University silences student board members on tuition hike

A legal battle is brewing between students and the Board of Governors at Lakehead University.

Lakehead students plan to fight for their right to vote on tuition issues

A legal battle is brewing between students and the Board of Governors at Lakehead University.

A change in the rules means students on the board have lost the right to vote on tuition issues.

Lakehead University Student Union president Michael Snoddon says a recent bylaw revision muzzles the three student representatives on the Board of Governors. (supplied)

That doesn't sit well with student union president Michael Snoddon.  "I can foresee the entire Board of Governors voting for this tuition fee increase without any dissent, because the dissenters are being kicked out of the room," Snoddon said. 

The university recently revised its conflict of interest bylaw. Lakehead Board of Governors chair Colin Bruce said the move is based on sound legal advice.

"A student, by definition, pays tuition to attend the university ... and is in clear conflict when they vote or recommend on the matter of how much tuition fee they will pay or how much they will levy to other students."

Colin Bruce, chair of Lakehead's Board of Governors, says it's a conflict of interest to have student reps at the Board of Governors vote on issues such as tuition hikes. (supplied)

But Lea Pennock of the Canadian University Boards Association said most schools don't seem to share that view.

"The... vast majority said that their ... student members do participate in discussions about tuition and would normally vote ... on decisions around tuition and fees," she said. 

Snoddon said the new rule will have broader consequences.

"This change in the conflict of interest bylaw silences students."

It may be up to the courts to decide if that's true.

The student union plans to apply for a judicial review next week. 

Meanwhile, the Lakehead Board of Governors is expected to vote on a tuition increase on Friday.

Snoddon said he's been told undergraduate fees will rise by four and a half per cent.