Tension at townhall

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Parents hoping to have their concerns over recent fee increases heard by the University Child Care Centre Board of Directors received little comfort at a Town Hall meeting on Tue., March 12.

The board distributed information packages to parents and attempted to address parent concerns. Although the board members sympathize with parents and many have children attending daycare themselves they said the fee increase is necessary for the centre's survival.

"We operate on a cost recovery basis," said Board Chair Katherine Sheehan. "The question of providing accessible day care to students is a university problem. We are trying to send this message to the administration."

Parents communicated their desire to the board to find other ways of easing the UCCC's financial predicament, specifically asking the board to withhold the increase until September, allowing investigation of other sources of funding such as fundraising and university support. Board member Brad Braaten said the increase cannot be delayed or the centre will face a financial debt.

"There will be fee increases every year," said the Director of University Audit Services and board member Brad Braaton. "I don't think we can hold off on [raising fees], I won't support that."

"I do think that it is a good idea to hold off on the increase until September," added board member and Students' Union Commissioner Yana Mikhailovski. "If we must have an increase we must be able to alleviate student funding crises."

In an e-mail response to a concerned parent, U of C Vice-President Finance and Services Dr. Keith Winter indicated that the university was willing to work with the board to explore options of increasing fiscal responsibility.

"We recognize the special relationship [between the board and the university] and will do what is possible to work with the [board] to see where we can assist it in reducing its operational expenses," said Winter. "The university recognizes the importance to our community of affordable, quality child care."

With 426 families reportedly on the waiting list for care at the UCCC, low income students may be out of luck.

"I can't pay that fee," a tearful parent told the board. "It makes me angry when you say I have a choice, if I don't have the money I have to leave. I am a student, in my case, who cares?"

In response to parent requests for help, Chair of the Senate Inquiries Committee Mary-Ellen Tyler reported the concerns to the Chancellor and Senate Executive and referred the issue to the members of the Inquiry Committee.

"Our role is to inquire and to put the issues before the appropriate person or persons within the university who do have a mandate to take action," said Tyler in an e-mail to parents. "I assure you this will be done and that a response to your inquiry will be forthcoming as soon as possible."