Come next fall, full-time students may not have to pay an extra fee if they switch to part-time status in the summer.
On Sept. 29, the Student Representative Assembly voted to nullify a 27-year agreement between the McMaster Students Union (MSU) and the McMaster Association of Part-Time Students (MAPS).
The end of the agreement suggests summer MAPS fees will no longer be collected from students who have already paid fees to the MSU. The decision would be imposed in 2014/15, barring any disagreement from the University’s board of governors.
MAPS would have its budget of roughly $500,000, funded entirely by student fees, slashed by about 50 per cent.
Prior to the SRA vote, full-time students who took a part-time course load during the summer had to pay $7 per unit to MAPS despite paying an MSU fee covering a full 12 months. MSU president David Campbell told the SRA at the Sept. 29 meeting that they had a “moral obligation to act” to end the duplication of fees.
At the end of the discussion period, the SRA voted to end the agreement 26-0 with three abstentions.
“The MSU did not like one provision in an agreement so it threw the baby out with the bathwater. Frankly we don’t know what they want now,” said interim MAPS director Kyle Johansen.
Johansen was hired in July to pick up the pieces of the MAPS spending scandal that had former director Sam Minniti fired.
Regardless of the outcome, Johansen said, “MAPS has no intention of abandoning part-time students. We will continue to advocate for all part-time students.”
At the SRA meeting, the atmosphere was tense as Johansen hurriedly read off a statement on why the agreement should not be dissolved. Johansen wanted the matter to be discussed in November rather than be decided last night.
“A year ago, a unilateral decision to end this agreement might have been acceptable to the university community. I don’t think that’s the case today,” Johansen said. He said the new MAPS board was more willing and capable to discuss the issue but needed more time.
In response, MSU president David Campbell said the MSU board was frustrated with MAPS’ unwillingness to negotiate or meet until Aug. 8 despite repeated attempts over eight months.
“When we met with [Johansen] on Aug. 8, he told us in no uncertain terms that he did not consider what we were discussing a priority. He had bigger things that he was hired to address,”Campbell said, after the SRA meeting.
“Our only option was to unilaterally decide that the agreement was null and void,”Campbell said. He added that he did not see how putting off a decision would change the situation.
Campbell said the motion to end the duplication of student fees was in the works in June 2012, before the MAPS spending scandal was exposed in January. Ending the agreement was also part of Campbell’s presidential platform earlier this year.
After the vote, MAPS issued a statement condemning the MSU’s decision to walk away from the contract.
“Unlike the MSU Board who are full-time paid employees, all members of the MAPS Board are volunteers. They have been working practically non-stop to save this organization for seven months,” the statement reads.
MAPS questioned whether or not students could still transfer between the two student associations under a 2007 agreement amending the initial contract.
Campbell dismissed the claims made in MAPS’ statement.
Campbell said the MSU “fully intends to uphold the transferability mechanism.”
“We have an agreement here that is extremely unusual – there is no exit clause except if both parties come together,”Campbell said, of the 1986 agreement. “We’ve done everything we could to negotiate in good faith. This was our only option.”
“In our bylaws, if you’re a member in September, you’re covered for 12 months,” Campbell said.
MAPS stated that their board will meet this week “to review the options are available to us, but our primary focus is to finish the task at hand and present revised by-laws and policies to the Provost for his comments.”