May 4, 2000 Vol . 18, No. 1
By Carol Thorbes
With a cascade of brown curls constantly obstructing his vision, Robert Trost (right) may look like a left leaning child of the sixties. But any such notion is quickly dispelled upon hearing the new Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) president's views on student politics and government funding for education.
"I'd love to see the federal and provincial governments put another $10 billion into post-secondary education," says the fifth-year SFU engineering science undergraduate. "But unfortunately it would be my parents, everyone else's parents and myself in a couple of years paying the taxes necessary to finance that kind of funding. Taxes are already unreasonable and money doesn't come out of thin air," adds Trost.
He opposes his peer's nationwide effort to push for greater public funding through events like the Access 2000 campaign. He is also against B.C. students' lobby to maintain the provincial government's freeze on tuition fees. "If tuition fees went up two per cent annually that would help pay for more teaching assistants, who are badly needed, and the replacement of retiring professors," reasons Trost. "We badly need more funding for post-secondary education in B.C. But students should be expected to pay their fair share and we've had it pretty good for five years with no tuition fee increases."
And how did Trost, who ran as an independent candidate, get to be president of the SFSS when his politics differ radically from the rest of the society's left leaning executive? Trost figures his ability to persuade what he says is a generally apathetic electorate to vote for him resulted in his win by 90 votes. Less than seven per cent of the eligible voters turned out and many of them cast their ballots against the candidates who were elected. Students are given the option of casting a "no" vote against a candidate.
The new SFSS president also observes that many of his votes came from engineering, computing, business and science students who "value their money and don't like seeing their student fees tossed into the garbage or going to causes they don't believe in."
Trost would like to radically change how the SFSS's student-funded $1 million a year budget is spent. He would like the society to contract out running of businesses like the pub and a copy centre. He'd also like to see the society reduce its administration, roll back a recent increase in executive stipends and allocate most of its budget to funding campus events. "Student fees should go primarily into funding events that increase our sense of community on campus, not money losing business endeavours and special interest groups. I also don't think distance and cooperative education students should have to pay SFSS student fees for resources they can't use," says Trost.
However, Trost doesn't hold out much hope of realizing his goals. He fully expects the new Students for Students party dominated executive will quash most of his motions.
Two other independent candidates he had hoped would shore up his vote on the executive were narrowly defeated.
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