As we approach the Alberta election, I’m probably going to start looking more into the politics here in Alberta as well as out in Ontario. The reason being that the United Conservative Party (UCP) here in Alberta has adopted language in their policies about demanding that all fees for student unions and student association be paid on a voluntary basis. This is very similar to what has happened in Ontario, where, among other changes to tuition policy, Doug Ford has mandated that students must be able to opt out of student association fees.
The mandatory nature of fees, like taxes, is that, while unpleasant, we all benefit more when we all pay. After all, when a student union fights to keep tuition down, or create benefits for the student body, it’s not as if they can dictate that only those students who’ve paid their student union fees can benefit from these changes.
As an example, at one point in AU’s history, they were looking to charge a significant fee to process any transcript request. AUSU fought against this fee, brought research to the table showing how it would make AU an outlier among most universities in Alberta and Canada, and AU relented. That’s why you can get free transcripts today.
With legislation like that imposed in Ontario, however, those who never paid into AUSU would still receive that same benefit. But that research wasn’t free, as it cost the union both time and money to complete, never mind the time spent in meetings talking to AU staff about the matter.
Even if a students’ association was able to keep track of who paid for their services and who did not, the additional overhead associated with doing so would add additional cost to every program provided. There is an enormous “free-rider” problem that can come along with changes like these to advocating bodies. So, if such a policy comes to existence in Alberta, you can expect AUSU to be looking for ways to cut costs and pare back services. Student media is often one of the first things to go, because it’s hard to argue that services like The Voice Magazine are more important than awards to needy students or paying for the student app that gives AUSU a way to directly connect with students. And even though I’d argue that The Voice Magazine is at least as important, if not more, because of its’ ability to critically watch AUSU’s activities, I would be hard pressed to blame the union if The Voice Magazine wasn’t at least scaled back, if not eliminated.
But, fortunately, that remains a tomorrow problem.
Today, the problem is mostly personal, and my apologies for the lateness of this issue. If you read last week’s editorial, you’ll understand why it happened, but I still wanted to be sure to get this issue out there. Especially because our feature article this week is a return of the Minds We Meet column! This week, we interview a seventeen-year-old AU student who is seeking to become a country singer and find out how AU has fit into that goal. Just another reminder of the vast scope that makes up AU students. With that plus our normal assortment of advice and thought-provoking articles, I’m sure that this week you’ll enjoy the read!