In the face of McGill’s impending $38-million budget cut over the next two years, the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) passed a referendum on March 18 to create a new emergency fund requiring full-time students to pay an additional $40 per semester and part-time students to pay an additional $20 per semester.
The Engineering Undergraduate Support Fund (EUSF) will provide an extra $200,000 per year to the Faculty of Engineering. Simon Zhu, president of the EUS and one of the fund’s creators, wrote in an email to The Daily that the Faculty of Engineering expects a budget cut of approximately 3 to 5 per cent.
In the referendum, 67.5 per cent of undergraduate students supported the EUSF, 25.3 per cent opposed the fund, and the remainder abstained.
Zhu also addressed student concerns surrounding transparency on how the funds will be spent, as well as concerns on the quality of Teaching Assistants (TAs).
Some of the concerns, Zhu said, regard the operation rather than the creation of the fund. He said that the fund incorporates measures to address the issue of transparency, such as having the faculty annually issue a report describing how EUSF money is allocated.
Students were also concerned about the tendency for student fees to exist indefinitely. “While I personally think there is a ton of long-term potential for this fund, the last thing we want is for McGill to find an ‘excuse’ to under-fund the Engineering faculty because the EUSF is providing an extra $200,000 per year,” wrote Zhu.
The EUS felt it necessary to set an expiration date of two years for the fund, which aligns with the projected time frame of the budget cuts from the government. To continue the fund past this two-year time frame, another referendum would have to be initiated.
Zhu pointed out that student leaders did not want the fund to become a burden on students instead of McGill’s responsibility.
“I wholeheartedly agreed [with these concerns] but also acknowledged the unfortunate and disappointing reality of our university’s financial situation, which required immediate action,” Zhu wrote.
Zhu also noted that the EUSF extends beyond the authority of the present EUS fee in that it will provide financial resources for student services, such as TAs, lab technicians, and various support staff.
The creation of the EUSF was inspired by the Engineering department’s existing Equipment Fund, which requires full-time students to pay a non opt-outable fee of $50 per semester. This fund, Zhu said, has been in effect for the Engineering Faculty over the past twenty years.
However, the EUSF committee will be smaller than that of the Equipment Fund, a change Zhu sees as for the better.
“A smaller committee will remove any potential for politics, since each department will be vying for this fund, empower students to make decisions while still maintaining perspective […] with the help of the Associate Dean and Director, and also make it easier to schedule meetings,” he said.
The EUSF’s committee will consist of the President of the EUS, the departmental presidents, the Director of the McGill Engineering Student Center, and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education.