Currently, all students pay $30 toward the Student Union Society (SUS) membership fee, $35 for the SUS building fee, $27.24 for the campus connector, and $4.98 for fixIT tech support through their student fees each semester.
According to the SUS’s 2017/2018 financial statement, student fees brought in $641,000. This doesn’t include building fees, which brought in $748,000, the campus connector fees brought in $682,000, and IT fees brought in $115,000, student fees.
And now, Fairgrounds — the coffee shop in the Student Union Building (SUB) run by the SUS — has increased its prices. Drip coffee, specifically 12 and 16 oz., has gone up by 20 cents; 16 oz. lattes by 30 cents; 16 oz. London fogs by 50 cents; and 16 oz. cappuccino by 60 cents. The baked good prices have stayed the same. For comparison, Starbucks charges $2.45 for a 16 oz. coffee and $4.45 for a 16 oz. latte. (Fairgrounds charges $2.25 and $4.25, respectively.)
What I’d like to know is why the SUS is running a business in the first place. Yes, it’s great to have a campus-specific coffee shop that employs students in need of flexible work hours and a bit of extra cash. And yes, it’s great that they sell sustainably sourced, organic coffee. But they also offer catering services. Student unions are ultimately in place to serve the students, and I don’t think many students are hosting events that require them to buy mass quantities of baked goods. (Specifically, a dozen muffins for $20, or a dozen bagels for $30.)
Although this is a question for Fairgrounds specifically, it expands to encompass the SUS as a whole. We need to be asking what our student fees are going toward. Right now, the SUS’s website states that some of the available services they offer are study areas, bookable spaces, vending machines, water stations, and student lounges. On SUS’s website, both the SUB fee and the SUS fee direct you to the same page.
Aside from the fact that these perks should be covered by the $35 SUB fee — not by the SUS membership fee — these are all things students can access anywhere else on campus. They aren’t specific to the SUB, or the SUS, for that matter. So the question remains: what is the $30 SUS membership fee going to?
What this boils down to is transparency. Sure, the SUS may be funneling all this money into student-centred activities and other things that benefit students, but they need to make this clear. Update us through email announcements, and — this is a big one — keep the website current. Be transparent with budget reports, including the price of running Fairgrounds. As a student union, the SUS is there to benefit the students. It’s a relationship we enter into when we register for UFV, and relationships take work. Sometimes, you have to ask the hard questions: relationships are all about communication, and, as students, we shouldn’t have to ask the question “Where’s our money going?”
Image: Cory Jensen/The Cascade