LATEST NEWS: ONLINE VOTE TO HAPPEN APRIL 28th-30th
There will be an online referendum on the latest fees proposal between April 28th – 30th so please ensure that you read the proposal, contact the GSA with any questions and vote!
READ THE PROPOSAL HERE
OLDER NEWS & ORIGINAL BLOG POST
“The Graduate Students Association (GSA) has elected to postpone the vote for the proposed Compulsory Ancillary Fees increase that was to take place on Thursday, January 28th, 2016 at 2:30 pm. The Special General Meeting this week is therefore cancelled.
There were questions that arose from students in the recent information workshops that the GSA held; the GSA is working with the University to provide answers to these questions. For example, students would like the University to provide a budget outlining where the fees are going; the University is working on this document and we have asked for a higher level of detail. Since we want our members to have ample time to review this information before a decision is made, the meeting will be postponed until further notification.
In the interim, the University has agreed to not reduce service levels for Graduate Students.”
Any concerns or questions can be directed to email@example.com.
There will be a student services fees vote at the GSA Special General Meeting (SGM) on Thursday January 28th 2016 at 2.30pm in Hamilton Hall (HH302) for all graduate students. We encourage all graduate students to familiarize themselves with this issue to make an informed vote at the upcoming SGM.
On a side note, if you cannot attend the SGM, it is possible to have somebody go and vote in your place by “proxy”. Information about proxy voting at GSA SGMs can be found in page 19 of the GSA Bylaws. Email Talena at least 48 hours before the meeting if you need to vote by proxy.
All information can be found on the GSA website, including the proxy voting form. http://gsa.mcmaster.ca/news/386-special-annual-meeting-compulsory-ancillary-fee.html
A change in student services fees (also known as compulsory ancillary fees or CAFs) are being proposed by Sean van Koughnett (AVP Student Affairs) in conjunction with the GSA . Ancillary fees cover student services like the student health centre on campus, the athletics and recreation facilities on campus and other things like career services etc.
Student services fees can increase with inflation and an increase of up to 4% per year can be approved by the student services committee. However, any major changes to the fees must be approved by the graduate students at a GSA meeting. The amount that graduate students pay at McMaster has not changed for numerous years. Whereas the cost of our services has outpaced inflation due to increased labour costs from union collective bargaining agreements and an increased level & quality of these services due to changing students requirements. The student services model is unsustainable, it has been running on a ‘reserve fund’ that is about to run out which will lead to a deficit if no changes are made.
As such, this proposal is asking graduate students to increase fees which will help to maintain and/or enhance existing services, depending on which option is chosen. The current (full time) graduate student services fee is $119.67 per year. These supplementary fees are separate from tuition fees. You will find that you paid them in September most likely through your scholarship funding.
The vote, unlike last year, will be a two-stage vote and both stages will occur at the SGM on January 28th. In the first stage students will be asked whether or not they agree to an increase in their fees. If they vote against this, then the entire proposal is rejected. If students vote yes, then they will be asked to choose one of the 4 possible fees options; Option A is to increase the fees to a level which can maintain our current services and Options B, C & D are higher cost options which will allow for expansion of existing services.
- Option A – Maintain Current Services $252.66 per year
- Option B – Maintain Current Services + Additional Mental Health Support $288.12 per year
- Option C – Maintain Current Services + Additional Career Services $304.86 per year
- Option D – Maintain Current Services + Additional Mental Health & Career Services $340.62 per year
Additional mental health support means hiring a dedicated student counsellor for graduate students who would improve continuity of care throughout the year. Additional career services means SGS hires a person to provide career services tailored for graduate students.
The level of services that we currently receive will be maintained & if options B, C or D are chosen then additional services specific to those options will be implemented for graduate students.
Student services will be cut back.
· Career services for graduate students will be limited to “mygradskills.ca”, MITACS courses, some student success centre events and whatever Faculty specific events that are currently in place e.g. we will not lose Adam Peplar’s services because he was hired by the Faculty of Engineering. We will lose the events that are currently provided by SGS.
· Health Services: Spouses and dependents of graduate students will no longer be eligible to receive care at the Student Wellness Centre. Graduate students will see longer waiting lists for the Student Wellness Center (SWC) and undergraduate students will always get priority for mental health services on the waiting lists as they pay more than we do.
