This piece of mine marks my debut for our beloved campus newspaper, Arthur. I have been an avid reader for the past three and a half years and look forward to the new edition every week. However, I am writing this piece about the contentious issue of student levies.
Last week, I was approached by two wonderful women with palpably sartorial elegance. There was a distinct similarity in the manner in which both of these women approach me. Their body language and their smile would have made a sales person proud. They approached me and asked whether I would be able to support their particular levy groups’ proposed changes to levies and informed me that my support in the form of my signature would be crucial in determining whether these proposed levy changes make it to the voting day which is the biggest exercise of democracy on campus where Trent students show great zeal and passion in exercising their democratic right of voting.
I apologize if readers failed to detect the sarcasm in the hyperbolic last sentence. Needless to say, I signed wherever they were asking me for because I believed in the existence of the levy groups these women were representing and recognized the genuine work the groups do on campus and in community in general.
However, I am sure there are others out there who would disagree with me and feel some of the levy groups are simply raking in the moolah and there should be a mechanism for students to get refunds on their levies.
I am not against levy groups; I am against non-refundable levy groups. I know various people have come out in the past sharing my beliefs and they have been lambasted as right-wing, anti-student group, anti-levy groups and have been subject to a variant of these jibes. It gets my goat that in a democratic society, I have no choice but to pay these non-refundable levy groups. It may well be the case that these groups are doing bloody noble work and they deserve accolades for that. But by usurping money from students, they do mitigate the overall community goodwill and the “feel-good” factor that they aspire for.
Let us look at some examples: the Salvation Army, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Diabetes Association and countless other organizations do bloody good work out there, and these organizations rely upon “donations” from the citizenry. I get phone calls from these and many other similar organizations to inform me about their roles and “ask” me if I would be “interested” in donating money.
Unfortunately at Trent our non-refundable levy groups do not have to do that. They get levies automatically and don’t have to do the sort of community outreach work. They do not earn their levy which is why I felt the need to use the term “usurped” earlier in the article.
I know after this piece gets published, I will not be a popular bloke on campus. Some people might even call for my head. But the point I am trying to make is that if these levy groups are doing bloody good work, then they should be able to raise money without usurping money from students. I believe in survival of the fittest, and letting the people be the decision makers. In this context, it is the students who should be the judge, jury as well as the executioner. The existence of non-refundable levy groups on campus is a blot on the face of democracy. All levies should be made refundable which will make sure that levy groups have to earn every single dollar in their kitty.