SFPIRG Member Fee Referendum Information

#VoteSFPIRGLevy - vote via the link sent by SFU Mail! GSS Referendum: April 6th-9th

Table of Contents

Referendum Question:


Be It Resolved That the general membership of the GSS approve an increase to the student levy for the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) to $5.50 per semester for full-time students, and $2.75 per semester for part-time students, adjusted annually for inflation according to the Vancouver Consumer Price Index (CPI). (YES/NO)


The Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) is an independent student society at SFU that engages students in social and environmental justice, through education, action, research, and community-building. Established in 1981, SFPIRG provides a wide range of programming, resources, services, and volunteer and employment opportunities to students. Visit www.sfpirg.ca to learn more about SFPIRG.

All SFU students are members of SFPIRG, and contribute a member fee every semester as part of their Activity Fee. All SFU students currently contribute $3 per semester, except students taking 3 credits or fewer who currently contribute $1.50 per semester. This member fee was last set by referendum in 1994. The inflation rate in BC from 1994 to 2019 was 45.03%, meaning that something that cost $3 in 1994 would now cost $4.35 – significantly impacting SFPIRG’s operating budget.

SFPIRG needs additional revenue to maintain current levels of programming and services, to expand and enhance the organization’s scope and capacity, and to adjust for the inflation that has occurred over the last 25+ years. Without there being an increase, SFPIRG would not be able to continue operating at current levels, nor continue growing and developing new programs, services and opportunities for students.


Background Information:

The Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) is an independent, non-profit student society based at SFU, dedicated to engaging students in social and environmental justice. SFPIRG was established in 1981 through student referendum, and has been an active and vital part of the SFU community for nearly 40 years. PIRGs were established across North America in the 1970’s and 1980’s as a way of supporting research, action and education in the public interest – lobbying for change for the greater good.

All SFU students, both undergraduate and graduate, contribute a semesterly member fee to SFPIRG. The last referendum establishing SFPIRG’s member fee took place in Spring 1994, setting the semesterly member fee at $3 per full-time student and $1.50 per part-time student. When graduate students established the GSS in 2007, they voted to continue paying the SFPIRG member fee.

Areas of SFPIRG’s work include education, action, research, and community-building. SFPIRG provides a wide range of programming, including educational and skill-building workshops, discussion series and movie screenings, and more! Students come to SFPIRG for mentorship in a wide range of areas. We also provide students with access to many different resources, such as our social justice lending library with thousands of books and other materials, as well as practical organizing resources like poster-making materials, button-makers, and coffee-makers. Students can also get involved with SFPIRG through several different volunteer teams, like the Community Outreach Street Team, the Racial & Migrant Justice Peer Educator Team, and the Letters For The Inside Research Team. For more information about some of our activities and achievements, please see Appendix 2 below. For testimonials about SFPIRG and our impact on students and the SFU community, please see Appendix 3 below.

Unfortunately, member fees have not kept up with inflation, as other student societies and organizations on campus can attest. Not only has inflation since 1994 impacted SFPIRG’s ability to continue providing the same level of programming, resources, and opportunities to students, it has also restricted our ability to expand and enhance the work of our organization. The inflation rate in British Columbia from 1994 to 2019 was 45.03%. This means that something that costs $3 in 1994 would now cost $4.35 – significantly impacting how far SFPIRG’s budget can be stretched.

Pie chart demonstrating the value of SFPIRG's member fee that has been lost due to 45% inflation since 1994

In order to adjust for past losses due to inflation, and in order to expand a number of areas in SFPIRG’s programming and resources, we are putting forward a referendum question to all SFU students that would increase the SFPIRG member fee. We are also asking SFU students to approve annually adjusting the fee for inflation according to the Vancouver Consumer Price Index (CPI), so that future losses due to inflation are accounted for.

Since SFPIRG’s last member fee referendum in 1994, other SFU student organizations have looked at including language that adjusts their fees according to inflation, including the SFSS, Embark, and WUSC. For example, the SFSS BuildSFU Levy established in 2012 has increased by $10 annually, and will be capped in 2022 and adjusted annually for inflation according to the CPI. Embark explored inflation as part of their most recent referendum question to SFU students in 2016. Currently, WUSC is also seeking an increase to their levy in Spring 2020, along with including annual adjustments according to inflation.

A breakdown of the proposed increase to SFPIRG’s fee is included in Appendix 1 below as rationale for the referendum question.

The referendum question being posed is worded slightly differently for undergraduate students and graduate students respectively, to reflect the nature of full-time/part-time enrollment for undergrads and grads. The nature of the question remains unchanged.

