By: David Philpott
It has been over a month and a half since the first Pulse & Recreation Expansion Referendum failed and we are already voting on it again. Though to be fair, there are two changes between January’s referendum and this one.
First, the university has increased its financial contribution by $10 million, which would reduce the proposed increase in student fees from $3.95 to $2.99 per unit. Second, instead of the three options in the first referendum, students will now have two: to build both a Pulse expansion and a Student Activity Building, or to reject all fee increases.
My main issue is that despite the failure of the January referendum, student concerns have still not been addressed. A fee reduction is obviously good for students. But we care not only about how much we will be paying, but how it will be spent.
Throughout the referendum campaign students brought up a variety of issues they had with the proposed deal. Despite this, the McMaster Students Union Board of Directors has not changed enough about the deal this next referendum offers. These issues include:
• A compulsory 12 month Pulse membership for all students, instead of the four, eight and 12 month options offered currently
• No opt-out option for the Pulse membership
• A minimalistic plan about what the space in the Student Activity Building will be used for
• An unclear transition plan for the Pulse and concerns of overcrowding
• A long-term payment plan that would have students paying for this expansion until 2060
None of these issues have been addressed in this referendum. However, what stands out the most about the first referendum is that over 60 per cent of voters chose options that did not contain the Student Activity Building. With a clear mandate like that, one would think the plan for this building needs to be reconsidered after more consultation with students. But that has not happened and the same flawed plan is now being proposed again.
Some say it is necessary we rush ahead with this plan. I understand there are some economic constraints on funding commitments and many groups are eager to move into new spaces. But, considering students will be paying for this new building for the next 43 years, we should not rush ahead with a faulty plan. We need to make sure student interests and issues are being addressed. How can we believe this been done when it has only been six weeks since the last referendum?
On Feb. 24, Ryan MacDonald, the MSU vice-president (Finance), said in a Facebook post that, “This (failure of the first referendum) sent a clear message that students wanted the university to contribute more to this project.” It is true that the university contributing more is a positive, but the referendum needs more adjustments than that.
So let’s send that message again. Next week, vote no and let the university and the MSU inner circle know we students matter. Our concerns need to be addressed, and that you can’t keep proposing the same referendum until you get the answer you are looking for.