The novel coronavirus and ensuing global health pandemic have created an unprecedented social and economic crisis. Although Queen’s is beginning to reopen, many of the services students have come to rely on are not, or they are opening at a reduced capacity. While referenda processes ensure that students vote on many of these mandatory fees, services are not running as expected.
In March, PSAC and the SGPS called for a suspension or at least a reduction in summer tuition due to students no longer having access to physical university services, including office space, facilities, classrooms, and the physical library. Many students also face additional economic hardship due to summer job loss and considerable future employment uncertainty. These requests for a suspension or reduction were met with a stern “no.” As TAs and RAs, graduate students support the larger undergraduate student body while precariously employed. These struggles have been compounded even further during the current crisis and social isolation.
Throughout the summer, the SGPS called for a refund on the Athletics and Recreation Centre fee. Despite the ARC being closed for 45% of the 2019-2020 school year, graduate and professional students were only offered a 17% refund. This means that 28% of the 2019-2020 ARC student fee was withheld due to “summer outside field access,” something available to all Kingston residents whether or not they have paid the ARC fee.
Due to this disproportionally small refund, students are worried that refunds will not be issued fairly and that many fee collecting bodies will scramble to justify keeping the full student fee. We request that fees be adjusted based on the services that will be offered, not the services wished to be provided. We request that the ARC provide refunds to the students who request it, as Queen’s has encouraged students not to return to campus this fall, and many students will be unable to do so due to health, travel, and financial restrictions.
We will also be in contact with the Queen’s University Alumni Association and other Alumni bodies, calling on them to withhold their donations to the ARC and to donate to COVID relief causes. We request that Queen’s reassess the fee slate based on what is fair for students and increase transparency around the spending of these mandatory fees.