The grand funding shell game

By Gauntlet Editorial Board

Last February, administration awarded the Students’ Union with $2 million of quality money to improve the student experience on campus. At the Students’ Legislative Council meeting on Tue., Mar. 21–in a classic case of tied-aid­-the SU voted to give $100,000 of that quality money right back to administration.

The $100,000 will get the SU’s name on a shiny sponsor plaque on the newly redeveloped Social Sciences hallway, the first of the Take Your Place projects where community donors are supposed to sponsor the renovation of 40 student spaces around campus to celebrate the University of Calgary’s 40th birthday.

While granting money to the Social Science hallway will undoubtedly solidify the SU’s already cozy relationship with administration and be appreciated by many students, the SU was pressured to cough up the cash before all members of SLC saw the final redevelopment plan. There is not a single student who would give $100,000 out of their pocket to a project where the final results are unknown, and if it’s not a wise investment for an individual student, it’s not a wise investment for student money.

To further complicate matters, the SU president, vice-president external and vice-president operations and finance were all absent from the SLC meeting where the vote took place, and at least two of the absent executive members were staunchly opposed to giving administration more student money. Administration insisted the decision had to go through post-haste at that meeting–or no deal.

The last two SU General Elections contained a plebiscite question asking students for their input on how the quality money should be spent, and both times creating new student spaces came up dead-last, well below the number one and two options of an undergraduate endowment and academic enhancement, respectively. This should make students wonder what the point of asking for student input is, if the SU spends $100,000 on an administration pet project, rather than taking student opinion into account.

The decision to give the money to the Take Your Place project could have been a good one. There is no doubt that the new Social Sciences hallway will be used–and enjoyed–by many students. But, the rushed way administration approached the SU for the money was more like a gangster demanding his take, rather than a mutually beneficial project.

It won’t be until mid-April when the renovated social sciences hallway is unveiled that the SU will finally get to see where $100,000 of student money went, and judge whether or not it was a sound investment. By then it won’t matter that the SU decision to fund the project was hasty and neglected to take student opinion into account because Harvey Weingarten and Bryan West will be too busy shaking hands, posing for media photo-ops and congratulating each other on working together to create such a fine new student space.


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