UWSA budget consultations produce vague results

As meetings continue, verifiable figures, fate of Soma Café still unclear

The fate of Soma Cafe, a hot topic at last year’s UWSA AGM, still remains unknown. Stephen Kurz

A new University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) budget policy involving ongoing budget consultation meetings is intended to ensure equal input from students across the board, but critics of the policy remain skeptical.

Representatives of the UWSA finance committee held three open consultation meetings over the week of Jan. 16, and an online student budget survey will be open until Feb. 29 to gather more student input.

Lauren Bosc, president of the UWSA, said she hopes to see student jobs and funding for academic and extracurricular learning opportunities to be among budget priorities, but student input takes priority.

“I think that the really important thing is that it isn’t necessarily up to me. I’m here to talk to students and see where their priorities lie and then represent that,” said Bosc.

In light of events of past annual general meetings, the budget will be a concrete document presented at the 2012 AGM for information purposes only, Bosc said.

“At the last AGM, specific interest groups mobilized their members and were able to change entire departments. It was brought up at our board of directors that this could be very dangerous,” said Bosc.

After consultations with students and past directors, the UWSA implemented a new policy with a longer pre-consultation period and more consultation meetings.

Katie Haig-Anderson, vice-president internal, said the process is ongoing.

“We are gathering input and then creating a draft budget which will go through the finance committee and the board, and then we’ll make the draft available for more feedback,” she said.

It is too early to tell where student priorities lie, she added.

Budget numbers were not available at this time, said Haig-Anderson, and after a Starbucks opened in the AnX last month, the fate of Soma Café, a hot topic at last year’s AGM, remains unknown.

“We’re looking at the different possibilities for moving forward. A lot of people who come to Soma come because they love Soma not because they need coffee,” said Haig-Anderson.

Haig-Anderson could not say if the UWSA expects to break even in the budget this year.

Rob Holt, who ran for president against Bosc in 2011, is concerned low student turnout to the open meetings will make the consultations less effective.

Holt said he was the only student who attended one of the budget meetings.

“The budget is going to be presented to the AGM as a final draft which I feel is a problem if the turnout was the same as the time I went there,” he said.

Holt said the committee was receptive to his comments, but there was a lack of concrete information at the meeting.

“There were no actual numbers to be discussed. Then it’s kind of a one-way street where I tell them things I’d like to see and I don’t really get to see the realities of the situation until afterwards,” said Holt.

Holt said he looks forward to seeing the returns on Soma Café at the AGM. He also hopes the AGM budget will see the UWSA turn around some of the record-setting budget deficits that have carried over from years past.

Published in Volume 66, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 8, 2012)

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