… or else!

Sofia Hashi | Fulcrum Staff

Illustration by Mathias MacPhee

Paying tuition sucks. Ask any college or university student and the grumbles and moans of contempt will be unanimous. On Jan. 16, Edward Inch, a fifth-year chemistry student, took the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) to small-claims court to have his incidental fees reimbursed.

Inch believes he shouldn’t have to pay those fees because he feels the SFUO is a political organization. Inch argued he shouldn’t be forced to give his money to an organiztion he’d prefer not to associate with.

“I basically feel it is a violation of my freedom of association … I want nothing to do with them,” Inch said in an interview earlier this year with the Canadian University Press (CUP).

According to SFUO president Ethan Plato, it can’t be expected that all students use every service offered, but that most students profit from them.

“Not all services are used by every student. That is a reality … but there are certain things that we do that all students benefit from,” said Plato in an interview with CUP.

Both sides bring up valid arguments about the mandatory incidental fees every undergraduate student pays. While the fees may have been deemed democratic by the government of Ontario when they were first implemented, it’s important to evaluate and see if they still are.

Inch’s point of view—that the SFUO has political persuasions—is certainly valid. Encouraging students to participate in certain protests, such as Occupy Ottawa, didn’t sit well with those who disagree with the movement.

The SFUO should be a non-partisan organization on campus. Sure, we’re a politically charged group of students, but our governing body shouldn’t be. How else can they fairly represent all students?

On the flip side, the services the SFUO offers are invaluable, and most people can tell stories of enjoying them. The SFUO also advocated for other things for students to enjoy. Twenty-four-hour library, anyone? Or how about the glorious fall reading week? Even the much-debated U-Pass has come in handy for many students. Most of the services are made possible by the levies we pay as undergraduate students.

What we need to investigate is whether the SFUO is too politically motivated. In that case, the solution isn’t to scrap our incidental fees and opting out—no matter how appealing that might look to our bank accounts. What we should do is look toward modifying the organization so it doesn’t have any political affiliations or leaning.

And if the courts find that the SFUO shouldn’t refund students, then I say pay up. Or expect to say adieu to certain valuable services. You never know when you might need one.