Instructors unsure what the LSU is doing for students

"There should be an audit as to what the value Langara students are getting out for their payments into the LSU.”

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By JACOB ARON LEUNG

This story was originally published on Nov. 29, 2023. 

Langara College instructors are expressing concern that the member fees collected by the Langara Students’ Union are not being used to the students’ benefit.

Some instructors have been hearing complaints from students for years, questioning where their fees are being used and saying the LSU is not being transparent with its spending priorities.

Every Langara student must pay LSU fees. These are comprised of a base fee plus an additional amount per credit each semester. In total, the LSU collected $5,262,379 in student fees in 2023 excluding the U-Pass fees, according to the LSU’s latest financial statement.

According to its website, the LSU uses some of the fees for health and dental insurance. In addition, its student council board works to represent the interests of the student body “whether it be lobbying various levels of government, and organizing on-campus events, workshops, rallies, and speakers.” It also offers some bursaries and awards. The LSU website also says it has a bike repair shop and games tables, though the latter have disappeared.

In addition, there are some microwave ovens and hot water dispensers that students can use.

The instructors’ thoughts

Colin Mills, a geography instructor at Langara for the past 25 years, questioned whether the LSU is supplying sufficient services to students.

“There should be an audit as to what the value Langara students are getting out for their payments into the LSU,” said Mills, who is also the diploma of applied social sciences and humanities coordinator.

Over the years, he has noticed increasing anxiety among students from stressors like the COVID-19 pandemic and global affairs, which requires more support from institutions.

Mills said the LSU could support students, but he is mystified by what the LSU does or how it uses student fees. He said that students should be able to get the maximum value out of what they’re paying for.

“I don’t know what the LSU is providing. Maybe they are meeting some of those needs well,” Mills said. “With all the conversation that’s been happening around the LSU, I think it’s worthwhile asking whether or not that is being cheated.”

Niall Christie is a history professor who has taught at Langara since 2012. He said an LSU student board of directors candidate came to one of his classes a few years ago to speak on the organization’s lack of financial transparency.

“She felt that the students pay money to the LSU and then it kind of disappears into a hole,” Christie said. “And nobody really knows what happens to that money, how it’s allocated [and] what the spending priorities are.”

Christie, who has also worked at UBC and SFU in the past, said he’s never seen “this sort of apparent dysfunction in any student organization.”

Both UBC and SFU’s student unions have their financial statements and budgets posted online.

He said that a way students can effect change is to understand their student union bylaws and rally students together.

“That’s the real challenge for anyone who wants to challenge what’s going on with the LSU right now,” he said.

The petition

Second-year computer science student Arman Thakur launched an online petition on Nov. 9, challenging the LSU’s lack of transparency. Among several frustrations, Thakur was outraged that the LSU had stonewalled several prospective student candidates at the last elections. Several students complained to the Voice that they had applied for specific positions on the board. However, they were never told they were actually ineligible for that position, meaning they could not appeal the decision to exclude them from that position on the ballot.

The petition asks for an “independent inquiry” on this year’s LSU general election. The goal of the petition is to get enough signatures to initiate a requisition for an independent inquiry. It had 33 signatures at the time of publication.

One of the signatures belongs to English professor Erin Robb, who voiced her support.

“I’m signing because Langara students have a right to know how their governing body works,” Robb’s online comment said. “A lack of transparency on the part of the LSU is unethical, and frankly, highly suspicious.”

In response to the Voice when asked about their thoughts on the petition, the LSU said that “the claims and allegations presented in the petition are not accurate.”

— with files from Thea Catipon, Mateo Muego, Maiya Suzuki

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