On Wednesday, November 2, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Council gathered for the Legislative Council meeting during which they discussed a proposed motion to change the Chair of the Arts Internship Advisory Committee, amendments to the AUS Annual Budget, the approval of ad hoc allocations from the Arts Student Employment Fund, support for the continued existence of the McGill chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG), and Committee reports.
AUS VP Finance Deepak Punjabi presented the annual budget for approval by the Council. This year, questions arose concerning a budget item allocating $592.12 to the purchase of AUS executive hoodies.
World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association VP External and former editor at The Daily Niyousha Bastani voiced concern that this was not an appropriate use of AUS resources. She proposed an amendment saying, “I would like [the budget] to be approved but with the budget towards exec sweaters being moved to the Equity Committee […]. It doesn’t really make sense to me why our money would be used for exec sweaters.”
This led to a debate on the discrepancy between the inadequate budget for certain committees, such as the Equity Committee (which was only allocated $300 for the year), and the funds allocated for items such as the executive hoodies.
AUS President Becky Goldberg defended the budget, saying, “the reason that the Equity number is so low is because it was taken from the budget from last year which was […] $700 […]. Less than $300 of that original allocation was used that year.”
AUS Equity Commissioner Jad El Tal responded, “what we’re concerned about is that it’s not that the number is low […] but because the other number is so high. For AUS swag, six hundred dollars, that’s double our budget.”
AUS VP Internal Kira Smith voiced her concern given that the debate was pitting executive sweaters against funding for the Equity committee, saying, “AUSec [AUS McGill Environmental Council], for example, has $350 and we would really like more money too, so while Equity is important there are tons of important causes that we could be giving the money to.”
This led to further debate concerning the Equity Committee’s lack of funding. The issue was resolved by a final amendment to the budget: a clause adding $200 to the Equity Budget. This funding will be diverted from the overall AUS surplus, initially proposed to be $21,617.64.
QPIRG-McGill is described on its website as “a non-profit, student-run organization that conducts research, education, and action on environmental and social justices” at McGill and in Montreal. This organization is largely funded by a five dollar opt-outable student fee.
While discussing the motion to endorse QPIRG-McGill’s continued existence, the fee’s opt-outable nature became a subject of debate.
Political Science Students’ Association (PSSA) President Tofunmi Odugbemi said that “the automatic fee takes advantage of lack of information and student disengagement. With the automatic fee QPIRG is in a position where the less students know about the organization the more income they receive. Making QPIRG membership non-automatic would make QPIRG accountable to its members.”
“A large portion [of QPIRG funding] actually goes to groups outside of McGill or to organizations outside which may be considered by some to be more radical and not representative of the majority of McGill students,” she continued.
In contrast, AUS VP Social Kat Sviknushin argued, “you not knowing where your student fees go sounds like a ‘you’ problem, not a ‘QPIRG’ problem […] QPIRG taking money from you and you not knowing how to opt out is actually not what we’re debating here. […] You cannot speak to the people whose lives its literally changed.”
Odugbemi responded that “as a visible minority I do not appreciate us sitting in this room right now and saying ‘the people we are helping, yada yada yada.’ […] I would just like to look at it as a facts thing […] My understanding is if the automatic fee is removed it doesn’t result in the dismantling of QPIRG, that they will still exist as an organization.”
The Council decided to amend the motion whereby “AUS include[s] conditions of the fee and that it is opt-outable,” and which stipulated that AUS publicize the endorsement. The motion then passed.