Referendum Troubles Or Why Students Just Aren’t Interested



So, if you keep up with the goings-on at UTM, you’ll probably know that, for the second time, UTMSU failed to pass the recent referendum to expand the student centre (the first failed due to a voting issue), and now people are asking why.

Well, to be honest, there are a bunch of different reasons on both sides. I don’t think anyone in the entire school is against expanding the student centre – an expansion that would include a larger pub and clubrooms, both of which are currently WAAAAAAY too small in my opinion, and cramped to the level of claustrophobia when packed. It would be impossible to argue that the student center does not deserve some kind of expansion. But then again, I never use the club rooms and I barely go to the pub – and I think idea-wise, that’s part of the issue. Most of my friends, except for literally two, almost refuse to go to the student center. Their reasons may range from it being crowded (obviously a reason why it needs expansion, once again), to not having any interest in clubs or the pub in general, which I totally understand.

Now, both The Varsity and The Medium have reported on this story, but for those who don’t know, another change that would have arrived with the expansion would have been increased fees. According to UTMSU, if the referendum had passed, there would be a permanent increase in tuition fees of $10.50 for additional programming and maintenance, and for the next three years the current student center fee of $12.50 would go up to $50, which would be lowered to $23 after that, with UTM promising to match the money.

Personally, I think money was the issue on most students’ minds. Add that to the amount of people who don’t use the student center on a regular basis, and one can understand why the referendum failed. Students are already paying a ridiculous amount of money for their education, and the idea of purposefully raising our tuition is almost painful. Additionally, I’ve heard people say that if it had passed, the student center expansion would have finished long after they graduated, much like the current expansion to the North building. Yes, that sounds rather selfish. Yes, $50 in fees for three years is nothing compared to the increase in tuition every year (which some students question).

But I can’t really blame people: Ontario has the highest fees in the entire country so when I listen to students complain about $50 (including myself, admittedly), I really can’t be angry that a large majority of students don’t care or don’t use the student centre and pub enough to see the NEED for an expansion.

And there is a need. One of my very good UTM pals visits the student center every single day so by association, I’ve seen the cramped rooms. The thing is, I don’t know the solution to the cramped rooms – I want to help, but I don’t want to pay more. But is it that much more? Do we have a duty to our future students? Maybe if the club rooms were larger they would feel less exclusive and attract new recruits. Maybe the Blind Duck would be more universally loved if we could get our food faster and have more room for moving around.

One of the comments on The Medium’s article on the referendum mentioned a greater need to expand the library for studying purposes – pointing out that they personally go to school to learn, not to go to clubs. But you have to understand: Some of us want both. And presumably, expanding our library would be vastly more expensive. But ultimately, the failed referendum isn’t about a different expansion or hating UTMSU nor the idea, but down to money and lack of interest. I think if people were more into clubs and the Blind Duck in general, people would be more interested in the expansion.

It’s a weird paradox: the student center expansion would have generated more interest in the student center but no one wanted to pay to generate it.

What’s your opinion on this?