PCP: Counterpoint

Hasan Ahmed - 2N Nanotechnology
Posted on: February 2, 2018

Heads-up: Read the disclaimer at the end of our PCPs. I’m only mentioning this now in case people don’t read it and message me later saying “BUUUUUT this blah blah”. I’m not for the CECA fee increase, but I do believe in seeing both sides of arguments before making a decision. So I’ve been doing some research as to why this fee increase may not be the worst thing. I know we’re more frustrated due to the lack of communication and their short notice of the proposal to make the salary increase, but I will address both that and the fee increase itself.

First off, CECA hasn’t really responded to any of the petitionCECA stuff concerns going around in a timely manner in my opinion. Granted, it takes a while for an organization of this size to respond in an appropriate manner; not to mention they probably have a lot of things to deal with. Not saying they haven’t heard of what’s going on, but it would take a lot of time to respond appropriately and most of the students are looking for the reasoning behind increasing the fee while the deep dive continues, not just an acknowledgement of “we hear your concerns and we’re working on it.” That doesn’t really solve much. And to be honest, none of us will really be satisfied until they make their decision (which is February 6th when the University Board of Governors votes on it).

Waterloo has the largest co-op program in Canada; it makes sense that the fee is rising with more and more competitive entries into our co-op programs and faculties. According to the 2017 annual report, 72.4% of students in the Fall 2016 class are registered in a co-op program; that’s around 20 000. So let’s take 20 000 and multiply it by $709, the current coop fee, giving us a grand total of $14 180 000. We also have the deep dive team working hard on increasing transparency of this fee and how this money is spent, of which most goes to salary. FEDS Student Council also released a statement on the fee increase, which I encourage you to read https://uwaterloo.ca/feds/news-updates/statement-co-op-fee-increases-students-council.

CECA is probably also working on other things, such as Co-op 2.0 (which is a whole other thing, maybe another PCP), the deep-dive, and feedback mechanisms. This was all released in a letter to the SciSoc Board of Directors. So they’re listening. We should be working with them to obtain good value for the fee we pay each term. $20 is not a large fee increase, but if we can better the services, then I will have no problem paying it. Not many people use the CECA services directly, so we don’t know how much behind-the-scenes work they do. That being said, that could be the point of the deep dive. I also don’t want to speak on behalf of the students who use and are helped by the CECA services. It’s really easy to write a bad review, especially when you’ve had poor services (as you’re more inclined to file a complaint), but it’s not like CECA’s useless.

Cooperative Education Council also met in December and provided co-op fee trends. Over the last 2-3 years, it’s been increasing linearly. In Fall 2014, it was $634; Spring 2015 and Winter 2016 was  $658 (a 3.8% increase). Fall 2016 was $676 (2.7% increase), Spring 2017 and Winter 2018 was $709 (4.9% increase). And now Fall 2018 is proposed for $729 (2.8% increase). Note that these were taken from the meeting minutes and were based on the author’s personal quest bill. The point is that it’s been increasing all along. However, the point of the petition again is to justify this increase. Salaries are not determined by CECA (University staff agreement determines it). I also don’t think that the university receives government funding for co-op and we don’t make a great profit, so this fee increase was inevitable (note: I got this information off reddit but it was one of the most upvoted comments so take what you will with that information).

To conclude, we don’t know what’s going to happen on February 6th when the Board of Governors votes on it, but they’re probably not ill-intentioned; if it were, I wouldn’t have chosen to write this side of the PCP. I’ve had limited contact with CECA since I don’t usually use their services, and thus I don’t want to speak on behalf of those who do. It’s really easy to go against administration, and I’m glad we got a petition going to raise awareness and set a precedent; hopefully in the future staff will be more aware of the effects of their actions on the students who directly pay for these services. Finally, I want to thank everyone who’s been heavily involved in this situation, especially those who helped draft the petition, the ones working on the deep-dive, and everyone who makes the general population of UW aware of the situation. I mean, we got an email recently from the Vice President Academic and Provost D. George Dixon, so we know our voices are being heard.

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