ASSU Holds Student Levy Referendum

ASSU Holds Student Levy Referendum

Proposed student levy increase could result in expansion of ASSU’s work

Chiara Greco ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

 Image: ASSU

On February 13 and 14, the University of Toronto’s (U of T) Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) held a referendum which had asked for a $1.50 student levy increase that all full-time Arts and Science students pay toward. A student levy, much like a tax, is a compulsory fee collected from students in order to fund various campus organizations.  

This increase could potentially raise the current fee of $9.50 per semester to a proposed $11 per semester. With this, the levy would be changed to increase in proportion to inflation — that is, the dollar value would be tied to the Consumer Price Index and would allow for annual cost-of-living to be taken into consideration. These changes will only be made if the referendum vote passes.

“Despite being the largest academic student union in Canada, ASSU currently has one of the lowest student society levies at [U of T],” read a public statement by ASSU. 

The last increase came nine years ago, meaning that “in real terms [the ASSU] fee is now lower than it was in 2010.” Since then, with the additional money from that referendum, ASSU has been able to increase their Course Union Budgets, as well as create more scholarships which totalled over $36,000. 

“ASSU has historically asked students for a levy increase on a five- or six-year cycle, allowing [their] fees to balance inflationary pressures while ensuring that the typical student would not need to experience a fee increase during their undergraduate career.” In accordance with this cycle, the ASSU had proposed a student increase in 2016, which ultimately failed. This 2019 proposed increase aims to help in rebuilding and supporting crucial programs directed by ASSU.

 It is important to note that “alongside union funding that goes toward seminars, academic journals, research conferences, social events, and academic guidance among many things, ASSU has also created several ongoing projects and conferences” such as the annual Undergraduate Research Conference and their Student Success Day Conference. The bi-annual Exam Jam and fall Reading Week proposal are also notable among the staple initiatives put together by ASSU, which this increase in levy will help to continue to support.

In addition to all this, “ASSU funds over $180,000 to 62 student course unions in departments and programs, grants over $36,000 in bursaries and awards, and funds over $21,000 in grant money for undergraduate research and conference travel.” In these ways, ASSU has a relatively big impact on students’ undergraduate academic life and experience. With this new proposed levy change, ASSU will be able to continue these meaningful services. As such, this levy is not only an increase in money but an increase in accountable service and support.

According to the ASSU Referendum statement, this increase in student levy will allow for and expand “existing projects, increase bursaries and scholarships, and fund the growth of [their] course unions and their valuable work.” As such, the goal of this levy is professed to be expanding funding to programs that had seen their budgets reduced due to the similar referendum mentioned in 2016 that failed to pass. 

In a statement to The Varsity by ASSU, President Haseed Hassan writes, “Some students may not see the day-to-day work we do to enrich their student lives but we do the best we can to make sure that students can have the best education they can with as little barriers as possible.”

Voting for this levy referendum took place in Sidney Smith’s lobby, both on February 13 and 14. Voting online was also available. In regards to the outcome, more information on the results of voting and its effect will be given within the next couple weeks.

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