I am sure by now that there has been much discussion, both on campus and off, about Liam Ledgerwood’s piece last week which questioned the charging of levy fees on the undergraduate student body. And naturally there has been backlash on the part of the student groups that receive these funds from the levy fees. However Ledgerwood’s complaints regarding the imposition of these fees have some legitimacy. Allow me to elaborate.
I think that his editorial touches upon an issue that does not get as much attention as it should: the issue of financial accountability on the part of these groups towards the students that pay for their activities. If these groups are receiving funds from the general student body, then these students who are essentially investors in these organizations have a right to know what their funds are being used for and hold them to account for how much was spent on what. There are groups that already do this to a certain degree (the TCSA, Arthur, and Sadleir House) but this should be extended to any group that receives any amount of funds from the student body.
Given the mismanagement of funds that have have happened among various groups in recent years, the issue of financial accountability should be most relevant and in the forefront of every student’s minds. Was the $10,000 “discrepancy” in the TCSA’s budget caused by an accounting error or did they go over budget on frivolous renovations done on their office over the summer? Why, after four years, is there still no affordable co-op housing brought by the Peterborough Student Co-op after giving them so much money? After four years and around $14,000 of our money will we ever see a root cellar that most of us will never use? Should our money be going towards groups that follow a different political ideology from us? There are, of course, groups that will argue endlessly about how useful their groups are to the Trent and Peterborough communities and why they deserve our money. But the reality is that only a small minority of students actually care enough to participate in these groups or agree with their ideology, which for the most part is Marxist and/or Anarchist in nature. Is it morally and honourably just to be giving money to groups that have opposing beliefs and ideologies to our own?
If these groups want to justify their taking of student money for their own largely unknown purposes, they need to be more open to students of differing views and beliefs as well as willing to engage in a public conversation regarding their activities. But based on my experiences here at Trent I am somewhat doubtful that these groups would be willing to act on these suggestions or the concerns of Ledgerwood, myself, and many other students will even be given serious consideration. It is high time for more open and welcoming spaces to develop here at Trent (Sadleir House is a good model of this) and for the tyranny of minority interests through the control of our funds to end.