The Brescia University College Students' Council (BUCSC) is holding a referendum to decide if it should become incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation.
The referendum will also ask Brescia students if they would prefer combining the two separate student fees — the BUCSC fee and the BUCSC special projects fee — into one overall fee.
The BUCSC is the only students' council among the affiliate colleges and main campus Western to not be incorporated; King's, Huron and the USC are all incorporated student councils.
The incorporation process would legally make BUCSC a non-profit corporate entity separate from Brescia University College's administration, as explained on BUCSC's website.
“It will give us a lot more legitimacy as an organization," BUCSC president Deanna Vezina said. "Right now the bank just sees us as a really big club that handles thousands of dollars every year. So this will allow us to get a credit card and things like that.”
Some student leaders, on condition of anonymity, expressed concerns to The Gazette about the dates of the referendum and lack of time for discussion. Students were only given two weeks before the referendum takes place on Nov. 29 and 30.
While referendums are typically held during the students' election season in February, this referendum is taking place in late November.
Vezina said the earlier date of the referendum is due to the lengthy process of incorporating.
"If we leave it until February we would have to do the whole education piece in February and then we would have to begin the actual incorporation process with the lawyers which usually takes about one to two months," Vezina said. "So we figured we may as well do it now so there's less turnover with our new executives."
Vezina added that BUCSC has worked hard to spread information about the referendum, having created a Facebook event, a video and a tab on their website about the referendum. She said that students can come to her office to speak with her about any concerns.
According to Vezina, the students' council has discussed becoming incorporated for several years now.
The second question that students are asked is if they support merging the two student council fees — BUCSC fee and BUCSC special projects fee — into one fee.
Currently, the BUCSC fee goes towards the general operating budget. The special projects fee is a more restricted account with funds earmarked for grants, awards and special events.
Combining the fees will result in one general operating budget.
“[It] gives us more freedom to work with our money and give students things they want the year they are actually at Brescia," Vezina said.
Vezina noted that the USC, Huron and King's students' councils all have similar fees combined.
For the referendum to go through, 20 per cent of Brescia students (approximately 300 students) need to vote.
A simple majority — anything above 50 per cent — voting yes is required for the referendum to be successful.
Student voter turnout is generally low at Western with approximately 24.1 per cent of students turning out at last year's general USC elections, so it's not certain if the referendum will meet the threshold.
Vezina recognized the concerns about low voter turnout.
“Since this isn’t changing student fees ... the thing we’re grappling with is student apathy," she said.
The referendum vote will be held online and all Brescia students were emailed with a link to the vote Tuesday morning.