students truly need.

    Thank you for your comment.

  4. But you benefit from their work….I am reminded of the union bumper sticker that says Labour Movement: the people that brought you the weekend.

    The student union has held institutions accountable for years ensure that students are at the centre of education.

    • I don’t think I get any direct benefits, and if you are talking about societal benefits there are other parties who help keep institutions accountable. For example, the student press (hi!) as well as the “real-life” press, ministers, active constituents demanding changes of their MPs, active students keeping an eye on the admin.

      There ARE people who get something out of student services. I am not one of them and I don’t see why I have to pay for them as well as the high salaries of people who provide them.

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