By: Peter Gatti

Following Simcoe Hall’s suggestion, the University College Literary and Athletic Society (UCLit), University College’s student governance body, has decided to delay indefinitely holding a referendum to decide whether to implement a student levy to help fund renovations to University College. The referendum was to be held yesterday, March 6.

The main opponents of the levy have been the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), the Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU), and the Association for Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS). The primary concern of APUS, who launched the latest legal challenge, is that the levy would violate the Ontario Operating Funds Distribution Manual, which stipulates that even if approved by the student body, it is illegal to charge “tuition-related compulsory ancillary fees.” Arguing that renovations to libraries and classrooms are “tuition-related” expenses, APUS challenged the levy’s legality.

The vice-president of APUS, Susan Froom, has consequently expressed her concern that the levy may just be “a ‘back door’ way to raise tuition fees above provincial limits.”

The decision to delay the referendum came Tuesday after U of T central administration expressed their concern that the present wording of the referendum’s preamble may not be able to withstand a legal challenge, as renovations are meant to be covered by tuition fees. This is the third time that the referendum has been challenged, but the first time that Simcoe Hall’s ruling has not been in favour of the levy.

The levy would require full-time UC students to pay $12.50 per session (or, semester) and part-time students to pay $5 per session, for the next 20 years. The full-time student levy would then rise to $29.44 from $16.94 per session and the part-time student levy would rise to $12.62 from $7.62 per session. It is estimated that the levy will raise $2-million, roughly one-sixth of the project’s cost. The remaining $10-million would be raised through alumni contributions.

University College, completed in 1859, has not been renovated since the 1980s. The proposed overhaul includes the creation of a large study space, expansion of the library, renovation of the Quad, and improved accessibility. UC’s designation as a “National Historical Site” prevents any changes from being made to the building’s facade.

The UCLit has indicated that the referendum will take place pending a rewording of its preamble. Benjamin Dionne, president of UCLit, has said that, though it would be “a huge drawback” if the referendum does not get passed eventually, it would not spell a definite end to the project, as the alumni are expected to foot most of the bill regardless.

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