UMSU moves forward in governance updates

Only once in its 43-year history has the UMSU Act been brought before the legislature to be amended.

UMSU is lobbying to introduce several amendments to the UMSU Act, which will be carried forward in a private member’s bill by Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard March 7, once the Legislature is back in session.

The changes – which were passed at UMSU’s last regular meeting Feb. 15 – include giving students the right to vote on any UMSU-related fee increases, making the act gender-neutral, and mandating regular council votes on the union’s continued membership in external organizations, such as the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

The UMSU Act, adopted in 1975, is a piece of provincial legislation which governs UMSU as a corporate entity, making it the highest governing document of the student union.

Only once in its 43-year history has the UMSU Act been brought before the legislature to be amended. The last time was in 1990, five years after a legislative crisis resulted in an overhaul to make all the province’s laws bilingual.

UMSU president Tanjit Nagra said the changes were driven by student reaction following a council meeting in November 2015 that saw the introduction of a $64 increase in student union fees without a referendum on the matter.

With the risk of U of M tuition fees rising by nearly 6.5  per cent in the upcoming fall term, Nagra said, “We want to ensure that students have a say in any new fees.”

The amendment to the UMSU Act will put any proposed increase to union fees to a referendum, where it would need majority approval to move forward.

Student union fees stand at an average of $100 per term. This basic rate does not include additional fees for other university services, such as health and dental benefits or the U-Pass.

The proposed changes to the UMSU Act will mandate council to hold regular votes on the union’s membership with external organizations, including CFS. Student referendums will follow if council votes against continued memberships.

In a non-biding plebiscite lasting from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, U of M students voted 64 per cent in favour of maintaining the membership with CFS.

Representatives from CFS-Manitoba declined to comment on the potential changes, citing a lack of enough information on the UMSU Act amendments.