Author: Kristine Totzke
Like the majority of students at the University of Waterloo, my relationship with the Federation of Students has been primarily one-sided. Whether we like it or not, we pay our Feds fees each term. This wouldn’t pose a problem if most of us could even articulate how Feds spends the millions of dollars it collects in fees. Further, many could not explain how the Feds’ budget process works.
There is exactly one explanatory article on the Feds website from 2011 on the subject, appropriately titled “Demystifying the FedS budget: Where is your money going?” According to this article, the Feds fees fund the service side of Feds operations. These are things like executive salaries, office equipment, and student-run clubs. This portion of the budget is prepared by a Budget Committee and later approved by Students’ Council. It was on July 28th that the 2013–2014 Feds budget was approved by Students’ Council. That means from the departure of last year’s executives in April 2013 until late July, Feds was operating without a student-approved budget. Furthermore, out of the 17 faculty Student Council members, only 4 of them were in attendance at this meeting with the VP of Operations and Finance to approve the budget.
Another glaring problem with this process is that the budget is approved during the spring term when the enrolment rate of students is cut in half compared to the fall and winter terms. This very may well account for the small number of Students’ Council members at these budget meetings. And for us students that are not part of Students’ Council, our ability to attend these meetings is crucial as it is the only means we have to voice our opinions about the budget. The lack of dialogue from Feds and Students’ Council to make students aware of these meetings, and how they can participate, compound these problems.
Natasha Pozega, the current VP of Operations and Finance, expressed her concerns with the budget procedures calling it “out-dated” and plans to rewrite it this year. These are just some of the issues that the budget process presents. As for the actual budget, the lack of accountability to students rears its head again. The link for the 2012–2013 budget on the Feds website actually downloads a budget from 2 years ago. Hopefully this September we will get to see a current budget. And hopefully we students will play an integral role in the creation of the next one. It is after all for us.
This article appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Chevron on 5 September 2013.