By Nicole Schmidt
While Ryerson’s equity service centres were supposed to see increased funding this semester, some coordinators say the opposite has happened and their budgets have been scaled back.
At the December 2015 Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM), students voted in favour of a motion requesting that the equity service centres receive funding based on Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) membership, as opposed to a lump sum of allocated funds. It was requested that the budget reflects two dollars per student, which translates into roughly $60,000 ($10,000 for each centre).
RyePRIDE coordinator Daniella Enxuga said she was told in early January that the new budget would be a top priority for RSU executives, and that the equity centres would have it no later than the end of that month — which never happened.
“There’s a month left to our contracts and there’s been no reallocation so it’s essentially irrelevant for us now,” she said.
According to Markus Harwood-Jones, a coordinator at the Trans Collective, what the equity centres have been told doesn’t match up with what they’ve seen. “We’ve been told to cut funding as much as possible,” he said, adding that the Trans Collective had a budget of $60 per member meeting, but now he said they’ve been asked to spend $40 due to a lack of overall funding for events and services.
Harwood-Jones added that he’s repeatedly asked about the budget, but was met with a verbal warning.
RSU president Andrea Bartlett said equity centre funding has not been cut, and that the centres are still operating under what they were promised when the budget was ratified by the membership. “We are still working on the budget. It has been difficult on our end because some of the accounts haven’t been fully updated. Before we can specifically say this is where we stand financially, those accounts need to be reconciled,” she said.
The equity centres have seen consistent growth in recent years — when the Trans Collective launched in 2014, they had five members. Now, the group has 15. Similarly, Enxuga said the size of RyePRIDE has quadrupled. As living costs increase the Good Food Centre has also seen an increased need for its services, with more than 350 registered students.
Corey Scott, equity and campaigns organiser, said that all areas of the equity centres have felt the crunch. The initial motion brought forth at the SAGM was intended to reflect growth, as well as address a shortage of supplies and staff.
In the past, each centre has been staffed with three employees. But this year, a third hire was only done for the Good Food Room and the Centre for Women and Trans People. The current budget can also be stressful when planning events, added Scott.
Last year, Enxuga said event planning was budgeted based on past spending. An annual workshop on asexuality, in partnership with an outside Toronto organization, had a former budget of $150. But this year, Enxuga said she was only given $50. Some attendees required an ASL interpreter, but the decrease created a struggle in making the event accessible. The money was eventually allocated from a separate fund outside of RyePRIDE, said Enxuga.
According to Bartlett, it’s been communicated to equity staff that if they need more money for an event they can submit a request to the executive meeting agenda, which will be voted on. “It’s not that we’ve cut any funding … it’s a breakdown in communication and a misunderstanding of finances.”
The RSU is working toward making the funding adjustment by the end of the semester.