Make sure to vote on the referendum question during the GSS referendum period, April 6th – 9th! An increase in the levy would help us maintain and expand SFPIRG’s resources and services, and help improve the SFU experience for ALL students! The voting link will be sent to you via SFU Mail during the voting period, April 6-9.


Appendix 1: Breakdown of Levy Increase

If the referendum question passes, adjusting the levy for inflation will allow SFPIRG to maintain most current levels of programming indefinitely. This includes but is not limited to: events such as educational and skill-building workshops; resources like our lending library and organizing materials; and volunteer and employment opportunities, such as the Racial & Migrant Justice Peer Educator Team, the Equity-Based Review of Academic Departments Research Team, and many other different workstudy positions.

If the referendum question passes, increasing the levy to $5.50 per student ($2.75 per student enrolled in 3 credits or less) will restore funding to areas that have seen losses due to inflation, as well as expand and enhance a number of other areas in our operating budget. The estimated annual increase of $193,000 would provide funding for the following areas:

Pie chart demonstrating the breakdown of the proposed increase to SFPIRG's member fee.

Breakdown of Levy Increase:

  • $58,500
    • This funding would allow SFPIRG to hire a fourth co-Executive Director, whose main area of focus would be student engagement. This staff member would work directly with student volunteers, workstudy students, SFPIRG Action Groups, and other student staff. Currently, these duties are split ad-hoc between the other three co-Executive Directors, hindering the organization’s ability to fully support our volunteers the way we would like to.
  • $23,000
    • This funding would allow SFPIRG to hire an ongoing student employee to coordinate and administer the Letters For The Inside (LFTI) program, paid a Living Wage (currently $19.50/hour) at 20 hours per week. Having an ongoing student employee coordinating the program would provide greater continuity for the program, as well as increase capacity for educational initiatives around issues like Prison Justice and Transformative Justice.
    • Founded in 2004, the LFTI program connects volunteer student researchers with research inquiries from inmates on many different topics. LFTI is a unique, well-recognized program with international impact. LFTI has an organizational relationship with the Courthouse Libraries of BC, in which prisoner requests that come to them are channeled through our program. Student researchers have responded to thousands of letters over the years; we received over 100 requests in 2019, with volunteers responding to over 60 letters. Currently, the LFTI Coordinator is a workstudy position, which creates uncertainty about program continuity every semester.
  • $5,000
    • This funding would allow SFPIRG to create a dedicated “Campaigns” budget, allowing SFPIRG to mount one large-scale educational campaign per year, involving a variety of outreach and education methods. Large-scale educational campaigns topics under consideration include issues such as: scent reduction/chemical sensitivities; accessibility and inclusion via universal design; participatory action research methods; and applying intersectionality and Transformative Justice to sexual violence prevention and support work.
  • $5,000
    • SFPIRG (and all of SFU) occupies unceded Indigenous land belonging to Coast Salish peoples. Based on our current knowledge, this includes the territories of the Musqueam, Skwxwú7mesh (pronounced: Skohomish), Tsleil-Waututh (pronounced: slay-wa-tooth), and Kwikwetlem nations. We recognize Indigenous sovereignty over their peoples and their lands and seek to be in solidarity with Indigenous decolonial efforts. We recognize also that these Indigenous nations are at the forefront of the struggle to protect everyone who spends time on Burnaby Mountain through their efforts to stop the pipeline and expansion of the tank farm – a good example of this is the Sacred Trust Initiative of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and their court cases. It is in all of our interests to support their work.
    • One concrete way for organizations to act in solidarity with Indigenous efforts toward Decolonization and sovereignty, is to make funds available specifically for supporting these efforts. Although we are able to do so ad-hoc, it is not a sustainable practice. This funding would allow SFPIRG to create a dedicated “Indigenous Sovereignty and Decolonization Support” budget. Earmarking funds specifically to support Indigenous student organizing at SFU, as well as the work of the Coast Salish peoples whose lands we currently occupy, would be a tangible way to act on SFPIRG’s organizational values of Decolonization and Indigenous sovereignty.
  • $43,000
    • This funding would allow SFPIRG to create a “Board of Directors Stipends” budget, at a rate of $400/month for up to 9 Board members (the maximum number of Board members, as per SFPIRG bylaws). Support for this funding would reflect a culture of students supporting and recognizing when members of their student community work for the general good. Currently, SFPIRG’s bylaws do not allow Board members to be remunerated for their service; however, if this budget was created, it would provide SFPIRG with the mandate to develop bylaw language for approval by our membership (all SFU students) that would provide a stipend to Board members.
    • The ability of any Board of Directors to dedicate time and energy to an organization is a core and integral component of non-profit governance. Providing a stipend for service is one way of both recognizing the care and diligence that go into governance, as well as compensating for time that might need to be booked off from work or studies. Examples of organizations that provide stipends in recognition of service include the SFSS providing a stipend to their Board of Directors and to their Council representatives, and the GSS providing a stipend to their Executive Committee and to their Council representatives. If such a bylaw were implemented, stipends would be provided to the incoming Board of Directors, not the presiding Board at the time.
  • $115,000 (over 10 years)
    • This funding would allow SFPIRG to build up a contingency fund over the course of 10 years that would help safeguard against things like emergency or unexpected costs, or an interruption to the disbursement of student activity fees. This fund would also serve to support SFPIRG’s commitment to funding fair and decent Pregnancy & Parental Leave.
    • Once this contingency fund reaches the target threshold, any additional funds collected under this budget line could be reinvested in expanding SFPIRG’s programming, or in other student-focused initiatives like grants and bursaries.
  • $47,000
    • This funding would restore areas in SFPIRG’s budget that have become chronically underfunded in recent years due to inflation and growing costs. Areas of funding that would see replenished funding include:
      • Board and volunteer training
      • Educational material printing
      • Library resources
      • Outreach and marketing costs
      • Research funding
      • Programming and event funding
      • Grants for students and community groups
      • Action Group funding
      • Accessibility expenses
      • Dependent care subsidies

