The Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) voted in a general council meeting on October 6 to allow an expenditure of $4,320 for mobile phones and plans for executives.
The budget allocation, which was brought to council by SUS President Akshay Rajaram, passed with 14 councillors for and 9 against.
According to Rajaram, the mobile devices, iPhone 4’s, will be used exclusively for business and will be passed on to incoming executives from year to year.
SUS Executive Revenue Officer Akal Sethi explained that the “reason we chose to get a smart phone, in this case the iPhone, is the amount of emails we receive per day. It’s nearly impossible to handle such an amount, say 50 to 60 emails per day, if you’re only accessing them on your computer.”
“It helps us communicate more efficiently,” he continued. “Increasing our speed and our response time makes us plan events better, helps us solve problems better.”
Rajaram agreed, explaining that “one of the biggest issues is that we’re all full time students, and sometimes you can’t pick up your phone in class. So sending an email is a lot easier and a lot more discrete than answering your phone.”
Not everyone on Council, however, agreed on the rationale for the expense of the phones.
According to SUS VP Finance Elaine Xie, when the 2011-2012 budget was originally presented to council in late September, the allocation for cell phones had to be tabled because it was such a “contentious issue.”
Science Senator Max Luke explained that concerns included how personal usage of the cell phones would be regulated, and whether using student dollars for mobile devices was justified.
“I’m a senator, and I know that tons of other people, like councillors…and all the other [faculty societies], and they seem to be able to do just fine, and I’m fairly sure that we receive a similar volume of emails,” said Luke.
“They claim it’s for efficiency’s sake,” he continued, “but I don’t think it will be more efficient, and, honestly, I don’t think that’s the rationale behind it. I think part of the rationale behind these phones is that it’s just a cool gadget.”
Luke also expressed concern that the budget allocation within SUS would set a precedent for other undergraduate faculty societies to follow suit.
SUS is not the first student society at McGill to incorporate cell phone expenses into their budget. SSMU executives have been given mobile phones for the past four years for work related uses.
According to Carol Fraser, SSMU VP Clubs and Services, the added yearly expense is worthwhile because it “helps the executives be more accountable to students and more efficient in a lot of ways.”
“I think it’s really useful, it makes executives a lot easier to get in touch with, and it’s nice because I know that, for myself, the bill, if it wasn’t covered by SSMU, would be a lot financially,” she said.
When asked whether the expense for undergraduate faculty societies was justified, Fraser said, “I think it’s really useful [with SSMU]. So if they have the same kinds of needs, then yes, for sure.”