McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office may experience reduced programming in the future due to provincial budget cuts announced last winter.
“Like other departments and units on campus, we have been affected by a reduction in resources and staffing provoked by a number of factors,” SEDE Administrative Coordinator Juhi Sujan said.
Since its establishment in 2006, the SEDE office has provided training in equity, diversity, and anti-discrimination education, as well as school mentorship programs and opportunities for community engagement.
The office has also expanded to offer an Indigenous education program, a tutoring program for children in underrepresented neighbourhoods, and an annual Community Engagement Day, which attracted hundreds of McGill students to 20 different community service projects around Montreal this past October.
“We are extremely proud of how far the office has come since its beginnings,” Sujan said. “We are a small office, and have done the best we could with the available funds.”
Lack of funding, as a result of the provincial budget cuts that took place last winter, currently jeopardizes SEDE’s ability to staff and to carry out the many functions that fall under its mission. According to SSMU Councillors and Sujan, the fate of SEDE is uncertain if alternative funding is not found, or if McGill cannot support the office financially.
“I don’t think the whole office would fold,” Joey Shea, Vice-President University Affairs of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), said. “The SEDE office would exist, but their capacity to put on programming and the types of programming would be really limited.”
Among those who will be affected are those who work for SEDE, and those within McGill and the Montreal community who participate in and benefit from SEDE’s programs.
“Cuts are going to result in less services, less programs, and reductions to their already extremely stretched staff,” SSMU Clubs and Services Representative Zachary Rosentzveig said. “There is no fat to be cut at SEDE. Any cuts that come in would cut into meat and bone.”
Although SEDE is an office under the McGill administration’s jurisdiction, a motion passed at the SSMU Winter 2013 General Assembly mandates SSMU to support SEDE in gaining adequate financial support.
According to Shea, SSMU is currently undecided about the method through which they will fulfill that mandate. However, SSMU has specifically chosen not to create student fees to support SEDE.
“As much as we love SEDE and think that it’s so incredibly important to the university, it just wasn’t appropriate for us to ask students to pay for something that the university should be paying for out of its operating budget,” Shea said.
Currently, there are no alternative solutions to the funding problem, either within SSMU or on the administrative end. Meanwhile, Rosentzveig said there have been ongoing conversations between SSMU and the McGill administration to try to address the funding problems.
In her most recent SSMU Council report, Shea expressed that she would be holding a campaign in support of increased funding for SEDE.
“I don’t really know what form the campaign will take,” she said. “I imagine a letter-writing campaign to the [campus media outlets] from students in support, or directly to the provost of the university who sets the budget.”