U of M graduate students voted to index fees to inflation in a referendum in early December.
Following an analysis of University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association (UMGSA) finances and ensuing recommendation that the question be proposed to students by the finance committee, executive committee and council, the UMGSA council posed the referendum question “Do you support having the fees collected on behalf of the UMGSA indexed to inflation?” in November 2018.
Online voting took place from Dec. 5 to 7. Of the 765 grad students who voted, 57 per cent voted ‘yes’ and 43 per cent voted ‘no.’
According to UMGSA president Carl Neumann, the voter turnout — which was 20.3 per cent of the graduate student population — is consistent with other UMGSA votes over recent years, and the vote went “basically the way [the UMGSA] expected.”
“Before the vote, both at council and with grad students at large, we had a fair bit of support, but naturally also some people who felt the contrary,” said Neumann.
“So we knew that opinion was mixed, but felt strongly that a larger number of grad students supported the indexation of our fees to inflation. Fortunately, we were correct, and we did receive support from a clear majority of grad students.”
UMGSA fees have remained stagnant for over a decade, while UMSU passed a motion to index their union fees to inflation in 2015.
Neumann said the referendum was put forward as a response to financial pressure, noting the purchasing power of the fees collected by the UMGSA had decreased every year.
“The association’s budget has been stretched to the limit,” he said.
“The indexation of our fees will hold the line and allow us to maintain grants that we provide to grad student groups and individuals.”
Current UMGSA fees stand at $84.87 for each of the fall and winter semesters and $5 for the summer semester.
The average rate of inflation in Canada over the past 10 years has been 1.565 per cent.
Calculating the fee increase using this average would result in graduate students paying $1.33 more for fall and winter semesters and eight cents more for the summer semester. This would be a total increase of $2.74 per year.
Neumann said while he could not say for sure what the UMGSA executive would choose to do next year, the additional fees will directly support graduate students.
“Grad students can expect to continue receiving robust services and support from the UMGSA, as they do now.”