During the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) referendum period, which runs from March 24 to 28, Engineering students will be asked to vote on a referendum question that seeks to create a $15 per semester ($7.50 for part-time students) opt-outable fee for a Student Space Fund (SSF). The SSF would exist to improve, maintain, and create EUS space through capital expenditures, and to ensure that students who pay into the fund have a say in the use, maintenance, and future of space improved by the fund. The proposed bylaws can be viewed online on the EUS’ website.
Enrolment in Engineering has risen by over 50 per cent in the last decade, meaning that the EUS is representing and providing services to almost 1,000 more students than before. Without the SSF, the EUS will not be capable of sustaining services at a rate that matches the current student enrolment.
For instance, initial income generated from the SSF could go towards the Engineering Design Teams. Their workspace is being renovated to bring it up to critical fire code and safety requirements, an initiative that has already depleted all of the existing EUS funds available for long-term projects. By implementing new revenue resources, students will no longer need to depend on unpredictable surpluses of the EUS operating budget to fund large improvements to student space.
Furthermore, the fee will allow the initiation of other important five-year projects, which we—as current U0 and U1—students will see come to fruition. In particular, engineering students desperately require more room as our space is among the smallest of Engineering societies in Canada. Blues Pub on Fridays is over capacity, and departmental lounges are too small to fit Council meetings; the SSF could be the solution to these issues.
This fund is a concerted effort to look out for the long-term interests of the society. Not only do groups such as Engineers Without Borders, design teams, and departmental councils stand to gain from the fund, individual students will get more of what is probably the most undervalued thing on campus: space.
—Alexander Dow, member of the “Yes” committee and EUS Junior Council VP Communications, U0 General Engineering
There are many fundamental issues with this referendum question. First, the proposed bylaws are far too vague, leaving this fund open to be used for practically anything. This includes (as per Article 5.1): “Capital improvements to […] student space, […] emergency funding, and new initiatives […].” For a fund that exists to “improve, maintain, and create engineering undergraduate student space,” there is no apparent requirement that the money actually be spent on space at all; it may be spent on undefined ‘emergencies’ or even ‘new initiatives.’ It’s possible this fund will be depleted before a penny of it is used to fund student space.
Second, students are being asked to pay a fee that will not solve the underlying problem. The scarcity of useable student space at McGill is an important issue, but unfortunately, we are hemmed in by the constrained geography of downtown Montreal. Throwing money at a problem that is inherent to all McGill faculties and student societies will not fix it, as there is no way to purchase space that doesn’t exist in the first place.
Finally, we don’t need this fee. Money for space renovation has been coming out of the EUS operating budget for years, such as funding the recent renovations to both the Nook and the Common Room, with no impact on the services provided by the EUS. As funding for EUS projects comes from multiple sources, including OAP, Copi-EUS and major sponsorship deals, it seems reasonable that the esxecutive committee just plan more intelligently to take money out of future operating budgets for renovation projects.
—Morgan Grobin, Chair of the “No” committee U2 Electrical Engineering
There are no direct links to the bylaws and the question on the EUS website so here they are.
Proposed bylaws: http://files.mcgilleus.ca/SSF-bylaws-2014-draft
Apologies — the article has been updated with the links. Thanks for bringing this up!