Student Donation Scam: Why I'm Not Buying What You're Selling

If you haven’t taken a close look at your tuition statement lately, now is the time to do it. Every undergraduate faculty at Western sneaks a “donation fee” into your tuition. This fee supposedly acts to build a fund that can then be called upon, through the process of application, to allocate money where it is needed. However, successful applications are chosen in less than transparent ways.

First and foremost, we need to applaud Western for their consistently strong marketing techniques. They have us all believing we are making a donation, but to what? Oxford dictionary defines donation as follows: Something that is given to a charity, especially a sum of money.

Similarly, Oxford dictionary defines fee: A payment made to a professional person or to a professional or public body in exchange for advice or services.

So, taking a look at these two definitions we stumble upon two very clear issues. Firstly, does an unwilling or oftentimes unknowing contribution to your academic institution constitute a donation? Second, do the terms donation and fee not become an oxymoron when placed together?

Being fortunate enough to have been warned about this scam in advance, and knowing how/when to opt out of the fee, I did so every year of my undergraduate studies, happily pocketing the money to be donated later, as a true donation, to a variety of actual worthy causes. I was never angry with the system, though perhaps disgusted at how casually and secretively the fee is built into your tuition and how ways to opt-out and opt-out deadlines are absolutely not advertised.

The gravity of the situation really hit me in the last week or so when, while perusing Facebook, Western’s Science Students’ Council posted this fun and informative graphic about the history of their fee allocation:

This graphic is actually quite troubling. The Faculty of Science includes eight departments, each department being comprised of a variety of programs. As you can see, eight programs are listed here, as well as a brief explanation as to what each program received. What is not listed here, or anywhere else, is the following:

  • A breakdown of how much money was taken in from last year’s donation fee

  • A breakdown of how much is contributed per department

  • Information regarding which persons/programs applied for funds

  • Information regarding who exactly is making the decisions as to where the funds will go

  • Information regarding whether or not the entire sum received from donations was used

I was curious as to whether or not this lack of transparency is the same across faculties, or if it is just the Faculty of Science who is seriously falling short. After some research, I came across the following information which I summarized in the following way:

Science

Donation Fee Amount: Not Available (must see own tuition statement)

Detailed breakdown of fund usage? None

Total amount received each year? Not Available

Transparency of application selection process? None

Advertises how to apply for funds? No

The following website comprises the majority of the information available on an official Western web page regarding the student donation fee in the Faculty of Science.  

Social Science

Donation Fee Amount: Not Available (must see own tuition statement)

Detailed breakdown of fund usage? YES!!

Total amount received each year? Not Available, (could total the columns)

Transparency of application selection process? None

Advertises how to apply for funds? No

The following website comprises the majority of the information available on an official Western web page regarding the student donation fee in the Faculty of Social Science.  

Arts & Humanities

Donation Fee Amount: Not Available (must see own tuition statement)

Detailed breakdown of fund usage? None

Total amount received each year? Not Available

Transparency of application selection process? YES!!

Advertises how to apply for funds? YES!!

The following website comprises the majority of the information available on an official Western web page regarding the student donation fee in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.

Engineering

Donation Fee Amount: $20-$100

Detailed breakdown of fund usage? YES!!

Total amount received each year? Not Available

Transparency of application selection process? YES!!

Advertises how to apply for funds? YES!!

The following websites (finance, project fund) comprise the majority of the information available on an official Western web page regarding the student donation fee in the Faculty of Engineering.  

Health Science

Donation Fee Amount: $100

Detailed breakdown of fund usage? No detailed breakdown available.. Vague breakdown available

Total amount received each year? Not Available

Transparency of application selection process? Not completely transparent, although members’ positions are listed

Advertises how to apply for funds? YES!!

The following website comprise the majority of the information available on an official Western web page regarding the student donation fee in the Faculty of Health Science  

Information & Media Studies

No information available

So, if you’re a student in Engineering, Social Science, or Health Science, your faculty is doing alright, even if only by comparison. If you are a student in FIMS, Science, or A&H, I respectfully submit that it is time to opt out. Reclaim your funds, reclaim your time. If your faculty wants “donations,” they need to be putting in the work to maintain levels of integrity, transparency, and fairness that accompanies the power they hold in building these fees into our tuition.

Also, regardless of what faculty you are in, if you feel as though you have a better use for those funds, I urge you to opt out. You are a student. This university is a business. Make them earn your money. If that $50/$100/however many dollars would better serve you in your pocket than in your faculty, which is quite obviously the case for Science/FIMS, keep it. Burn it. Do with it what makes you happy. It’s yours, afterall.

Below are links to opt out of your faculty donation fee!

SCIENCE

SOCIAL SCIENCE

ARTS & HUMANITIES: To opt out, please send an email with your name and student number to: [email protected] with the subject line "Student Donation Fund opt-out"

ENGINEERING

HEALTH SCIENCE: To opt out of the SOF donation fee, pick up an opt out form at your School administrative office:

  • Health Studies - Room 222, Labatt Health Sciences Building

  • Kinesiology - Room 2225, 3M Centre

  • Nursing - Room 3306, FIMS & Nursing Building

Related articles:

Want more HCW? Check us out on social media!

FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest