I hope you all had a phenomenal week. I know many of you are doing whatever it takes to prepare for the upcoming midterms, tests, quizzes, and exams.
Students just like you through their Students’ Unions have been working hard to organize high-quality events to help you de-stress and enjoy your time at the University of Toronto Mississauga. We hope you enjoyed the events last week—events like Halloween Haunt at Wonderland, the Haunted House at the Student Centre, or Halloween Pub. It was a fun and scary week for all of us.
Unfortunately, I am writing this editorial response to address some serious allegations made on September 14 by our current editor-in-chief in her editorial, “When Numbers Matter”. This article stressed the need to read in between the lines and tasked the readers with paying attention to detail. We could go back and forth as to what should be looked at when it comes to The Medium, but we will not go down that route. I would, however, like to address the points made in the opinion piece about the UTMSU financials and address the misinformation that was presented. I understand that it is an opinion piece; however, many students may misinterpret these opinions as facts. Unfortunately, situations like these can negatively influence students’ perceptions of the union. That is not something we want because the Students’ Union is here for just that—the students.
For the past couple of years, The Medium has been trying to insinuate that either the UTMSU mismanages the food centre or that UTMSU does not know what it is doing. UTMSU has always been open and transparent with the budget when it comes to the food centre. The food centre is a service funded through a levy that is collected from all UTMSU members, and whenever the money is left over it is returned to the operating budget. If there is ever a need for extra or new funding for the food centre, the funding is secured from the UTMSU operating budget, too. The food centre is not a separate entity from UTMSU, because it is a service offered through the Students’ Union.
We are always looking for new ways to improve the services that are provided by the UTMSU; therefore, we converted the space from a food bank to a food centre. We created a space that is conducive to learning and raising awareness about food insecurity, building community, and providing access to alternative good food.
The second accusation relates to funding for our 19 academic-based societies. In her editorial, the editor-in-chief asks club executives to look at the excess funding from the academic societies budget.
It is important to make the distinction that academic societies are different from clubs because they are recognized and funded through two different processes. It is also important to note that academic societies were created when UTMSU and the university, through the Office of the VP Academic and Dean, agreed to recognize these academic-based student groups and fund them through a dedicated pool of funds. The entity responsible for recognition and funding is called the Academic Societies Advisory Committee, whose membership consists of “three individuals from the Dean’s Office and three individuals from UTMSU”. The ASAC makes the final recommendations on funding allocations to each academic society. Each year, funding depends on program enrollment and previous spending patterns of each academic society executive team.
The UTMSU collects a certain amount of funds for the academic societies through a dedicated fee and the Dean’s Office matches it. The money is allocated to each academic society, while a portion of the money goes to the short-term funding pool and a long-term funding pool. Any money that is left over is re-invested in academic societies by ASAC. Money may be left over because of poor spending and wherein funding is withheld (obviously at the discretion of the ASAC) or simply because the societies did not use it.
This year we believe that societies will spend more than usual simply because they now have to bear the costs of AV (a minimum of $100 every time they want to use AV equipment when they rent a lecture hall on campus). The process of determining funding is explained to academic societies during training and again when we do their audits in January and June; these audits are to ensure that there is no poor spending and that the academic societies are fulfilling their mandates. The ASAC uses these audits to decide funding allocations.
The Medium was right in that there was mistake in the calculations presented on the page. The way the article was printed made it seem like UTMSU is incapable of doing simple math, but we appreciate the concern and suggestions—the clerical error that was made has since been fixed.
UTMSU would like to ask students to take a look at their newspaper that they also pay a levy to and to look at its operations as well. UTMSU puts itself out there to be criticized and acknowledge that it will happen. However, we would appreciate it if folks at The Medium would ask questions about things that appear unclear before making any such unwarranted accusations in the future.
On behalf of the UTMSU executive, I would like to thank The Medium for their diligence so far, but it’s time for the student-funded newspaper to start paying attention to the decisions made by our administrators because students also deserve an answer to their questions.
President of UTMSU
Also see this week’s editorial.