EDITORIAL: UVic should look inward for residence funding

Editorials Opinions
Illustration by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor
Illustration by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor

As enjoyable (or unenjoyable, if Star Wars makes you want to take a whiff of bantha poodoo) as this themed issue has been, the Martlet would like to take this editorial to get serious. Because as fun as it is to run stories about lightsabers, Jedi, and other fictional things, the real Empire is right here on campus.

We’re talking about UVic administration, of course, and the financial burdens continuously placed on students via housing fee increases.

On Nov. 23–24, the UVic Board of Governors met for their regular meeting and affirmed that the budget for next year would be drafted under the assumption that a six per cent increase in residence fees would be implemented. These increases are part of a 10-year plan and will cover deferred maintenance costs, as well as a new 600-bed residence tower, and would hike fees from $4 626 to $4 904 for the 2016-17 academic year.

In turn, the UVSS staged a protest in the Senate chambers, urging the board to reconsider their course of action and lower the planned increase to around two to four per cent.

The board declined, with President Jamie Cassels remarking that “[they] could reallocate money [from other UVic services],” like McPherson Library. But in any case, he said, there would have be painful choices to make. So, that money will come from students in residence, many of which are first-years. (93 per cent of beds in residence were taken up by first-years in 2014-15.)

That’s all well and good, but we have to wonder just how far the board looked to find those funds before deciding students should cough up more dough. Was it really impossible to find a reasonable compromise that doesn’t defer the costs to students?

UVic holds access and affordability as two of its values and strategic goals, so it’s baffling that they would actively work against both by making living in residence even more expensive than it already is. University et large is prohibitively expensive for many disadvantaged students (don’t stop the presses); making them foot the bill for residence buildings is unjust.

Not only that, but if students can’t afford to live on campus, they’ll look for housing elsewhere, ie. nearby neighbourhoods. And then you have the issue of students taking space from low-income families, people with disabilities, and those who are otherwise fiscally challenged.

Of course, this just speaks to the greater issue of affordable education, period. It gets a little tiresome to talk about it, though. How many protests does it take before things actually change? When the UVSS spoke out against Bill 41’s amendments to the Societies Act, they were brushed off by the Minister of Advanced Education. When they protested at the Senate chambers, they were given the same lip service. And when they requested academic amnesty for students so that they could attend a rally for free education next February, they were — you guessed it — told to take a hike. It’s all getting a little bit tiresome.

If the University can cough up the funds for a $78.7-million shiny new recreational facility, surely there’s a solution to fix the residence problem without the cost falling on students.

They just have to search their feelings; they’ll find the answer if they do.