Appendix 2: Activities and Achievements

  • Works with SFU instructors and Teaching Assistants on inclusive program development for a diverse student body – for example, we have offered training to SFU staff in the University’s Sustainability Office, and their Student Engagement department, and to faculty and TA’s in the Criminology and Psychology Departments
  • Collaborates with SFU Student Engagement, such as offering consultation and workshop facilitation for SFU’s Passport to Leadership program, and supporting students running Peer Educator programs like Tumblershare
  • Mentors and supports students who wish to enhance their academic and project work through using an intersectional approach to the issues they are exploring
  • Supports campus community projects, like the Zero Waste Initiative’s “Re-Use For Good” campaign, by making reusable straws, cutlery, and educational materials available to students
  • Strengthens and encourages students in gathering and nurturing new communities and organizations, including: LGBTQ+ students on campus formed an SFPIRG Action Group in the 1990s which successfully advocated and lobbied for an inclusive physical space for LGBTQ+ community, resulting in Out On Campus being established in its current space in the Rotunda; and Embark originating from student advocacy and organizing as an Action Group at SFPIRG, growing and eventually separating to become an independent student society
  • Provides support and infrastructure for Action Groups, such as Left Alternative, which empowers students to create action and change in their communities; Left Alternative is one of the founding members of the Tuition Freeze Now campaign, along with TSSU and SOCA
  • Strengthens SFU’s efforts to build its reputation and stature by supporting the University’s successful application to receive Ashoka Changemaker accreditation
  • Produces programming and education directly related to the health and well-being of undergraduate students, including: healing from trauma; sexual health; ending sexual violence; and promoting health and sustainable activity through cycling
  • Mentors student leaders and researchers on practicing and developing inclusive facilitation skills, such as for Research 101: A Manifesto For Ethical Research In The Downtown Eastside
  • Assists and connects students interested in facilitating reading/discussion groups, putting on film series, and developing workshops
  • Offers multiple Workstudy positions through the SFU Financial Aid program, currently including: Letters For The Inside Coordinator; Equity-Based Review of Academic Departments and Education Guides – Project Developer; Racial & Migrant Justice Peer Educator; DisOrientation Coordinator; Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator; and Resource Centre Coordinator
  • Participates in campus-wide advisory groups, such as SFU’s Sexual Violence Policy Advisory Group, and the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Working Group
  • Provides a space where students from diverse backgrounds can find community, and where they can clarify their values and practice being active, ethical, engaged members of the broader community
  • Trains campus service providers in Peer Support Skills, such as Out On Campus
  • Bolsters community organizing efforts, such as: running a workshop-fundraiser in support of the Pull Together campaign in Fall 2019, supporting Indigenous challenges of the TMX Pipeline in the courts; and collaborating with the SFSS Advocacy Committee to provide resources and support to the Land Defenders resisting the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in Fall 2014
  • Extends training to campus leadership groups, such as Governance training for the Peak’s Board of Directors, and Inclusive Leadership training for the SFSS’s Board of Directors
  • Supports groups like SFU Health Peers with training on recognizing and challenging bias and stigma in health-related settings and discourse
  • Maintains a social justice lending library with thousands of books and other materials, with an online database shared with Out On Campus and the Women’s Centre
  • Helps students develop vital skills such as collaboration, working compassionately and respectfully with others, project planning, and advocacy
  • Administers community-building social space and bookable meeting space for all students, clubs and student unions in our lounge and meeting room
  • Participates in and supports intersectional community policy development, through events such as BCCIC’s “Roundtable on UN Sustainable Development Goals” and ICCLR’s and UBC SASC’s “The Power of Our Collective Voices” conference
  • Cooperates with community organizations like the Radical Access Mapping Project (RAMP) in advocating for and training about accessibility issues, such as providing a workshop on accessible concert organizing to the SFSS Board and volunteers in Summer 2014


