By Alanna Rizza
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) is taking the first step in holding a second referendum for additional funds to be allocated to student groups.
By the end of November, RSU president Ram Ganesh said the student union will have started to plan for a potential referendum that would raise the student levy. The process starts by conducting a survey to see how much more students are willing to pay, he said.
Ganesh said the survey will give students choices for how much extra they are willing to pay for the student group budget, ranging from as little as $2 to as much as $10.
If the referendum passes, he said the amount would be added to the student levy, which is included in tuition and goes towards student services provided by the RSU.
Full-time students pay about $130 to the RSU and about $140 to the Student Campus Centre and student services each school year.
“We want to know if the climate is right to hold a referendum and if students really want this,” said Ganesh.
If they want this, only then will we move forward with the next referendum. We’re also analyzing what student groups think.”
Aidan Messom, co-president of Ryerson Model United Nations (RyeMUN), said asking students if they want to pay more to groups is “definitely a question worth asking.”
Messom said active groups like RyeMUN would benefit since they could run more programming for students. “Model UN ends up maxing out the amount of funds the RSU will provide us every year,” he said.
Ganesh said the money would be placed in a “restricted fund” allocated to the RSU’s student groups budget.
The RSU president said the proposed levy would be similar to the RSU’s successful equity centre referendum last year, where the levy is now allocated specifically to those services. Last school year the Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line (SASSL) and the Good Food Centre (GFC) referendum resulted in a levy increase of $10 per academic year.
Student groups currently have base funding of $600 per semester. The RSU also has a fund that allows student groups to apply for up to $5,000 in grants.
Ganesh said if the levy is approved, it would increase the amount of money that student groups can apply for through these grants.
The plan for a second referendum for the winter semester comes after a majority of Ryerson students voted in favour of a discounted transit pass.
According to the RSU’s 2018-2019 budget, $45,000 is allocated to referendums. Ganesh said he could not provide the exact amount that the student union spent on the RU-Pass referendum because the finance committee is still “waiting for the exact numbers to come in.”
The finance committee is still returning rented equipment and collecting paperwork, he said. “It’s not that we’re trying to hide the number that we spent.”
The 2017 SASSL and GFC referendum campaign had a budget of about $3,000, said Corey Scott, the RSU’s former equity and campaigns organizer.
Former SASSL coordinator, Cassandra Myers, said the campaign went under budget. “We only spent around $1,000 and that was mostly just for posters and banners,” she said.
Ganesh said the RU-Pass referendum is “more expensive” than last year’s referendum because he wanted it to have a high voter turnout.