Despite last term’s vote by the SRA that MSU members would no longer pay part-time fees during summer sessions, the McMaster Association of Part-time Students has plans to continue collecting these fees anyway. The two organizations are now at odds with each other in terms of what will happen with student fees this upcoming summer.
A December media release from MAPS opposed the MSU’s stance and outlined preliminary plans for a “summer advocacy program” based on survey results as a suitable way to spend summer student funds.
MAPS president Andrew Smith said the program “will be designed to identify aspects of the summer academic term that may be changed to improve the student experience of our members.” Smith suggested this will specifically entail comparing the summer session with the fall/winter term, course availability and comparisons to other universities.
Some aspects of the media release, however, don’t hold water under further scrutiny.
MAPS claimed, “Between the date of this agreement (1986) and last year, the MSU decided that their membership lasts for twelve months of the year (they decided this unilaterally). They say because of this, full-time students should not have to pay student fees if they take courses during the summer, and they want this change to happen for this May.”
In actuality, the MSU amended their bylaws at an SRA meeting in 1988, clarifying their 12-month membership. Kyle Johansen, MAPS’ executive director from July to December 2013 was at that 1988 meeting as an SRA Social Sciences representative and spoke in favour of the amendment, suggesting that “full” be added regarding MSU membership holders in order to be clearer.
Another claim by MAPS that the University might not be able to “identify MSU versus MAPS students during summer session registration” was also refuted in recent conversations the Silhouette had with the Office of the Registrar.
Additionally, after reiterating that the original MSU-MAPS agreement always intended for MSU members to be reimbursed for summer fees, the release goes on to say that in May 2014, “To temporarily deal with the MSU’s demands, at least for this year, MAPS would refund summer student fees to MSU members, upon request.”
Jeffrey Doucet, VP (Finance) of the MSU, disagrees with MAPS’ ability to collect such fees.
“Collecting the fee would be effectively ignoring the MSU’s governance mechanism,” he said. “It was the SRA that empowered MAPS to first collect the fee and now the SRA no longer views the fee as legitimate,” Doucet said.
It is unclear as to why, historically, MSU members have not sought – or, perhaps, known that they could seek – reimbursement of summer session fees.
“MAPS has no record of the MSU ever exercising that option,” Smith said.
At the time of the Sept. 29, 2013 meeting in which the SRA voted unanimously to break from the 1986 agreement, MSU President David said repeated attempts had been made for eight months to meet with MAPS and renegotiate the agreement.
“We’ve done everything we could to negotiate in good faith,” Campbell said. He described unilaterally breaking from the agreement as “our only option.”
The University’s administration is unclear in terms of how the two organizations will resolve the conflict. Associate VP (Students and Learning) Sean Van Koughnett said, “There is no specific process to determine the final outcome of this situation, but rather, the outcome will be determined over the next two months in large part through any further discussions between the two student organizations and based on the wishes of our students.”