KSA student life budget to shrink next year, reducing funding for clubs

Student association criticized for still funding KPU events

Rosaura Ojeda / The Runner

Clubs at Kwantlen Polytechnic University may need to find alternative revenue sources to finance their endeavours in light of tighter realities in the Kwantlen Student Association’s budget, and newly implemented policies on club funding.

According to Manpreet Bassi, the KSA vice-president of student life, there will be approximately $80,000 less in the student life budget, partially due to a lower project enrollment at KPU. New domestic enrollments have been declining since at least 2012, according to KPU’s institutional analysis and planning reports, though international enrollments have been rising. Bassi says that there will be “a lot less funding, unfortunately,” but that the KSA has offered to help clubs set up fundraising techniques and find alternate funding.

KSA president Allison Gonzalez adds, “With the way that the KSA has been spending in the last couple of years, they’re going to have $80,000 less to work with.”

The student life budget includes clubs and events spending, and Gonzalez hopes that, “Nobody will notice any difference,” as a result of the projected decline in available funds. She adds the culture of club expenditures as of late has been that many club funding requests are being exclusively paid by the KSA, a practice of which Gonzalez says, “is starting to run them dry.” She says a built-in expectation exists where clubs don’t have to fundraise, because they never had to in the past when funding was more ubiquitous and clubs were less numerous.

She hopes that the changes, “won’t be substantial if we could start a culture now in which students are becoming self-sufficient and creating their own funds for themselves to use.”

The number of clubs at KPU is nearing 50. As they’re KSA clubs, they are expected to follow KSA policies, even ones that could theoretically put more financial burdens on them. During the Aug. 21 council meeting, the KSA environmental sustainability committee put forward an air travel policy that would see club members aim to reduce their carbon footprints when travelling by plane. That includes the expectation that flyers pack light (a plane uses less energy when lighter) and fly economy (the more numerous the passengers, the lower each dividend of carbon footprints). But it also means choosing direct flights when possible, which are typically more expensive, and buying carbon offsets from a reputable provider, which increases costs, if even marginally.

The policy passed with only one holdout from arts representative Simon Massey.

“I just got conference budget from the KSA to fly to Oakland,” says Massey, who attended a poetry slam event. “It can get really expensive flying direct plus the carbon offsets, and that extra money would have had to come out of my pocket, which is really hard.” The air travel policy hadn’t yet passed at the time of his trip.

“It feels like ultimately we will have less clubs going places if we force them to follow this plan,” adds Massey.

He thinks that those expectations should only extend to the KSA and not its clubs and their members. Massey maintains that he sees the necessity for the environmental philosophy, but he says he always wants to see more student life on campus. Massey says that’s difficult when financial pressure pushes on students to raise extra money themselves when they’re already divesting from the KSA paying for each and every funding request.

Gonzalez says that council justified the policy’s passing because of the enormity of the KSA’s sustainability mandate.

“We understand that students want to go to conferences and want to go away,” says Gonzalez. “But our planet is still very important . . .  and that bigger concept is part of the reason I think that council approved it.”

Massey speculates that going forward, with $80,000 less in student life money considered, the situation will probably mean less KSA-shouldering of costs and more requests for fundraising. Still, he believes that while the new money situation is unfortunate, the KSA could do other things to mitigate such an effect on clubs—like stop funding KPU projects, many of which Gonzalez told The Runner are projects that she thinks the KSA is proud of supporting.

But Massey thinks that it was mistake, for example, for the KSA to sponsor the KPU convocation in summer 2015. During a May 15 council meeting, $30,000 was pulled from clubs and events money and put into a budget line item called “outside event sponsorship.” Then, $15,000 was released from the newly buffed line item to sponsor the summer convocation. The motion passed with a two-thirds majority, which indicates not everyone was in favour of it.

Massey says their sponsorship took the form of catering, which they did through Grassroots Café and so ensured some return to the KSA.

“It doesn’t technically cost us so much,” says Massey, “But clubs and events never sees that $15,000 again.”