By Lidia Abraha
The Student Choice Initiative (SCI) will have an impact across the university with cuts to department funding, OSAP and more. In light of the recent legislation, cultural and equity groups on campus will also struggle to continue organizing next year.
The SCI is a provincial legislation that will allow students to opt out of ancillary fees when they enroll for the upcoming academic year.
Ancillary fees are used to fund faculty-based student society fees, health and dental plan, and the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU)—which also funds more than 80 student groups on campus.
If students opt out of ancillary fees, many student organizations will get less funding to organize events and provide space for students. Isaac Quiroz, the president of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), said that he’s worried about not holding as many events for Hispanic and Spanish speaking students.
“This is going to hit hard, and for cultural groups like us that are underrepresented, [it’s] tough,” said Quiroz. One of their goals is to increase outreach and make their group more visible on campus. But now, with the potential cuts, tabling will be harder when they can’t afford to give out goodies that attract people to their booth.
“That budget cut is going to make it harder to get our name out there. Our goal is to keep increasing our numbers, but now at this point, I can’t achieve that as well as I could,” said Quiroz.
OLAS increased activity in the last year. Since then, they’ve added more events like dance lessons and mix and mingle nights. Now, Quiroz is unsure if they’ll be able to continue with their current momentum.
A potential option OLAS is considering is to ask for donations at their charity fundraising events. However, this is not an ideal option, since it feels unethical to not give all the money to charity.
“We have to find creative ways to make money,” said Quiroz.
The African Student Association (ASA) has already started strategizing ways to secure funding so they can continue holding events. They plan to reach out to organizations that will support their cause, and offer students paid membership packages.
Estelle Ntusi, the vice president of the ASA, said she’s looking forward to finding new ways to make their organization thrive in light of the cuts.
“I don’t think [student groups] should see it as an end all be all,” said Ntusi. “[Cultural groups] should really take the opportunity to reevaluate essentially why student groups are on campus.”
“We have to find creative ways to make money”
The ASA provides an integral space for international students, and aids them in their resettlement to Canada.
“It’s important to realize that we are creating a space for them that will help alleviate the cultural shock,” said Ntusi.
The RSU have been working with the university to get the Equity Service Centres considered as an essential service.
Ruben Perez, Equity and Campaigns organizer of the RSU, said they have been working with We the Students to ensure the safety of the equity centres. We the Students is a province-wide campaign to combat Ford’s changes to OSAP and the SCI.
“As of right now, we can’t confirm anything yet,” said Perez, when discussing next years’ plans for the seven equity centres.
Perez oversees the operations of the Racialised Students’ Collective, Good Food Centre, Centre for Women and Trans People, Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line, RyePride, RyeAccess and the Trans Collective.
It may feel like student groups and equity centres are being left in the dark, but Ntusi said she’s ready to take on the challenge to continue supporting students that identify with the ASA—and she encourages other student groups to do the same.
“These are places where people who identify with the cultural student groups can go get comfortable and find people they’re familiar with and make it a safe place for students at Ryerson for their day-to-day-life.”