2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

by Louie Villanueva

Student money needs more oversight

By Keean Bexte, September 3, 2015 —

The University of Calgary Students’ Union touts transparency as one of it’s most important tenants. Yet the SU allows $333,780 of student money to be spent without public oversight on something called, “ancillary fees.”

On top of the mandatory $65 general fee, students pay an extra $46 of ancillary fees each academic year that go to a collection of third-party organizations. Some of these organizations received their mandate to collect fees from students up to 38 years ago.

Since then, the student body has turned over nine times. If an organization passes any referendum with a vote of over 50 per cent, the SU has the authority to collect fees for organizations forever — with no involvement of any student body in the future. We pay these fees automatically now, whether we want to or not.

I was interested in how committed the SU is to “transparency, accountability and consultation,” so I approached both the SU and many of these third-parties over the summer. First, I asked the SU for their operating budget, which was discussed and voted on in council in June. The policy department claimed they were not able to provide a copy.  Second, I asked for documentation outlining the accountability measures for third parties -— documents that prove these organizations actually spend student dollars on programs and services for students. I also requested the audited financial statements from multiple organizations.

Unsurprisingly, I was told a host of different things. From the SU, I was told that the details of third party agreements are confidential and cannot be shared. Of the tri-media organizations, two out of three declined to share any information. CJSW told me that they were not available publicly. A representative from NUTV was quick to respond by saying that they weren’t comfortable emailing me the operating agreement. Student Legal Assistance told me they don’t even share the contact information of employees with the students that pay their salaries.

Without the $4.50 that goes to the Gauntlet, I would not be able to share this opinion with you. They keep the SU accountable and they bring to light the failings and successes of our elected representatives. I personally find them deserving of the small fee we give them. But just because an organization is useful doesn’t mean their expenditures should go publicly unreported.

I am not necessarily suggesting that any fees need to be raised or lowered. But if students from four decades ago are forcing us to cough up cash, the least the SU could do is publicize professional audited financial statements, budgets and other information from each organization.

Do you care where your money goes? If you do, you would agree that our fee structure needs an overhaul. If organizations need student dollars to operate, they need the support of students today — not the support of  students four decades ago.

Without this support, does the SU seem like an organization founded on transparency, accountability and consultation? You tell me.

Keean Bexte is a third-year natural sciences student. He writes a monthly column about Students’ Union politics called Committee of the Whole

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