By Alexandra Holyk
The Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) 2020-21 budget is expected to be lower than previous years due to anticipated low enrolment numbers, according to vice-president operations Liora Dubinsky.
At the July 17 Board of Directors (BoD) meeting, the RSU unveiled its approximately $2.2 million budget for the upcoming academic year—a 10 per cent decrease from last year’s budget of $2.5 million—with all full-time students paying $82 in membership fees.
Dubinsky said the decrease was “based on a conservative model,” since the previously overruled Student Choice Initiative (SCI) may be appealed by the Ontario provincial government. The SCI gave post-secondary students the choice to opt-out of certain “non-essential” services on campus including student unions and campus press, but not athletic or building fees.
She added that the RSU is expecting lower student enrolment numbers due to the majority of classes being moved online for the fall semester. However, according to admission numbers revealed at Ryerson’s Board of Governors (BoG) meeting in June, the university saw a 4.3 per cent increase in first-year domestic and international students who have confirmed their acceptance offers and paid the tuition deposit fee, compared to last year.
Since most of campus is closed to students, services such as CopyRITE and the Good Food Centre (GFC) will not be operating as often as they did in the past and staff has been reduced.
Even with the overall decrease, the proposed budget saw funding allocated for social events despite an online fall semester with no in-person activities. This includes $30,000 toward the fall Week of Welcome and $40,000 toward the orientation events in the winter semester. Dubinsky said the RSU will put more funding toward January’s Week of Welcome when students will hopefully be back on campus.
“Usually the fall one gets a lot more funding than winter, but this year since there’s probably going to be no students on campus, we put a lot of the funding towards winter,” said Dubinsky. “Hopefully we can make up for that if everything is open and create a bigger Week of Welcome for students.”
At the Aug. 26 BoD meeting, vice-president student life and events Usama Sheikh confirmed that the RSU will not be holding any online or in-person events for Week of Welcome aside from creating frosh kits for incoming students.
“We are holding on to the budget for frosh events and hopefully later down the line things will start opening up,” said Sheikh. “But for now we are not spending it.”
Here’s where else your $82 RSU student levy is going this year.
Funding for equity service groups
Equity Service Centres are expected to have a total of $162,960 allocated to them this year, a 34 per cent decrease from last year’s $247,000.
Dubinsky said this was because last year’s executive team allocated more funding to create the SHIFT (Share Help Inspire Foster Think) centre, which was established as the eighth Equity Service Centre at the RSU’s last BoD meeting of the 2019-20 year.
The GFC and Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support (CSSSVS) are also considered RSU equity centres, but they receive separate funding due to a referendum that was passed in 2017 to increase resources for students.
COVID-19 and food relief grants
In July, Dubinsky announced the RSU’s plans for a $100,000 COVID-19 relief grant, after concerns were raised by many students who were unable to receive the previous grant provided by the 2019-20 RSU executive team.
According to RSU president Ali Yousaf, the COVID-19 relief grant will be available to all full-time students, with each successful applicant receiving up to $500.
Dubinsky said she hopes the grant applications will be available for students in September.
She added that the COVID-19 and food relief grants will not be given on a first-come-first-serve basis. Each application will be reviewed by the RSU’s bursary committee—including Yousaf, Dubinsky, FCS director Sabrina Ahmed and Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science director Umer Abdullah.
Dubinsky mentioned that the application does not include specific equity or accessibility options to prioritize those students, but encouraged BoD members to email her with suggestions for the application criteria.
The RSU also announced that $20,000 from its budget would be allocated toward the emergency food relief grant—a 97.5 increase from last year’s $500.
Applications for both grants have not been made available yet.
In previous years, the RSU’s administrative and office budget was the most expensive department at around $1 million and remains the most expensive this year at $920,180. 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.
Each RSU executive is paid $36,000 annually and since the vice-president marketing position was removed, executive expenses decreased by 16 per cent from $279,776 to $240,980.
Bringing back base funding for campus groups
The university’s campus groups will receive a budget of approximately $380,000, which is an increase of almost $55,000 compared to last year.
“Part of our campaign point was to bring back the base funding for our student groups and course unions,” said Dubinsky at the July meeting. “We want to give back and make sure that one of the core components of the RSU’s services is to make sure the student group services are supported even with COVID.”
Course unions receive $500 of base funding and can apply for up to $2,000 in grants per semester. Student groups receive $600 in base funding per semester and can apply for a maximum of $3,000 in grants per semester, or $5,000 per academic year.