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Proposed Arts student fee would fund Arts Internship Office following provincial cuts

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Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi presented a proposal for the creation of a new fee to the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Council on Oct. 29. The proposed five-year fee for all Arts students would fund the Arts Internship Office (AIO), which administers the Arts Internship Program (AIP), as well as go towards improving advising and career services for Arts students.

Manfredi explained that part of the motivation to raise this fee is due to the Quebec government cutting a Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS) program that currently funds the AIO as part of provincial budget cuts.

“Money that funds the people and the structure that makes the AIP run will end this [fiscal] year,” Manfredi said. “I have a great Arts Internship Program, I have a large amount of money that donors have given us to provide rewards for Arts interns, but right now I’m in danger of not having an office to administer this program.”

Manfredi proposed the creation of a student fee of $2.25 per credit to cover this deficit. The fee would be implemented in two stages. The first stage would aim to create a source of funding for the AIO in the future by raising $5 million over five years for an endowment fund, from which the AIO’s operating budget would come out of. Approximately $1.5 million of that would be raised from $1.50 per credit of the total fee, totalling around $300,000 annually. The remaining $3.5 million is expected to be raised through external fundraising.

At the same time, $0.75 per credit of the fee would generate approximately $135,000 annually to cover the operational costs of the AIO. The difference of around $55,000 would then be made up by contributions from Faculty of Arts members.

In the second phase, the AIO fee would be converted to an Arts advising and career services fee. The amount would remain the same—$2.25 per credit—generating approximately $405,000 annually. This money would go towards enhancing the capacity of the Arts advising and career services, according to Manfredi, with improvements such as increasing the number of advisors, student advisors, and administration support staff.

“[They’re] basically two different projects. The first project is [to] get the AIO on a permanent, sound budget, so we never have to worry about what the government does,” Manfredi explained. “I still think enhancing career and advising services is important.”

AUS president Ava Liu explained that she had originally been approached by the Dean with the idea of creating one fee for the improvement of advising and career services, but after consultation with the executive team, they decided to break the fee into two phases to improve transparency and give time for consultation.

“For advising, […] the original idea of the fee was to, and still is, to support the salaries of a lot of [new] people […] who we needed to hire […]” Liu said. “We prioritize changing the system over just adding more advisors. To do an advising overhaul is the reason it’s called phase two, because it would take more consultation, we’re looking at doing a longer term project this year to figure out what we would like from advising, and then maybe in the Fall 2015 […] putting that fee through a question. This was my approach to the problem, hence why there are two fees.”

AUS VP Academic Erin Sobat asked Manfredi what the university’s response was to the government cutting of funding for the AIO.

“What has been the response from the provost and the deputy provost in terms of making up that loss in funding, especially given the principal’s commitment to experiential learning?” Sobat asked, referring to Principal Suzanne Fortier’s previous affirmations of the McGill commitment to offering all undergraduates opportunities to learn through practice and field work. 

In response, Manfredi said that the McGill administration understood the importance of the AIO.

“We’re starting to have these conversations,” Manfredi said. “They understand that the AIP is a critical component of the McGill Commitment.”

Manfredi continued to explain that AUS students would be able to decide whether to hold a referendum question in 2015. If held, the question would decide if the fee would be implemented at all.

“What I would hope to do […] is to have this question put forth to students next Spring, which would ask Arts students to approve a $2.25 per credit fee for the next five years to support the Arts Internship Office.”

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