Students walking on campus in the fall

Society Fee Referendums

Follow the steps below for a success fee referendum


To initiate a new fee, or to renew or change an existing fee, student societies must obtain approval from their members through a student-held fee referendum. 

Student societies should refer to their respective constitution and/or by-laws for internal rules regarding nomination and review process, timing and minimum polling periods, etc.

The Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) contacts student societies near the start of each semester as a courtesy to inform them of expiring fees, however student societies should maintain records of fees or proactively reach out to Student Accounts or the Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning).

Very few student societies societies have fees with legacy status that benefit from COLA (cost of living index) increases each year. The University will implement the increase automatically to these fees using the Bank of Canada CPI rate for month of March for Québec.


Step 1: Review Fee Approval Timeline

Before initiating a student-held fee referendum, be familiar with the approval timeline. This is important. If the results of a referendum are not received on time then the University may not be able to implement on time. 

Student societies must submit all referendum questions, including whereas clauses, to the Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning (DPSLL) at least two weeks before the referendum is to be held. This ensures that there is enough time for an internal review of the question as well as for consultation with other offices that have an interest in the referendum. Societies may expect an answer within two weeks of submitting the question.

Timeline for Fee Approval

Action Fall Implementation Winter Implementation
Submit question to DPSLL for review February 1 October 1
Society's referendum is held February - March October - early November
Results of referendum to DPSLL April 1 November 5
Memo from DPSLL to Student Accounts confirming approval April 15 November 20

Step 2: Write the Referendum Question

Your referendum question should explain the following details:

  • Who is being charged and who is not?
    • Full-time and part-time students?
    • Students in a particular major within a Faculty?
    • Students at a particular campus?
    • Students with a particular classification (e.g., graduate studies, but not post-docs)?
  • What is the fee amount per semester per student?
  • Are there any special conditions for the fee?
  • Are students able to opt out of the fee?
  • What is the purpose of the fee?
    • Special event, new materials/equipment, operation costs, etc.
  • On what date will the fee be implemented, and what is the term?
    • Fee referenda held in the fall semester (e.g., fall 2023) typically take effect in the following winter semester (e.g., winter 2024)
    • Fee referenda held in the winter semester (e.g., winter 2024) typically take effect in the following fall semester (e.g., fall 2024)
    •  Fees are typically approved for a three-year period


Sample Referendum Questions

Bad Question: The Faculty of Arts students' association is proposing that students in 3 courses or more pay $1.50 per semester towards the Space Fund to pay for renovations to the student lounge. Do you agree?

Better Question: Do you agree to increase the non opt-outable Space Fund Fee by $1.50, from $2.00 to $3.50 per semester, payable by all AUS members, starting in Fall 2024 to Winter 2027 (inclusive) to fund renovations to the student lounge, with the understanding that a majority "no" vote will result in no renovation to the space?

Step 3: Submit the Question

Once you have written your referendum question, you must submit it to the DPSLL via the on-line form or my email to studentgroups.dpsll [at]

The Chief Returning Officer or Student Society President must assume responsibility for all student-initiated referenda, according to the guidelines outlined in the student society's constitution or by-laws.

Step 4: Compile the Results

The Chief Returning Officer or Student Society President will compile the referendum results, ensuring that the quorum (i.e., the minimum number of votes needed) was met.

Deliver these results in writing on your society's letterhead to the DPSLL, copying the Director, Student Accounts. The letter of results must include the complete question that was asked, including whereas clauses.

Along with the letter of results, provide a fee description in both English and French to the DPSLL so that the fee can be posted on the Student Accounts website.

Step 5: DPSLL Verifies the Referendum

The Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) will verify against the society's constitution that the results were obtained through a valid fee referendum, and will confirm their approval of the fee's implementation to the Director, Student Accounts.

Depending on the nature of the fee, the DPSLL may have a conversation with society executives as to where the fee should be deposited. If the fee is to benefit a University Faculty or Department, the society may request that the funds be deposited directly to a University fund rather than to the society's trust fund. Students may request annual reports on the nature of expenditures from the Department who administers the fund.

Step 6: Publicize Opt-Out Fees

If you have a fee from which students can opt out, you must let students know that they have the option of not paying the fee.

  • On your website, publicize the dates during which students can opt out of the fee. Note that the opt-out period is limited to the two weeks prior to the fee payment deadline in September and in January.
  • Let students know that they can access the opt-out menu on Minerva as soon as fees are assessed.
  • Help students make informed choices by devoting part of your website to describing society fees and their benefits.


McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous peoples whose presence marks this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.

Learn more about the land you’re on by following this link, and commit to taking action to support local Indigenous communities.

Back to top