Oct 30, 2012

CKUT and M-SERT to run fee increase referendum questions

Both groups cite increasing operation costs as obstacle to expanding services; campaign period begins Nov. 1

Jimmy Lou

CKUT and M-SERT to run fee increase referendum questions
The referendum campaign period runs from Nov. 1 to 11, and polling will take place between Nov. 5 and 11. (Alexandra Allaire / McGill Tribune)

This fall’s referendum period for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) will include questions on increases in SSMU base fees for both the McGill Student Emergency Response Team (M-SERT) and CKUT, McGill’s campus-community radio station. The campaign period runs from Nov. 1 to 11, and polling will take place between Nov. 5 and 11.

Last year, the administration invalidated the results of two referendum questions by CKUT and QPIRG after deeming the questions’ phrasing to be “unclear”. The questions addressed both the organizations’ existence and a proposed change to make their fees only opt-outable in person. While CKUT was able to negotiate with the administration for the continued recognition of its existence, QPIRG ran another question during the Winter semester.

SSMU Chief Electoral Officer Hubie Yu said these concerns about the clarity of referendum questions have affected the way Elections SSMU, students, and the administration interact this semester.

“Students interested in submitting questions approached me early in the semester, and I’ve been working with them to ensure that questions each deals with only one issue,” she said. “In addition, the office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) has a new form approval process to ensure that questions are implementable.”

CKUT

Following the invalidation of its 2011 referendum question, CKUT ran another, asking for its fee to become non-opt-outable. This referendum was unsuccessful. This year, CKUT seeks to increase its opt-outable student fee by $1, to be implemented in January 2013.

“The opt-outable fee hasn’t gone up since 1988, and the cost of running the station has gone up a lot since [then],” Carol Fraser, chair of CKUT’s board, said. “The $4 fee hasn’t increased with inflation, and we need increased funding [to maintain] our utility fees, staff, equipment, and transmitter.”

Currently, student fees are the largest source of revenue for CKUT. An increase in student fees would substantially affect CKUT’s operations.

CKUT Funding and Outreach Coordinator Caitlin Manicom emphasized CKUT’s benefits to students.

“CKUT provides great programming, extensive training, internships, work study positions, free concerts on McGill campus, free tickets to other Montreal concerts, and more,” she said. “It truly offers so much to the McGill community, and also helps promote McGill’s name in Montreal and across the world.”

M-SERT

Like CKUT, M-SERT is seeking a fee increase in this referendum period. Its question asks for a $0.50 increase for all full-time and part-time undergraduate students studying at the downtown campus, starting in the Winter semester of 2013.

M-SERT is the only student-run volunteer service that provides emergency first aid to McGill students and the Montreal community. It is regularly stationed at McGill residences, and covers McGill activities such as frosh, faculty association events, and intramural hockey games, as well as other events around the city. M-SERT also offers Red Cross first aid courses throughout the year.

Ahan Ali, director of M-SERT, said the increase will help offset costs the group has incurred from further investment in responders’ training.

“We are looking to continue to improve our service, and the supplies and equipment available at each of our response stations, [including] residences, main office, [and the] hockey arena,” Ali said. “We [also] want to restructure the allocation of our finances such that revenue [from our first aid courses] can be used to continually improve the quality of our [these] courses.”

Currently, M-SERT receives $0.25 per student each semester as part of the “Safety Network” fee within SSMU. It has also independently generated approximately 60 per cent of its operating costs through its Red Cross first aid courses, but its growth over the past five years has added “more and more financial strain,” according to Ali.

“We are currently operating at a sufficient level to provide quality first aid care to the McGill community,” Ali said. “The concern we have is being able to maintain [this quality] in the long term as we continue to expand.”

Ali said M-SERT is important for the McGill community because of its commitment to student life.

“M-SERT has responders on shift in Molson, covering Upper Rez, and in La Citadelle, covering Lower Rez, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night of the academic term,” he said. “We are dispatched through security to medical calls, and we carry oxygen, an automated external defibrillator, epi-pens, and many more first aid supplies regularly required when responding to the various incidences we are called to.”

M-SERT has formed a ‘Yes’ committee of roughly 20 people, and the committee chair is finalizing the methods and strategies for the campaign.

At the time of press, no ‘No’ committees had been organized for either question.

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