Many students at Brandon University have been speaking out against the recently implemented Healthy Living Centre fee. The Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU) has listened to these concerns, and responded.
At a council meeting earlier this month, BUSU voted unanimously to in favor of a motion which outlined the condemnation of the mandatory $35 per term Healthy Living Centre fee.
“The idea behind the motion was to express council’s dissatisfaction with the imposition, by the university, of a mandatory user fee for all students,” explains BUSU Vice President Internal Raymond Thomson. “There is no opt-out mechanism for students. All students must pay $35 per term. It doesn’t matter if they have a disability or if they are never, ever going to use the gym.”
The fee was originally approved in February of 2008 by the Brandon University Board of Governors. Thomson notes that while a memorandum of understanding was signed at the time, it should not hold much influence. “That’s a separate generation of students,” he says. “It’s a non-essential fee that was implemented by the university without proper consultation with the current leaders of BUSU, and students.”
Thomson adds he has heard a lot of frustration from students over the fee, which was first charged to students this semester. “I brought [the motion] forward because I had listened to dozens of students [….] The number one issue was: ‘why do I have to pay a user fee [for] a gym that I’m never going to set foot in?’”
Moving forward, the goal for BUSU council is not to totally abolish the fee, but rather make it optional. “It gives students flexibility, it gives them the option, nothing is imposed on them – it’s a better way of doing business,” says Thomson.
He notes both students and the university have been comparing this fee to the $15 per year U-Pass fee that is also charged to students, which he says is unfair.
“We negotiated with the city on [the U-Pass], whereas the HLC fee, there were no negotiations, and there were no consultations with students in recent memory,” says Thomson. “Students have collective control over [the U-Pass], but the university has sole control over the HLC fee – they can raise it, they can adjust it as they see fit.” He adds students voted overwhelmingly in favour of the U-Pass, while voting against the HLC fee during last spring’s BUSU elections.
Thomson says the next step is to bring their concerns to the Board of Governors, who have final authority, and where the fee could be made optional. He hopes the board will listen to their argument and give it due consideration.
Overall, Thomson says he has been unimpressed with the university’s handling of the fee. “They need this mandatory fee to keep that gym open, and they’re using students as a cash cow to pay for the gym. That to me is completely unacceptable.”
“Students have come to us and they’ve said, ‘Why on earth are we paying an additional, non-essential fee?’ And I say to them, ‘I don’t know.’”
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 18, January 22, 2013.