Student refugee program referendum fails to meet quorum

Last week's Student Refugee Program referendum failed to meet quorum by 4.7 per cent

Andrew Sahadyak, leader of the No Fee Alliance, says that many of their posters were torn down before the referendum. (Robert Wisla/The Omega)

From Nov. 21- 23 students went to the polls and voted on a referendum to increase fees by 85 cents per credit to pay for the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program (SRP). The program would establish the funds for a refugee student to attend Thompson Rivers University with tuition, food and housing paid for. The fees collected for SRP would have totalled $100,000 per year and would be used to bring in one refugee from impoverished, poor and at war nations from across the world.

Although 82 per cent of students voted in favour of the program only 15.3 per cent of students came out to the polls meaning the student referendum failed to pass the 20 per cent threshold.

TRUSU’s equity committee was leading the charge to make the fee increase a reality with vice-president of equity Sierra Rae running the three-month-long campaign. Rae told The Omega that this was a successful vote even though the bar wasn’t reached.

“Honestly, I think we were pretty successful with getting students out to vote, TRUSU gets some of the highest student participation in the province,” she said. “We set a really high bar for participation and didn’t meet it. Reaching quorum is a measure of participation not of support. The only way we can tell support is by the ballot count with 82 per cent of people voting yes.”

In addition to this, the future of WUSC on campus remains up in the air.

“WUSC as a club dissolved last December and they were hoping we would be able to run this program through the Students’ Union because they were doing all their work through fundraising,” Rae said. “Currently we haven’t had discussions on the future of WUSC.”

WUSC previously sponsored one student refugee on campus through donations.

Andrew Sahaydak of the No Fee Alliance, the group that organized the “vote no” side said that getting the low voter turnout percentage was inevitable as their group’s posters, which were put up on campus last Friday and Saturday and sponsored by the TRUSU Conservative Club, were torn down by someone.

“I think whoever did remove our posters threatened the result of the referendum as we did not reach a quorum of students,” he said. “The fact remains that we must strive to protect our democracy and by removing whatever kind of campaign material we threaten the very existence of it on campus.”

Sahaydak went on to say the results were likely due to the time of year and the fact that it was a paper ballot that didn’t use modern technology to make it easier to vote.

“While both sides ran a good campaign, I believe the apathy came down to the time of year, being so close to campus, as well as many students who normally travel to campus barely find a spot to park and get to class on time let alone walk over to the CAC to vote,” Sahaydak said. “An online system like those done with the Senate and Board of Governors races would be a welcome addition here.”

While Rae hadn’t heard anything about the posters, she was simply happy people came out and voted.

“I don’t know anything about the posters but overall the equity committee and TRUSU were excited about getting people out to vote no matter how they voted,” she said.