May 16, 2010

YA health and dental plan scandal

(YA = Yet Another – I’m programming right now and using that “speak”)

Eye on the UVSS, an excellent watchdog blog written by David. J.A. Foster, has an interesting write-up about a student union health and dental plan scandal which involves the University of Victoria Student Society decreasing their students health plan benefits and diverting funds from the health plan into the general operating funds of the deficit-ridden student organization.

Many student union scandals have their origins in the misuse of health and dental plan funds or the large profits from these plans – the largest revenue source for most student unions and organizations.

In this instance, there is no evidence of illegal conduct – but there was clearly *unethical *conduct. Students paid for a set of services, agreed to in a referendum, and were not provided those services. After rejecting requests from the UVSS to increase fees to fund the student society, the UVSS went behind students backs to increase their internal operating funds.

It is not widely discussed, and rarely understood, that student unions and universities take a cut of student levies for “administrative costs.” In some cases, especially with the university cut, the slice of money off the top reflect the costs involved in administering the fee. (Computer infrastructure, human resources, banking fees, and overhead involved in collecting student fees and cutting a cheque to the external organization or student union)

In other cases, common with student unions, the “administrative cost” is nothing more than a kick-back to the student union. Most, (if not all), UPass or Health and Dental Plans fees involved a cut for the student union. These fees are not publicized by student unions and represent a serious conflict-of-interest.

This latest example at the UVSS only adds to the body of examples that call for student unions to become transparent and more accountable for their actions.