Students should be more aware of what they fund


It’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your $5 is?

By Graham Cook
Photos by Mark Burnham

With a multitude of confusing fees levied against students every semester, it can become difficult to keep track of where they go and how they are being spent. With student fees now totaling hundreds of dollars (with an increase coming soon due to the Student Union Building), it is clearly important to hold those that receive student funds accountable.

Take for example SFU’s official student newspaper, The Peak, which receives approximately $355,000 from students every year. Along with advertising and miscellaneous revenue, that totals a fairly substantial amount. That’s right, students fund three quarters of The Peak’s budget. According to the most recent financial statements, the newspaper incurs around $380,000 in expenses.

Seems fair enough, right? A student levy keeps the student newspaper, an integral part of campus life across the country, from running in the red. However, it is very important to know how the funds are spent. The process of actually printing the newspaper only totals around $45,000. The most substantial expense (by far) is wages, which run over $200,000 annually.[pullquote]All organizations that accept student money should be scrutinized by the student body that funds them.[/pullquote]

In addition, membership in Canadian University Press (CUP) and trips to the conferences that they hold total nearly $25,000. These conference costs include airfare, hotel stays, and attendance fees for editors and solid contributors. Another major fee of over $20,000 stems from an October 2008 lawsuit, which The Peak lost. The number could have been significantly higher if a more recent lawsuit against the newspaper had not been dropped.

It is not just your beloved student newspaper that spends student funds on things that may be unexpected. According to their most recent annual report, SFPIRG, which collects $3.00 per full-time student, spent over $180,000 of their $216,545 in student fees on wages for their four permanent staff and three temporary staff, as well as paying for their benefits and for employer taxes.  This year they have three permanent staff and their projected wages will be about $120,000. There are a plethora of other student organizations that collect levies from students in order to fund their activities.

All organizations that accept student money should be scrutinized by the student body that funds them. If you do not agree with the mandate of an organization, many of the fees levied against you are actually refundable. That said, rescinding your funding is not a decision that should be made lightly. One would have a hard time even buying lunch with the cost of most levies, and many of the services provided are valued by and necessary to a number of students on campus.

The point is, if you’re going to shell out the money, you should at least look into whose salary you are paying, and maybe even take advantage of the services made available to you.