This year, students will be asked to vote on three referendums: International Student Association Fees (ISAF), Student Legal Services (SLS), and World University Service of Canada (WUSC).
International Students Association Fee (ISAF)
In this upcoming election, international students at all campuses will have the opportunity to vote on a $3.50 Dedicated Fee Unit (DFU) to support the creation of the International Students Association Fee (ISAF). Compared to the ISA’s potential for growth and flourishing, this is a small price to pay.
ISA’s campaign this year, like most of the advocacy work they do, has been mind-blowing. They launched a strong online campaign by making their social media and website available to students at the start of the election period. Not to mention, their performance at last week’s election forums was fantastic, communicating with ease the origins of the ISA, their pandemic accomplishments, and their breakdown on what the fee will cover.
ISA seeks to create impact in three new areas with ISAF: Events, Services and Programs. The ISA provides students with a full and comprehensive breakdown of their online platform, which includes their International Student Benefits Card (I-Card) funding and expansion plan, which is a discount card for Edmonton businesses. Additionally, they will use the fees to create a host program, year-round events for students, a community support fund, and mental health and professional development workshops for students.
Most of the ISAF will be used to fund the ISA International Student Hub and administrative and operating costs. A percentage of this sum will likely be used to further support ISA’s advocacy work, such as finding easier and faster pathways to permanent residency for international students.
Will it pass?
ISA has been a strong advocate for international students since its resurrection in 2020. International students have had the opportunity to feel the impact and actively benefit from the work done by ISA.
As Renson Alva inferred at the Residences Forum, the I-Card alone has the potential for students to recoup the cost of ISAF. With the multitude of services that will also be offered for only $3.50 fee, as well as the fees attached only to international students, there is no doubt in my mind that the referendum vote will pass.
Should I pass?
In addition to running a strong campaign and making fabulous presentations at forums, the ISA has always been transparent about how and where fee money will be allocated. Tuition fees for international students are very expensive. However, the ISA has consulted with international students to ensure that this optional $3.50 fee is a cost they are willing to pay. And ultimately pay $3.50 for the ISA to sustainably fund the I-Card, year-round events, international student awards, and funding for BIPOC and regional groups is not an unreasonable request.
Given their long history of advocacy work for international students, ISA has proven to be a formidable force capable of accomplishing most things they think of. They have already proven themselves to be capable and strong representatives of the needs of international students even without these fees. With a larger budget, they will be able to celebrate more victories for international students. Overall, I urge all international students to vote yes and support ISAF.
Student Legal Services (SLS)
The University of Alberta Student Legal Services Referendum is asking for an additional $3 per semester to expand the scope of what SLS can do for students.
The SLS is a legal service for all students that guarantees free legal services to students, whatever the case. From conduct disorder to student conflict, SLS is free. This year they hope to expand the services they can offer to students.
Since their inception at the U of A in the 1990s, the SLS has never asked for a tuition increase. Over the past few years, SLS has seen a significant drop in the number of cases coming forward. For this reason, Representative Jeremy Hoefsloot told the Myer Horowitz forum, “Either students should commit more crimes or we should expand our services.”
With the increased fees, SLS plans to expand its services to include residency disputes for students living on campus and to help trans students change their gender identification on government-issued IDs. government.
Will it pass?
Yes, I think the SLS plebiscite will pass. But I don’t think it will be because the students really understand the services available to them.
Personally, I did not know the SLS before the elections. This is an important resource for students on campus, but I’m sure many students don’t know it’s there for them. Asked on a forum by Gateway on how SLS plans to advertise to students to advertise their services to students, they responded that they currently have advertisements on the LRT and plan to place advertisements on campus to advertise their services . I don’t think that’s enough.
This campaign could have been a great opportunity for SLS to expand its reach, but they didn’t. Although they have spoken at forums, their Instagram page is still empty, and their overall reach and visibility on campus needs to grow.
Should I pass?
Yes, the SLS should pass.
SLS has made important promises to students on campus. The ability for students to receive free, no-questions-asked legal services is a valuable resource. For many students, legal services would be unfeasible with the budget we have. That $6 per year fee is well worth paying, especially considering the possible risk of having to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer without it.
World University Service of Canada (WUSC)
As the oldest Dedicated Fees Unit (DFU) in the university, I expected World University Service of Canada (WUSC) to be well versed in deploying an accessible platform for their referendum fees . Especially with even higher stakes as they are looking to almost triple their mandatory DFU from $0.52 to $1.50.
This was not the case. Their platform was virtually non-existent online. There was no website and their social media gave virtually no insight into exactly how fees would be allocated to the Student Refugee Program (SRP).
It was not until the election forums that the representatives spoke in more detail about the breakdown of the fees, explaining that the fees will cover airfare, rent, food, textbooks, tuition, laptops and other living expenses such as winter clothes and telephones for refugee students. Damon Bectell, WUSC’s representative at the Myer Horowitz Forum, also mentioned that fees are being increased to improve funding for refugee students at Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ).
However, word of mouth campaigns are not enough. I wish their forum points had become platform points. And that they had had a more publicly accessible platform for students to begin with.
Will it pass?
Even though the WUSC fee is expected to nearly triple this year, it will still be only $1.50. It’s less than a cup of coffee, as WUSC representatives repeatedly pointed out at election forums.
We live in a turbulent world, which has become evident with all the conflicts that have occurred in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Mozambique, Tanzania and the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. WUSC is used to focusing its efforts on countries experiencing a refugee crisis.
The WUSC vote has always passed with a relatively high success rate and I expect very little to prevent the vote from passing this year.
Should I pass?
The truth is, WUSC has left a lot to be desired in its campaign this year, seemingly banking on a lack of investigation and an instant “why not” from students to make it happen. As most forums ended with no questions asked to WUSC, their attendance remained minimal rather than striving to create a stronger campaign that effectively explained the value proposition of their fees.
However, I believe WUSC is undertaking vital work. The Student Refugee Program (SRP) gives refugee students the tools to build a better future through immediate access to permanent residency and a university education.
While I wish I could say “no” for there to be repercussions for a bad campaign, WUSC’s funding is more important than themselves. The SRP is invaluable and has the potential to change countless lives through its sponsorship of student refugees.
We should all be willing to give up a cup of coffee a year for the next 5 years to fund SRP and help WUSC bring seven undergraduates to study at our university. It’s a yes from me.