Support for plebiscite to repeal or re-appropriate involuntary ESS membership fee

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August 21, 2018

 

Schulich School of Engineering
622 Collegiate Place NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 4V8

Dr. Susan Barker
Vice Provost, Student Experience
University of Calgary
MB 137 – 2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4

 

Dear Dr. Barker,

Subject: Support for plebiscite to repeal or re-appropriate involuntary ESS membership fee

We are writing to collectively express our strong support for a student plebiscite regarding the involuntary $20 yearly ESS membership fee collected by the University from full-time engineering students. Recent student investigations have revealed that this fee was established under false pretenses where ESS would fund Schulich teams, departmental student societies, and other services which have since been discontinued. Students do not perceive ESS to be relevant as evident by poor engagement during events and elections. ESS has been accused by students of gross mismanagement, irresponsible fiscal behavior, and a blatant sense of entitlement. In 2016 after SSE revoked funding to ESS for their exorbitant dinners, majority of the membership fund is now used solely to subsidize these dinners as revealed by latest budget actuals. With due consideration to these facts, we are of the firm opinion that ESS is ultimately undeserving of receiving nearly $70,000 in yearly student funding.

By comparison, ESS is the only association on campus to be granted an involuntary membership fee by the University. Meanwhile other faculty clubs in Business or Arts continue to thrive without involuntary fees. We believe that students have the right to choose which organization they wish to associate themselves with, and a mandatory membership fee deprives them of their right.

Schulich Competitive Teams, on the other hand, are unique from other student associations in that we do not charge general membership fees and yet provide excellent opportunities for the average engineering student to exercise their classroom skills in a hands-on manner. Our activities aim to represent the University at prestigious competitions which boosts the University’s reputation nationally and internationally. Our collective teams consist of hundreds of students who receive unprecedented training in technical and soft skills, and go on to innovative and lucrative technical and leadership fields, with many eventually becoming alumni donors. Despite being regularly underfunded, we achieve all this by providing superior opportunities and operating our teams with the discipline of real-life businesses. However, we regularly need to invest in materials and equipment for our projects which are capital-intensive. Instead of funding ineffective student associations that lack merit and impact, we believe that the ESS membership fee should be re-appropriated to support Schulich Competitive Teams instead as they arguably have a far bigger impact on student experience. To put this into perspective, such a solution can add at least $8,000 in yearly funding to each Team which would provide tremendous financial support to our projects, allow us to recruit more students, and in turn increase success at competitions.

As this fund is provided directly by students, we believe that the University has a fiduciary duty to them by facilitating a plebiscite into this matter. $70,000 in yearly funding has enormous potential to enhance the student experience – and irrespective of repeal or re-appropriation for better uses – we believe that it should not be squandered on low impact initiatives as has been the status quo. Thank you for considering our request.

Yours sincerely,

Schulich Competitive Teams



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