I’m not trying to make waves. I’m just saying, is all, that the incoming first years might be entitled to a one hell of a Welcome Week.
Well, maybe ‘entitled’ is the wrong word. Here’s the story. Remember the fee that was passed at least year’s MSU general assembly? The one that was to charge every incoming first year a mandatory $110 fee in place of MacPass sales? If you interpret the relevant documents in a certain way, you might find that the University is required to match that fee. In other words, they’d have to double the Welcome Week budget line to roughly $1.14 million.
It works like this. When the McMaster Students Union and University sat down to figure out how they were going to translate this general assembly vote into an actual fee, the University agreed to take on the administration of that fee. An agreement on ancillary fees between the two organizations says that the University must match any of its ancillary fee increases on full-time, undergraduate students, effectively doubling the funding for that particular cost.
There are some points of ambiguity. Is this a fee increase, or just the shifting of a fee from optional to compulsory? And does it count as a fee on full-time undergraduate students if it’s only charged to first-years?
But that doesn’t really matter; it’s not going to happen. There will be no Super Welcome Week this year. And that doesn’t mean that the University is in the wrong, or that the MSU has failed in its ploy to milk McMaster for customized nightgowns for the PJ Parade. Both sides understand that this was a fine solution to a problematic fee – why argue over semantics?
In fact, it was the willingness of our student leaders to work cooperatively with the university that allowed this fee to work out. Had they been sticklers over the agreements and demanded fee matching, McMaster would likely have withdrawn support.
So we’ll let this one go. To argue over it would defy the spirit of the fee cooperation. It would only do harm to the student-University relationship.
But perhaps the more concerning truth, if you’re the kind of person who grows concerned over this kind of thing, is that our students union is just not that kind of students union. It offers services, provides jobs and plans fun stuff for its members, all of which is great. We don’t antagonize the University, or the provincial government – even when tuition continues to rise, or when the University doesn’t heed our concerns with a new copyright deal that will see an increase to student fees, as happened earlier this summer. Sometimes cooperation pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t.
But the way we define “union” contrasts with some other schools in a big way. When members of Quebec student protest group CLASSE came to Hamilton on a solidarity tour through Ontario, executive committee member Jérémie Bédard-Wien called out the “shitty executive” of student unions in Quebec that were initially against the student strike. That’s executives like ours that he’s talking about. We stick with the lobbying groups that want to show support for the Ontario tuition grant, not the ones that would rather go on strike because tuition has continued to increase.
But it’s not their fault – if there is any blame to go around at all, that is. They know the influence a supportive and vocal student body has when they sit down for meetings with politicians or university administrators. And here, we just don’t have it. There’s no appetite for it.
In other words, we’re not that kind of students union because we’re not those kinds of students.
Please pardon the way I generalize. We do have active students on this campus who have been vocal about problems in the way our education and university experience is funded. They’re the kind of people who might walk into a university administrator’s office with a copy of the ancillary fee agreement, demanding some extra Welcome Week funding. But they’re relatively rare.
I’m not trying to evaluate. This is a debate student politicians have been having with one another across the country recently. I’m just trying to put us on the political map.
I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re okay with who we are, great. If not, then speak up.
And hey, maybe I’m also pushing someone to get us a load of Welcome Week dollars. Do you think Radiohead will come play for half a million?