Eva Hyderman & Matt Siklosi
The annual Algoma University General Members meeting took place on Wednesday. The outgoing board reviewed their accomplishments this past academic year*, and remaining goals for the remainder of their term.
The AUSU president also announced plans to create a new student space on campus, the One Stop Shop, and to work with downtown businesses to foster student friendly around Sault Ste Marie.
The budget for last year was also reviewed, while the union finished the year with a fair surplus, the Speakeasy continues to run at a deficit. The board expressed confidence in the potential for the Speakeasy to become self-sufficient in time, however low event turnout was cited as a cause for concern.
General members in attendance were given the opportunity to voice their own concerns regarding the direction of the student union. Though attendance was relatively low there was significant and passionate discussion between the general members in attendance and the board.
Concerns are raised by general members regarding rising student fees, lack of dry events on campus, a lack of involvement with the people of Sault Ste Marie, and a perceived lack of transparency regarding the union.
Further concerns over the lack of specific representation for international students were also raised, citing the substantial international student population at Algoma University and unique social and financial situations as need for specialized representation.
The board assured the general members that international students are represented by the Diversity Representative, along with other visible minority groups. Regardless, they took note of the desire for the reinstatement of a dedicated International Student Representative.
The board announced the removal of two annual fees, the Algoma University Ombudsman fee ($3) and the AUSU Bursary Fee ($10).
The schools decline in enrollment (now reaching an 11% overall decline from the previous year) has had a severe impact on the union’s revenue. The board is proposing two options at this time to balance the budget.
Option 1 will involve a significant reduction in union spending, including club support and board spending**.
Option 2 would be to raise the Union membership fee by $17, from $70 to $87, in the fall.
The decision will likely be put to a school wide referendum in the near future.
However, since AUSU has eliminated two other, therefore the net increase in AUSU controlled fees would be $4.
Enrollment at the university is expected to continue to decline over the next 4 years, according to the board, and be a continuing financial burden for the union.
However, the outgoing board remains optimistic, hoping to see the union continue to grow in the new academic year.
* I.M Well App launch, the formation of the Street Team, the Speakeasy Renovation project, Day of Action Event, Extended Library Hours trial, Dinner with the Dean and the Student Mental Health Committee.
** Proposed cut back areas: AUSU salaries, conferences/travel, Campus Campaigns, Board
Training, And Club Funding.