By Madi Wong
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) has rolled back their funds due to this year’s 2019-20 budget, which is about $200,000 less than the previous year’s budget.
The RSU approved their budget for the fiscal year during an emergency Board of Directors (BoD) meeting on Sept. 18.
Some of the union’s most expensive initiatives this year include increasing funding for equity service centres and doubling funding for mental health services.
The introduction of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) in January by Premier Doug Ford’s government impacted several campus groups and unions including the RSU. The RSU received an opt-in percentage of 60.4 per cent from full-time students.
As a result, there has been a decrease in funding for a number of things including campus groups funding. However, the RSU has allocated more funding for equity service groups and mental health services for students.
Here’s a breakdown of where your fees are going this year.
Less spending money for RSU
Last year, the RSU had a proposed total budget of $2.7 million. This year’s proposed budget is $2.5 million—about a $200,000 difference and a 7.4 per cent decrease from last year.
The RSU received around $1.9 million from their opt-ins this academic year. The rest of the RSU’s total revenue budget comes partially from profits from CopyRITE as well as interest and investment income—making up $406,000 of their budget.
How funding looks for equity service groups
Equity service groups have a total of $247,000 allocated to them this year, a 56.7 per cent increase from last year’s $157,650.
These centres include the Racialised Students’ Collective (RSC), RyeACCESS, RyePRIDE, Centre for Women and Trans People and the Trans Collective.
The Good Food Centre (GFC) and Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support (CSSSVS) are also considered RSU equity centres, but they have a separate funding due to a referendum that was passed in 2017 to increase resources for students. This means they were not directly affected by opt-in fees.
More money for mental health services and vision care
The RSU has doubled funding for mental health and implemented vision care for students in this year’s budget.
RSU president Vanessa Henry said that $500 is not a lot of money for counselling sessions and if there is someone who is in need, they will need more than the few visits that $500 can supply.
“[The increase] allows students to not just go to a therapist on campus, it allows them to go off campus to someone who could actually meet their needs,” she said.
As for vision care, Henry said that the RSU has never offered it before because glasses and contacts are relatively expensive, but said it would be beneficial to provide students with adequate benefits if they are paying for the health and dental plan.
Cut backs on admin and office
Last year, the RSU’s administrative and office budget was the most expensive department at $1.3 million and remains the most expensive at $1 million this year. This department includes both administration expenses such as insurance and legal fees as well as the wages and benefits of RSU executive and staff members.
RSU staff receive a total of $442,400 a decrease from last year’s $590,400. Each executive member is paid $36,000 annually—$11,000 less than, or a 23.4 per cent decrease from what 2018-19 executives were paid last year.
Last year, the executive and director wages were increased after the approval of a motion brought forward in a BoD meeting. The motion was brought forward by Tajinder Kaur, whose identity is still a mystery. Kaur’s motion cited that the executive members of the University of Waterloo Federation of Students are paid higher wages despite their smaller student population.
An adjustment for the Wellness Centre
The Wellness Centre, now located on the third floor of the Student Campus Centre in the RSU’s SHIFT Centre, is a multipurpose space to hold educational workshops, networking events and workspace for students.
At a BoD meeting on Oct. 22, the RSU passed a motion to amend a line in the budget that prevented the SHIFT Centre from having an operations budget.
Instead of the centre’s budget being placed under the line of operations for the Wellness Centre, it was placed under the ‘leasehold improvements’ line.
According to Henry, having money under ‘leasehold improvements’ line means that the item is “life long” whereas other operation budgets for items such as the SHIFT Centre only exist for the 2019-20 year.
After this amendment, the SHIFT Centre has $11,000 allocated to them for programming budget and $30,000 for wages and benefits.
A previous version of this story wrongly stated the RSU executives’ salary as $48,296 annually. The RSU executives’ salary is actually $36,000. The Eyeopener regrets this error.