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Arts councillors discuss communal student spaces

AUS voices support for ECOLE project and QPIRG McGill fee increase

Article updated and correction appended February 26, 2015.

On February 18, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council met to discuss and vote on budget allocation, support for various campus organizations, and fee increases.

AUS Space Project

President Ava Liu reported to Council on developments in the AUS Space Project, a joint initiative with the McGill Spaces Project, Campus Space & Planning, and the Faculty of Arts that aims to redesign underutilized spaces in and around the Leacock building.

The AUS Space Project has been discussed as a way to make use of funds that the AUS currently has in Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GIC), of which roughly $180,000 will be available by 2017, according to Liu.

Some were skeptical of the idea, including Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon.

“This is such a huge sum of money that I think we should have a larger discussion before spending it on a couple of space projects,” Greenspon said. “A lot of the money can be put toward student services.”

Equity Commissioner Vareesha Khan agreed with Greenspon, and said that a survey should be conducted among constituents so that they have a say in where AUS’s money is being spent.

“There’s concern if what we’re doing is relevant to the students. There’s concern from constituents that we don’t represent people enough,” Khan said.

Liu later clarified to The Daily that the GIC funds are one of three potential sources of funding for the project, including the AUS Info-Tech Fund, valued at roughly $160,000, and the Arts Undergraduate Improvement Fund. According to Liu, the project would likely be funded by a combination of these sources.

Liu also said that students will be consulted about the project once more specific project proposals have been established.

AUS supports QPIRG McGill referendum, ECOLE project

Council passed a motion supporting the Educational Community Living Environment (ECOLE) project in its efforts to promote sustainable lifestyles for students on campus. In the motion, Council agreed to publicize ECOLE among Arts students, mandating that “the AUS grant ECOLE booking privileges under the External portfolio.”

Council also passed a motion to endorse Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill’s upcoming referendum, including a fee increase from $3.75 to $5.00.QPIRG McGill is seeking a fee increase to compensate for inflation, as its last fee increase took place in 2009.

Field studies fees

Timothy Johns, the academic director for the Canadian Field Studies in Africa (CFSIA) program, addressed Council regarding the program’s financial sustainability. The CFSIA course brings interested students to places in East Africa to study sustainable development.

Johns attributed the financial instability to depreciation in the Canadian dollar by almost 10 per cent since the program’s budget was last approved in November 2014, and said that although the program had excess funds in the previous years to offset the fluctuations, the funds were wiped out in the current year. To ensure the continuity of the program, according to Johns, it is essential that the fees for the program be increased.

“In order for it to be self-funding, we need a fee increase of $3,004, which raises the fees [to $15,430],” Johns said. “We’re obviously in a risky situation and we realize it’s a huge increase, but if the program’s not self-funded, it won’t run.”

A motion to increase the fee passed.

Council also passed a motion for the Northern Field Studies Program to increase its fee from $5,000 to $12,000 for interested students due to change in location from Schefferville, Quebec to Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut.

Other motions

Council also passed a motion to fix a redundancy in its electoral bylaws with regard to holding subsequent referenda on fees instituted by referendum.

Other motions passed included one in support of AUS departments working with the Ethical Business Practices Committee to ensure that employees are treated fairly, and another in support of the Active Bystander project, through which sexual awareness workshops will be held in order to create a safe space for students.

A previous version of this article stated that the redesign of spaces in Leacock and the Ferrier courtyard would cost $180,000 over three years. In fact, a specific redesign project has not yet been chosen, and the $180,000 is one of three funding sources potentially available to AUS. The Daily regrets the error.