By Mercedes Gaztambide-Spillane and Nick Baldwin
A recent poll conducted by the Ryerson School of Journalism shows that students are split over whether or not to contribute to the once mandatory student fees.
According to poll data, 40 per cent of students said that they are somewhat or very likely to opt out of contributing student fees that would fund the Ryerson Students’ Union, while only 27 per cent said that they are somewhat or very likely to opt in.
By September 2019, Ontario post-secondary students will have the opportunity to opt out of paying for certain services that are now funded through ancillary fees tacked on to tuition. Some of those funds go to the RSU to support its programs, including funding student groups and paying for the equity service centres, such as the Good Food Centre and the Centre for Women and Trans People.
The provincial government announced the opt-out provision in January.
Miranda Abis, a fourth-year accounting and finance student at Ryerson, says she would opt out of student fees if she had the chance.
“Every semester, you pay for the RSU. I’ve been here for four years, so multiply that amount by four? And consider all of the students who pay? That’s a lot of money.”
In the poll, students were also asked whether they approve or disapprove of the job the RSU is doing.
Only eight per cent they said approve, while about 40 per cent said they disapprove.
The poll was conducted prior to the recent RSU elections. First-year RSJ students surveyed 1,179 Ryerson students in person and online between March 1-4, 2019.
Seven of the poll questions were regarding the RSU. Some of them dealt with the so-called “credit card scandal” involving the former RSU president, Ram Ganesh. He was impeached in February, after allegations of credit card misuse.
Asked, “Are you aware of the current RSU credit card scandal, involving the president of the RSU?” 92 per cent said “yes,” while only about eight per cent said “no.”
Responding to questions about the student union and the credit card scandal, Arsalan Merchant, a third-year engineering student, said, “The RSU needs transparency. I feel like [the] student body government is not that trustworthy to begin with. How can you put so much trust into students who are in their early 20s with millions of dollars? You shouldn’t be trusting students with so much money. There needs to be more control over that.”
Milena Oliva, a third-year nursing student, said: “It’s difficult to win back trust after taking advantage of students. I see why people would want to opt out (of paying fees to the RSU). However, there’s so much uncertainty in regards to how the budget cuts will affect the student groups and service centres who offer amazing services.
“I would like to see improvement in regards to the clarity of where the funds are going. I want more information than just ‘RSU affiliate fees,’” Oliva said.
Dilraj Manhas, a second-year computer engineering student, said, “a lot of big changes” need to be made with the RSU.
“Students need to decide what they want from it, and there needs to be more transparency and a stronger effort to get students involved in decisions being made,” Manhas said.
“When Ram Ganesh’s actions became known to the public, people were very quick to turn on him. It’s very easy to make an enemy out of somebody and for everybody to jump on that one target. Once that became known, the RSU’s general popularity dropped a lot.”
Results for the full survey sample have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20; it may be larger for subgroups.