Appendix 3: Testimonials

  • “SFPIRG has opened my eyes up to a plethora of issues that I was not aware of before… Like the other rotunda groups, SFPIRG is integral to the identity of SFU and contributes to the progressiveness that the university is known for.” – SFU Student
  • “SFPIRG has remained the cornerstone of the university’s organizing efforts and a hub for student mobilization. SFPIRG bolsters a sense of community, purpose, and experiential learning on campus. SFPIRG has been a home on campus for me!” – SFPIRG Board Member
  • “I am grateful that SFPIRG exists. They are a great organization run by amazing, caring and very helpful people. Even though I have graduated from SFU, I am still in contact with SFPIRG.” – SFSS Board Member
  • “SFPIRG’s trust and support was instrumental for us as a new grassroots project and helped us spread our message around SFU, and [the Greater Vancouver community] as well.” – SFU Student-Run Organization
  • “Having SFPIRG on campus is such a blessing. It’s an accessible and safe space for everyone to use. It’s rich in resources. The staff are so supportive. These are my reasons for why I love SFPIRG, and I’m sure the list goes on.” – SFPIRG Board Member
  • “I was in my first year and I remember coming into the SFPIRG space and falling in love with the sunlight coming through the giant windows and the comfortable seats with colourful pillows placed across from a vast and magical library.” – SFPIRG Board Member
  • “SFPIRG is a place where you can relax, be yourself, and have fun! For me, like many other students, SFPIRG became a home on campus. More important though than the skills and experience that I gained, were the friendships and connections I formed.” – SFPIRG Work Study Student
  • “Through SFPIRG and the other Rotunda Groups, I am slowly learning to be a member of a kinder, more generous, more compassionate and more inclusive community – and that is so valuable to me given the oppressive societies I grew up in.” – SFU Student
  • “Being involved in campus and community social & environmental justice work has made a huge difference in my graduate life. I am no longer simply discussing the issues of the day in seminars, but am practicing how to put those ideas into action with the SFPIRG community.” – SFPIRG Action Group Organizer
  • “Being on the SFPIRG board has been enlightening, challenging and rewarding. SFPIRG supports students & the campus community in their efforts towards making the world a better place, and the most fulfilling thing is knowing that I’m a part of that effort.” – SFPIRG Board Member
  • “My experience with SFPIRG has been overwhelmingly positive. Having a place to anchor the volunteer experience I need in order to obtain employment in the area of social justice has been very beneficial.” – SFPIRG Board Member
  • “I feel very fortunate to have been in a position that helps me assist students in changing our school community and raising awareness of anti-oppression issues.” – SFPIRG Work Study Student
  • “I have met so many passionate & driven individuals at SFPIRG and I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of perspectives on social issues. The centre has given me the ability to grow my network of compassionate people and allowed me to find my passion and voice within activism and advocacy.” – SFPIRG Action Group Organizer
  • “I have met so many passionate & driven individuals at SFPIRG and I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of perspectives on social issues. The centre has given me the ability to grow my network of compassionate people and allowed me to find my passion and voice within activism and advocacy.” – SFPIRG Action Group Organizer
  • “SFPIRG is my favourite place on campus… I really found myself in the community at SFPIRG, and because of this, there will always be a place in my heart for this beautiful student-led organization.” – SFPIRG Board Member
  • “It’s a bit sappy to say but SFPIRG has become this place that’s a bit like home away from home. I love the fact that I have this amazing resource, not only for school related stuff, but for me and everything I do.” – SFPIRG Work Study Student
  • “I am really enthusiastic about being a part of this incredible community, with people who care about the same types of social and environmental justice as I do, as well as the creation of awareness of other types of oppression and discrimination.” – SFPIRG Board Member
  • “SFPIRG has positively impacted my undergrad experience. I have gained various skills throughout my volunteer time here. Along with meeting new people and making friends, I have learnt how to manage the library.” – SFU Student
  • “As cliche as it sounds, this workshop truly put us into another’s shoes through making us aware of the diversity of individuals and contentious issues regarding property around us.“ – SFSS Board Member