STUSU referendum could give $300,000 to mental health services

If students say yes, St. Thomas University could see an extra $300,000 go toward its mental health services and programming over the next four years.

The STU Students’ Union passed a motion to strike an ad hoc negotiations committee regarding the mental health fee referendum on Thursday. The committee would meet with STU president Dawn Russell to discuss the possibility of a $50,000 transfer from STUSU accounts as a donation to the university’s capital campaign.

After the in camera meeting, STUSU vice-president administration Matt LeBlanc told The Aquinian all money would remain “a restricted fund earmarked exclusively for mental health services and programming.”

STUSU announced earlier in the week it would hold a referendum on installing a new mental health fee over the next four years through the university’s capital campaign.

A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal. In other words, the students get to decide.

The proposed fee would be one of four STUSU fees students pay each year, costing $33.91 for full-time students. Part-time students would pay $3.40 per three-credit hour course.

Students will vote on the idea on March 28 and 29.

STUSU will not vote on the transfer itself until after students vote on the referendum.

“In calling a referendum, the Union wants to show we’re willing to put our money where our mouths are and cover a substantial portion of the mental health funding,” LeBlanc said on Thursday.

“We’ll use [students’ votes] as a factor in weighing if we transfer this or not.”

As referendums operate similarly to elections, students have until March 20 to apply to STUSU’s chief returning officer to create and join “Yes” or “No” committees. Those committees will campaign from March 21 to 27.

A public forum on the referendum question will take place March 26 at 6 p.m. in the off-campus student lounge.

LeBlanc said the potential $50,000 that would be transferred as a donation to the capital campaign is not money from students currently enroled at STU and did not come from this year’s student fees.

Rather, it is surplus money from past STUSU budgets.

LeBlanc said he’s calculated an average of 1,810 students per year over the next four years.

“That number is extremely safe,” he said.

“I’m confident, at the very least, $300,000 for mental health services would be committed pending a successful referendum and a successful transfer.”

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