Editor’s Note: Shay Lewis was involved with the science faculty association, called the Interdepartmental Science Student Society, from 2014 to 2016.
You may have heard recently that a faculty association (FA) near you wants to add or increase the faculty association membership fee (FAMF) you pay each semester. These fees go to funding FA activities, advocacy, programs, and support systems they have.
It is important to realize that at least some FAs are not funded by the Students Union (SU) or by the university, so therefore FAMFs make up a significant portion of associations’ budgets. Without FAMFs, they are forced to raise the cost of things like lockers or food that they may sell. This also means they have less money to provide to department associations (DAs), who serve the direct needs of students in their respective departments and other student groups that they find important to the students in their faculty. A prime example is the way that the Interdepartmental Science Student Society (ISSS) uses FAMF money to provide money to all the different science DAs, such as the Undergraduate Physics Society, who then provides extremely cheap food for students to purchase. Without this money they wouldn’t be able to maintain this without selling the food at-cost, which would, in the long term, cost more than the $10 science students pay ISSS every year.
Moreover, the whole argument about this making school even more unaffordable is a little insane. FAMFs unlike other fees, are optional and can be opted out of. So in the case where paying roughly the same cost of a burger is just too much, a student can opt out of it. Even if it wasn’t optional though, considering that the FAMFs are passed by referendum, meaning students literally had to at least as a slim majority agree to it, I don’t understand the claim that FAs don’t have the right to charge students. It isn’t as if a faculty association could just pass a FAMF willy nilly, and FAMFs are even built to require renewal every few years so they aren’t some arcane remnant of older associations.
Let’s say though you are in the minority who disagrees, and you feel like your faculty association is horribly wasting its funds. Thankfully there is a mechanism in place to let you still be able to try to rectify that. Run for your association’s executive. Run a campaign on how they are wasting your money, and if you can convince others it’s true, you can get elected and try to fix what is wrong. It’s also quite possible though that you are just bitter about the idea that there is a minimal cost to you that is helping other people. In that case, I recommend doing a little soul-searching and hope you can become a better person.
FAMFs are much like the fees we have with the SU, where they serve to directly aid the student population. So in a way, they are like taxes. Unlike taxes though, they are decided directly by the student population rather than simply implemented by representatives.
Is it theft? No. Do people calling it theft need to get over themselves? Yes.