Previously named: Students' Association (1914-1922), Students' Union (1922-1933), Students' Representative Council (1933-1966)
History: The Students’ Association was formed ca. 1914 in an attempt to centralize student leadership at the university, as well as simplify the financial situation of administering student monies. The executive of the Association was called the Students' Council. The Students’ Association was responsible for funding student sports, putting on dances, and providing financial support to other student clubs such as the Literary and Debating Society and Model Parliament. As early as 1921 the tension between the funding of student athletics and other activities was noted: "by taking all the work to itself it has deadened the interest in the other societies; the Students' Association cannot do all the work and do it well." Indeed, the vast majority of the budget went towards sports, in particular rugby (then called football), which in 1922 took up ¾ of the annual budget.
The October 1922 issue of The Brunswickan, incidentally its first issue under its new name, noted the "change in form of the student government" which had taken place over the summer. This entailed a change in name, from the Students' Association to the Students' Union, though the executive of the Students' Council remained. The increasingly unreliable system of student levy collection forced the Students’ Union to petition the university Senate in 1928 to a compulsive student levy that would be collected by the Registrar along with student tuition fees. The Senate refused the petition however and instead offered a grant of $300 for athletics. This pattern of petitioning for the administration to collection students’ fees and being refused by the Senate continued for years. In the meantime, the Senate provided a $500 grant each year to cover athletic expenses.
The Students' Union was renamed the Students' Representative Council in 1933 and the system of voting was changed: whereas under the Students' Union every student could vote on a motion, the new SRC limited voting rights to representative councillors. Despite this new efficiency in governance, the pre-existing levy system resulted in shaky finances and uncertainty in planning student activities; as the 1933 Up the Hill yearbook noted, “the main difficulty with Student Government at the present time is a financial one, due to the poor levy system.” Cuts were made to student clubs and athletics, with the track team requiring a special fundraising campaign just to enter the Maritime Intercollegiate Track Meet. In the fall of 1933 a fixed levy system was adopted by the Student Union, with freshmen students paying $10, upperclassmen paying $9, and women paying $4. Despite this progress, the Union remained intent on the administration handling the fee collection, as collection continued to remain a problem with no recourse for delinquent payers. The Union petitioned the Senate again in 1934, at which time the Senate declared the proposal “not advisable.” This same outcome occurred again in 1935.
The financial situation became so untenable that the Student Union was forced to ask for emergency funding from the Senate in February 1940. This event finally instigated the formation of a Senate committee to study the issue of student levies, resulting in a motion passed in February 1941 stating that the student levy would be compulsory and would be collected by the Registrar in conjunction with other student fees. While this action ensured that the Student Union would have a steady income for the future, it did not solve the issue of ever increasing costs for athletic programs. The annual grant from the Senate of $500 continued into the 1950s. In 1955 the supervision of sports at UNB changed hands from the Student Union to the administration in an effort to cut down on insurance costs to the SU and to create a more balanced budget to allow a greater range of student clubs to exist.
In 1966 the SRC was incorporated and changed its name to the UNB Student Union. The 1960s saw an increased focus on student activism, with global events such as the Vietnam War and increased political awareness creating a more radicalized environment on campus and a more radicalized Student Union at times, such as during the Strax Affair, an ongoing controversy which polarized both the student body and the Student Union itself. The 1960s also saw students taking the reins in advocating for a new Student Union Building to better serve in the ever increasing student population. With the addition of St. Thomas University and Teachers’ College to the UNB Campus in the early 1960s, there was a sufficient population to raise funds for a building to service all three institutions. Student fees were raised to fund the project which was completed in 1969.
The 1980s were contentious years between the Student Union and university administration. Conflict between student leaders, primarily SU president John Bosnitch (prominent years 1982-1986), and the administration ultimately resulted in a police investigation into suspect finances, SU executives locked out of the Student Union Building, and the administration taking control of the building. This conflict shed light on several points of concern within the Student Union, including a concentration of power in the SU executive and a conflict of interest in the very structure of the Union. Subsequent changes were made to the SU constitution resolving these issues, though the experiences of the 1980s has had a lasting effect on the relationship between the Student Union and the administration.
Note(s): As early as 1895, motions were made to create a “Democratic Government” in consultation with faculty representatives. This committee was intended to make public the opinions and desires of the student body, particularly with regards to the Senate. The committee was formed by the Debating Society, which chose one student from each class as well as the President of the Debating Society to work in consultation with the faculty.
Beginning in May 1912, financial problems were plaguing the University Finance Association, an organization which paid for things such as student activities, the University Monthly, and university sports teams. An increasing number of students who didn’t pay their “levies” — that is, a sum paid by each student to fund activities and clubs — was threatening the ability to pay for athletic teams. These levies were charged to the student each term in conjunction with their tuition, but unlike the latter, nonpayment of the levies did not result in any disciplinary action. Short of shaming individuals by printing their names in the Monthly, there was no way to ensure that each student paid their levy. This situation would be one that plagued student government for decades to come.
In 1951 graduate students were recognized for their special circumstances and a reduced levy for them was introduced as they didn’t participate extensively in student activities and thus they only had to pay only half the regular levy.
In 2000-2001 the Student Union was advised by a special Ad Hock committee to make sweeping changes to their Clubs and Societies budget. The UNB Student Union was spending 20% of its annual budget on club funding, while other universities were spending closer to 1%. It was decided that funding for clubs and societies would be reduced by half for the following years.
- UA Case 173; Section 1, Box 2.
- University Monthly (UA RG 84), vol. 31, no. 7-8, p. 352.
- University Monthly (UA RG 84), vol. 41, no. 3, December/January 1921-22, p. 91-92.
- University Monthly (UA RG 84), vol. 42, no. 1, October 1922, p. 1-2.
- University Monthly (UA RG 84), vol. 41, no. 7, May 1922.
- Up the Hill, 1933, p. 52, 85.
- Up the Hill, 1938.
- Senate Minutes (UA RG 40), Book 5 (1927-1943), p. 18, 28, 46, 53, 62, 71, 86, 90, 101, 104, 115, 133, 149, 167, 179, 185, 207, 214, 232, 234, 300.
- Senate Minutes (UA RG 40), Book 6 (1944-1952), p. 16, 63, 91, 106, 111, 124, 131, 154, 173, 183.
- The Brunswickan (UA RG 84), vol. 52, no. 20, 16 March 1933, p. 1, 4.
- The Brunswickan (UA RG 84), vol. 68, no. 7, 12 November 1948, p. 1-2.
- UNB Students' Representative Council Minutes (UA RG 17), Book 1; p. 3, 4.
- UNB Scrapbooks (UA RG 100); October - December 1968
- The Brunswickan (UA RG 84), vol. 102, 12 September 1968 - 21 March 1969.
- The Brunswickan (UA RG 84), vol. 119, no. 3, 21 September 1984.
- The Brunswickan, vol. 134, no. 21, 2000, p 1.
© UNB Archives & Special Collections, 2014