Students’ Union Board of Directors approves summer 2019 budget

On Apr. 22, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union board of directors held an emergency board meeting on the Waterloo Campus.

The emergency meeting was called after the board requested to be given more information about next year’s operational budget, which was not finalized during their last meeting on Apr. 5. 

The primary goal of the meeting was to approve the summer operational budget from May to Aug.

After thorough deliberation and an extensive question period, the board approved the proposed budget and outlined expenditures of over $10,000, with nine in favour, none opposed and one abstention.

A large portion of the meeting was dedicated to discussion regarding the student choice initiative, a provincial mandate created by the government of Ontario to give students the option to opt-out of certain ancillary fees.

“[We] can’t tell you about the entire fiscal year, because honestly [we don’t know] how many students will opt-out of the Students’ Union [fees],” Zemar Hakim, incoming president & CEO of the Students’ Union, said.

The annual budget will not be approved by the board due to the uncertainty surrounding the student choice initiative, which will be put into place by this year.

“Because of the student cuts, it will be [approved] academic quarterly, so we’re doing it on a term basis — it’ll be [approved for] Spring, Fall [and] Winter,” Hakim said.

The budget for the September-December Fall period will be approved in late-July to early- August. The subsequent January-April Winter period budget will be approved in November.

Student unions and other student university associations across Ontario face particular vulnerability to this opt-out installation and it is currently unclear how this will affect the budget for the upcoming year.

Because of this, the Students’ Union has approved a cautious and conservative budget that will take this unprecedented change into account moving forward, giving the university the best chance to respond to these changes when more information is released in August.

With focus on Orientation Week during the meeting specifically and the altered revenue, it may bring in with ancillary fee changes, Owen Bourrie, incoming chair and CGO, brought up concerns surrounding the “swag” that students receive for the week.

Bourrie’s discussion mirrored the conversations that have taken place between himself and various members of Laurier’s ownership, who have expressed a desire to move away from more disposable, material and low-cost orientation packages in favour of a more sustainable alternative.

He suggested that, in lieu of focussing resources on the “First Year Student Kit Swag items,” which according to the Students Union’s proposed “10K Payment Report” will cost approximately $26,000, the focus should shift towards funding high-quality experiences that students are unable to afford themselves, which would double as a conservation effort to reduce disposable waste.

Given the limitations that he’s currently faced with, one of Hakim’s primary focuses this year will be prioritizing sponsorships and connections to partners who are not affiliated with the Students’ Union.

Furthermore, Hakim noted that the Students’ Union as a whole will be “definitely working to provide the same amount of programming and services as [they] have in the past, given the limitations of the Student Choice Initiative,” and that they will be focussing on using current revenue streams more efficiently.

Regarding the Presidential Leadership Budget, Hakim’s is also notably smaller than former President, Tarique Plummer’s, which totalled $99,690 for the year. For the summer period, Hakim’s Leadership budget is $10,850, nearly one-third of Plummer’s $30,673.85.

“Tarique had a huge budget, but because I’m breaking it up into smaller chunks, I’ll look to sponsors to give me a lot of my money, like money from the Food Bank in Waterloo, we have RBC working with us, and things like that,” Hakim said.

“A lot of my budget isn’t comprised solely of the special initiatives I had, but more the ones that only require Students’ Union money; so my internal platform ideas will be budgeted through the Students’ Union, whereas [for] the external ones — hopefully — I’ll get external partners to help us out.”

This meeting was the last official Board of Directors meeting for the 2018-2019 year. The incoming 2019-20 board of directors will take to the board table for the first time officially on May 5 for their first meeting.

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