WAIT – we voted against this last year, why are we being asked to vote on this again?.
This is true. Last year this topic was sprung upon students with very little information to support it and it was presented as an “all or nothing” scenario. Students were only given Option D i.e. “fees are going to triple” and not everybody agreed that we need to spend more money on certain services. In addition to this, students felt like they did not have any input on the proposal. A number of things have changed in the past year and this proposal has many differences to the last one.
- Last April, the GSA invited graduate students to volunteer to sit on a graduate student services review committee (GSSRC) to work on this topic. The GSSRC was comprised of 15 graduate students, who consulted with several University departments, including Student Affairs and the School of Graduate Studies, to review graduate student services and their associated fees. The committee has met several times and this new proposal is what was agreed upon. You can find the meeting minutes for this committee here.
- The student services committee which is essentially responsible for making the budget every year for these services doesn’t have a graduate student sitting on it! In the last proposal graduate students were angry that we have no say in this since we’re paying for it. The GSSRC negotiated with student affairs about this. Regardless of the outcomes of this vote, we will now have a graduate representative on this committee who can help to review the budget and have an input into how best to utilise the resources that we have.
Options & More information
- We have options A, B, C & D instead of just Option D. That way the entire graduate student body (those who go to the AGM) have a say in what their fees are paying for rather than just a couple of people who sat on a committee.
- Regardless of the outcome of the vote graduate students will have equal access as that of undergraduates, to the Athletics and Recreation (A&R).
- The increase in fees, if accepted, will be phased in over a 3-year period, as opposed to the 2 year period that was proposed last time. This would give students more time to adjust to the change.
- More information on usage statistics and comparison to other universities has been obtained compared to last year. See the supplementary information section.
It is hoped that the information presented here provided is food for thought and inspires you to go to the SGM on January 28th to have your vote counted. We have tried to ensure that the information provided is accurate and unbiased so please let us know if you spot any problems.
The GSA will be hosting Information sessions on this proposal where you can ask lots of questions before the meeting.
Tues Dec 15th 2PM in BSB B135
Wed Dec 16th 2PM in KTH B135
Wed Jan 13th 12PM in Convocation hall (University Hall)
GSA AGM Thurs Jan 28th at 2.30PM
Hamilton Hall Room 302
Current grad student services fees versus the new fees options and how much the undergrads currently pay in student services fees. Note: usage of different services is different for graduate students versus undergraduates. Some limited usage statistics are available for the student wellness centre but not for the mental health portion. Currently do not have systems in place to accurately determine usage statistics for athletics & recreation services or career services so it is difficult to make meaningful decisions from this data.
It should be noted that a user payment scheme tends not to work well for student services as it raises the cost dramatically for those who use it. I.e. the gym is cheaper for those who use it because we all pay a small amount of money per year for it. Visits to the doctor are cheaper because we all pay for it etc.
McMaster University has some of the lowest student services fees (for grad students) compared to other universities. Not all universities have the same services for these fees and/or the same take home pay so we’re not entirely comparing apples to apples but it gives us an idea e.g. UofT pays the most, they receive higher stipends than we do and they all have full access to the gym (including weights section). McMaster is probably more similar to Western or Waterloo so they are likely better examples to compare to. Talk to your friends in these universities. If you get more information we can add it to this article.
The projected deficit or $1.6M when the ‘reserve’ fund runs out. It should be noted that this reserve was from some previous years’ budget surpluses. In further years this deficit will continue to increase and more and more services may need to be cut back if it’s not managed.
In general from these charts you can see that undergrads are taking the burden of most of the fees for student services even relative to their numbers i.e. grad students are underpaying. One could argue that we don’t use these services as much. However, this is not an easy argument since we do not have definitive numbers on relative usage as they have not been explicitly tracked. The majority of the evidence is anecdotal and indicates that grad students overuse the student wellness/mental health services whereas undergrads overuse the athletics & rec services so it balances out on average. Also if we move to a more user-based model it would likely result in higher fees for students in general.
The current Agreement for Compulsory Ancillary Fees can be found here. “Current” meaning 2004. CAF Agreement – December 14, 2004-1