On March 23, the Arts Undergraduate Society of McGill (AUS) announced that students had voted to create a new, non-opt-outable five-year student fee to continue funding the Arts Internship Office (AIO). Seventy-seven point one (77.1) per cent of students voted in favour of the fee, which will charge Arts students $14 per semester, and Arts & Science students $7 per semester for five years. After the five years, an endowment fund will be created through donations to continue to fund the office.
A follow-up question that proposed creating a student advisory committee to oversee the office and fundraising was also passed by 86.5 per cent. The committee will be comprised of students and AIO staff, and will have input into office operations and fundraising progress.
The AIO was previously funded through a grant from the Quebec government’s Ministry of Education. The grant was discontinued at the beginning of this year due to budget cuts.
The AIO provides a database of internships, funding for students participating in unpaid internship programs, and funding for students participating in research projects with McGill faculty. Students may apply to internships directly through the office, or seek funding for internships they have found on their own.
“The AIO is the only office […] that directly helps students in the Faculty of Arts with employment opportunities,” AUS President Ava Liu said. “Obviously there’s [the Career Planning Services], but that’s more for post-graduate [students] and the entire student body, while [the AIO] is just for students who are studying for a [Bachelor of Arts].”
According to Liu, after receiving notification of the loss of funding, the Dean’s office (Faculty of Arts) began looking for alternative funding sources for the AIO. Unable to find another option, the plan for a temporary student fee was formed. The dean held meetings with the AUS council to discuss the issue, followed by an open town hall-style meeting with AUS members. Throughout the campaigns leading up to the referendum, feedback was generally positive, and students did not form a “No” committee against the question.
“Once students became aware of the impending closure of the office and learned more about the amazing internships, advice, and awards that the office provides, they were quite likely to offer their enthusiastic support for the campaign,” said Ariel Shapiro, co-chair of the “Yes” committee and a student employee of the AIO.
According to Liu, the money raised from the student fees will go towards funding the day-to-day functions of the office, including paying the employees. All other programs run by the AIO are funded through private donations.
Alexander Shadeed, U3 Arts, has had help from the AIO in finding internships.
“Last year and this year, the AIO helped me secure an internship with the Montreal NGO Academics Without Borders,” he said. “As well, I received an internship award that helped me perform my responsibilities at my internship to the best of my abilities [….] Fourteen dollars is a price that’s well-worth the services, internships opportunities, and financial awards you have access to through the AIO.”
According to Liu, the dean of the Arts faculty and the outgoing AUS president will meet sometime before classes end to finalize the plans for forming the student committee.