RSU vice-president operations Obaid Ullah (right), president Andrea Bartlett and chairperson Abe Snobar

Photo: Annie Arnone

Equity service centres get extra $2 per student

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By Farnia Fekri

At their Nov. 30 Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM), the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) voted to give the equity service centres $2 more per student this year.

That works out to around $60,000 to be reallocated from the current RSU budget, giving each equity centre about $10,000 more, said Markus Harwood-Jones after the meeting.

Harwood-Jones, a coordinator at the Trans Collective and the mover of the motion, said he was elated the motion passed — and that he wasn’t expecting it to.

The idea of more money given to the equity centres was first brought forward at the Nov. 17 RSU Board of Directors meeting, where executives were confused about whether the proposal was asking for a reallocation of funds or a new levy.

“This is not a levy. We feel that this should come out of the existing budget,” Harwood-Jones said at the SAGM. “We would need a referendum for a levy. Maybe that’s something we want to look into in the future, but that’s not something we want to look at right now.”

He brought the motion forward citing recent growth in the campaigns and services of the equity centres, as well as shortages of material and staff in the Good Food Centre, the Centre for Women and Trans People, RyeAccess, the Trans Collective, RyePRIDE and the Racialised Students’ Collective.

Coordinators are currently spending too much time focusing on securing third-party funding, he said. “We’re not fundraisers. That’s not our job. Our job is to provide services to students.”

RSU vice-president equity Rabia Idrees said though she’s happy the motion passed, getting sponsorships is “part of the job description” and the new commitment will mean losses in other areas.

“There would have to be a reduction on certain line-items to be able to compensate,” she said.

RSU vice-president operations Obaid Ullah said the union will have to budget differently next year, but that money will be pulled from section surpluses and the capital reserve funds for the remainder of the 2015-16 year.

“Honestly, I need to do a lot of financial investigation,” he said after the meeting. “At this point it’s just, let them spend it, let them have it, it was passed at the general meeting and we can always dip into our reserves at the end of the year. The membership decided on that motion.”

Ullah attempted to amend the motion in order to raise it to a $2.50 contribution per student, but the chair ruled it out of order on the basis of absent students not having notice of anything greater than $2.

“I was a little concerned,” Ullah said about his proposed amendment, adding that it was meant “to show that, ‘Hey we’re all on the same page here and we understand the concept of restricted funding.’”

He said it wasn’t just a political move and that he had hoped the increase would pass.

“I was voted into the position to do a good job and to be financially transparent and accountable,” he said. “But if the membership makes a decision like that where we need to change the budget to make amendments, I’m 100 per cent for that. It’s not really my choice.”

Ullah added that in the future, securing money from outside sponsorships can fall under the responsibilities of a vice-president communications and outreach — a new executive position the current RSU is looking at creating.

Discussion around the potential new position was delayed due to a loss of quorum, but in a Board of Directors meeting following the SAGM, representatives voted to have the bylaw amendment debated and possibly ratified at the next AGM.

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