News  Provincial budget cuts hit Arts Internship Office

Student fee proposed, AGSEM campaign endorsed at AUS Council meeting

The October 29 meeting of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council featured an examination of the future of the Arts Internship Office (AIO), as well as the passing of five motions.

AIO financial stress

AUS president Ava Liu, in her report to Council, identified the sustainability of the AIO as a primary concern for this academic year.

AIO currently receives its funding, which must be renewed each year, from the Ministry of Education, Recreation, and Sports (MELS). This grant, following a review by the Quebec government, has been cut as part of ongoing provincial cuts to education.

Council discussed the possibility of a new student fee, of roughly $2.25 per credit per student, that may be voted on in a referendum in the spring. In the first phase of the fee, which would take place over five years, $1.50 per credit would initially go toward covering the AIO’s deficit. The remaining $0.75 per credit would be used to cover the Office’s operating costs.

In the second phase of the fee, the whole $2.25 per credit would be used as an Arts advising and career services fee.

Liu expressed disappointment that services previously included in tuition may now require further financial contributions. However, she also noted that the fee could have advantages.

According to Liu, as the operation of the AIO would no longer be contingent on an annual renewal of government funding, the Office would be able to plan for the future with a far greater degree of efficacy.

“This provides us, as students, with direct input as to how we want the AIO to be run,” said Liu at Council. “If we are the ones who foot the bill, that gives us a lot more direction as to what’s going on.”

The fee was first proposed to Liu by Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi, who spoke at Council to provide context for the suggested fee.

“I have a great internship program,” said Manfredi. “I have a large amount of money that donors have given us to provide awards for Arts interns, but I am in danger next year of not having an office to administer that program.”

Both Liu and Manfredi stressed that the decision ultimately rests with Arts students, and that a potential vote to adopt these motions would be several months away, likely during a spring referendum.

VP Communications Max Drabkin also addressed Council, noting that the newly-formed Marketing Committee would be putting together a “Know Your Fees” campaign to improve students’ financial literacy and awareness.

Motions passed

Council also discussed and passed five motions pertaining to the AGSEM union drive, the Arts Student Employment fund, and a series of bylaw changes.

Motion to Endorse AGSEM Unionization Campaign
This motion was in support of the AGSEM unionization drive, which seeks to unionize undergraduate TAs and graders. The motion notes that “Arts undergraduate students are often employed as markers, graders, tutors, note-takers, course assistants and similar positions. […] These undergraduate positions may face low and inconsistent pay and working conditions.”

The motion mandates AUS to share information about the campaign through its social media and listserv channels, and serves as a formal endorsement similar to those made by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) in the last month.

Motion to Amend Equity Policy By-Laws
Citing that “filing an equity complaint can be emotionally difficult as writing a report can cause the Claimant to relive traumatic events,” this motion extends the deadline for people to submit equity complaints regarding incidents that occur in the Summer semester from September 30 to the end of the Fall semester.

Motion Regarding Renewal of the Arts Student Employment Fund
This motion proposed a Winter referendum question to renew the opt-outable Arts Student Employment Fund fee of $6.50 per semester for full-time students and $3.25 per semester for part-time students. The Arts Student Employment Fund provides funding for career or academic-oriented employment opportunities for students.

Motion to Convene Ad-Hoc Frosh By-Law Committee
This motion will introduce an ad-hoc committee on bylaws for Frosh, as the AUS Equity Policy dictates that bylaws extend to “all activities and events hosted, funded, and promoted by the Society and AUS affiliated departmental associations and internal groups.”

Motion to Amend the Electoral By-Laws
AUS election bylaws will be amended so that they do not include a requirement to advertise elections in student publications – this advertising cost AUS $905 last year. Instead, advertising will be done over listservs.

–With files from Janna Bryson