On Saturday, January 28th Brandon University Students’ Union President Nick Brown presented a motion at the Board of Governors meeting concerning the international differential. Throughout the few days prior to this meeting the Students’ Union encouraged students to take time on Saturday morning to attend the meeting in solidarity of the motion being presented. The Quill was able to sit down with Pres. Nick Brown over the weekend in an exclusive interview to obtain his recollection of the events surrounding his proposed motion.
The process of even getting this motion to be heard at the meeting was a struggle of its own, Brown stated, not including all of the discussion and criticism which happened at the meeting. When Brown originally submitted his motion to be added to the agenda (as protocol dictates) he was then given very little notice of a private meeting that he was requested to attend with the top administrators at the university. “A meeting with two business hours’ notice, with the three top people at the university… it felt like I got called into the principal’s office.” Brown claimed. He went on to describe how at this meeting he felt like he was being pressured to rescind his motion at this time. He stood his ground and refused. This initial motion was later removed from the agenda by the executive committee of the Board of Governors on Friday night, the evening before the meeting. The idea behind this original motion was to maintain the status quo, by continuing the practice of charging a differential at 100% or less of domestic tuition, and that graduate students of an international background not be charged any differential fee.
In reaction to his original motion being removed, Brown then submitted a new motion at the meeting on Saturday, which was then split into two different motions. The motion “Be it resolved that fees charged to students based on their residency [the international differential fee] be eliminated” was defeated by the Board of Governors. Brown predicts that the complete removal of the international differential fee would take roughly $700,000 out of Brandon University’s budget. At this meeting Brandon University President Gervan Fearon insinuated that the removal of this fee would result in student services’ program funding being cut due to the lack of funds. Brown disagrees with the necessity of this insinuation, stating that there is plenty of room in the budget, and that he does not foresee this being a major loss to the university.
His other motion, “Be it resolved that tuition increase at no more than the rate of the inflation in Manitoba” was tabled until the next Board Of Governors meeting, which will be in March. The spirit behind the second motion is that while the Protecting Affordability Act (which ties tuition increases to Manitoba inflation) will not be removed for the 2017-2018 school year, the PC government has expressed an avid interest to the Board Of Governors to remove it for the following year. This motion then is an attempt to ensure that even if the Protecting Affordability Act is removed from Manitoba Legislature, tuition fees at Brandon University will not skyrocket unexpectedly.
It was at this time that Brown resubmitted his original motion regarding the international differential fees. However as this motion was not submitted following proper protocol, the Board noted that Brown was giving notice that the motion would appear at the next meeting and the motion was officially tabled. As the motion is tabled it is considered “old business” and therefore cannot be removed from the agenda for the next meeting.
Brown was pleased to see that 20 students, as well as some faculty and alumni were supportive of BUSU’s motions to the Board of Governors, and they showed their support by attending the meeting to show their solidarity. They carried signs with them with statements such as “International Students Are Not Cash Cows” and “Universities Are Not A Business”. “It was the largest group of students I’ve ever seen at a Board of Governors meeting” commented Brown, who has been attending these meetings for three years.
Brown described BUSU’s goal at the Board Of Governors meeting as an attempt to maintain status quo in relation to the international differential, or lower the fee, so that going forward students were not burdened with heavier and heavier fees. This is one of the goals that they championed during All Out in November. As part of the Canadian Federation of Students, Brown stated that BUSU’s and CFS’ end goal was to completely eliminate tuition costs, as tuition is a barrier to education. “We know that’s not feasible with the current government, so if we can maintain the status quo that is a step in the right direction.” Brown described that he has known since July of 2016 that the Brandon University administration has been interested in increasing the international differential and tuition fees, as it was mentioned in the first meeting between BUSU and BU administration. These meetings have since occurred on a monthly basis and the topic of international differential fees has been present in every one of their meetings to Brown’s recollection.
“We didn’t win in the direction that we wanted to,” commented Brown on the results of the meeting, “but we got the Board of Governors to discuss the motion at length.” He stated that the debate at the meeting was healthy, and that it was great that the board was now thinking actively about these issues as they are currently working on the budgets for next year.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 107, Issue 20, January 31, 2017.