Tensions mount at UWSA AGM

Soma Café lives to see another year, Aboriginal Student Council funding increases by $19,000

Record attendance and a number of controversial issues made the 2011 University of Winnipeg Students’ Association’s annual general meeting on March 25 a memorable afternoon for all. The three-plus hour meeting in the Bulman Centre saw the deficit of the organization grow by $20,000.

In the dark and crowded Bulman Centre, Gregory Furmaniuk paced back and forth. He’d just learned that less than 24 hours after being elected the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) liaison director, his job is on the line.

A motion to abolish the CFS liaison position was moved by current University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) president Jason Syvixay, citing that the work of the CFS should be ingrained in the entire UWSA organization.

By 3:26 PM attendance was dwindling, and quorum wasn’t present. For Furmaniuk, his motion as well as 12 others will be discussed at a future special general meeting or next year’s AGM.

“I think that it is a good thing that they’re reconsidering the role (of CFS liaison director) but I think that it’s really important that all the implications… are taken into consideration. I’m really glad that the AGM did not rush through the motion to eliminate a position that I think is really important,” said Furmaniuk.

On the opposite side of the room, dozens of students supporting Soma Café awaited the budget to be debated upon.

The 2010-2011 UWSA board budgeted for closing the popular café next year to prevent further lost funds. Soma has not made money since it opened three years ago, contributing to the UWSA’s budget deficit.

But the potential loss of student jobs and valuable meeting space gained a big response from many concerned students, sad to see the café close.

You need more hot button issues for students to get involved.

Jason Syvixay, outgoing UWSA President

Debate arose about the financial accountability of the business, as well as changes that could be implemented next year to save money.

In the end, student support prevailed and an amendment to the budget was made to provide Soma with $150,000 to continue its operations next year. The majority of those opposing the amendment were a part of the current UWSA board.

The Uniter contacted Vani Sathiyamurthi, the retail services manager from the UWSA, but she was unable to speak to the press without approval from the UWSA board of directors, who did not return our requests.

Another controversial budget amendment was the Aboriginal Student Council’s (ASC) budget increase from $6,800 to $25,000 as proposed by members of the ASC. Half of the roughly 100 people in attendance were there to show support for this amendment, which passed.

The ASC has faced immense budget cuts in the past two years, with many speakers proclaiming that the UWSA isn’t prioritizing aboriginal initiatives.

In contrast, several other student group leaders protested that the increase is unfair to be bestowed on just one group.

Attendance of the AGM more than doubled from past years due to these two issues.

“You need more hot button issues for students to get involved,” said outgoing UWSA president Jason Syvixay.

“Amendments like these can be unproductive, but today it wasn’t… but there wasn’t enough time to debate the issues fully.” 

2011-2012 UWSA president Lauren Bosc will inherit the projected deficit, which grew significantly throughout the meeting.

“Students came out and showed how important the feel our services are… this means now we can have constructive conversations and see what can be improved,” said Bosc.

Bosc says that the budget she’s dealing with could be more ideal, but prefers to look on the bright side of things.

“Taking into consideration that the debt is $70,000 less than it was last year should be seen as a good thing ... we need to embrace and respect that it was molded by students,” said Bosc.

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