BY DUY HUYNH
What would you want a portion of your tuition going toward? Thursday night’s concert or organizing a racial protest down Yonge St.?
That’s one of numerous questions many at York University are pondering after news surfaced that the institution’s former Student Union VP Equity, Alexandria Williams, donated $7,500 to Black Lives Matter Toronto last year.
Although Sheridan’s Student Union hasn’t donated funds anywhere near that amount to any non school-related organizations, they have dealt with controversy over an anti-abortion advocacy group, the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), protesting at Trafalgar Campus earlier this month.
The college acted quickly on the situation, informing the Sheridan community with mass emailed precautions: “Sheridan is committed to providing a safe and welcoming campus environment and we understand that some members of our community may find the CCBR’s materials upsetting.” The email added that security teams were posting warning signs to students that may be offended.
On the contrary side of things, in the same academic year that saw former U of T Student Union executive director and Black Lives Matter member Sandra Hudson sued for an alleged fraudulent $277,508 severance deal, York University is also dealing with a conflict of interest with Black Lives Matter.
“One hundred per cent conflict of interest,” says editorial writer Michael Burton, “Honestly, it’s business as usual for student politics at York. It’s a total joke. They have general meetings and students get upset, for whatever reason, voice their concerns, and the students get silenced,”
Burton, who was Editor-in-Chief of York University’s Excalibur weekly newspaper at the time of the donations, felt that the York Federation of Students didn’t utilize their resources to their best efficiency and were too easily swayed by Williams’ proposal.
“Kids get caught up in the clubs here at York. All they want the SU to do is provide them with club space, materials, events, the fun, and not the serious. Nobody really notices beyond that.”
Williams, who also happens to be a co-founder of BLM Toronto, helped convince the York Federation of Students to approve a donation of $2,500 to Black Lives Matter in August 2015 – the only donation at the time the YSF made to any organization. A second donation doubling the first one for an additional $5,000 to BLM was approved Nov. 30, 2015. Black Lives Matter Toronto representatives were unavailable for comment.
Although the York Federation of Students’ budget for 2015-2016 was $3,104,640, only $270,000 was made available to fund the university’s 503 student clubs – which is approximately $536.78 made available for each club if they were to be divided equally.
For comparison, Sheridan Student Union’s 2015-2016 budget was $4,197,834 – more than $1 million difference to York, with $110,902 being allocated toward the college’s 69 clubs. Approximately $1,607.27 would be made available to each club if they were to be divided equally.
“We weren’t given much last year,” says Aman Goklani, VP of Finance Operations for York’s Meatless Monday club, a group that promotes reducing meat consumption during the week.
Goklani explained the need for clubs such as his own to have additional funds to be able to run more on campus events for students. “$450 can only do so much for a club that revolves around food for an entire school year. For a couple events, we’ve had to pay out of pocket to be able to pull off some events.”
Club executives were left in the dark with their concerns when the YFS granted $7,500 to Black Lives Matter, some viewing the donations as unfair to the rest, as it technically breaches several clauses in the York Federation of Student Club Funding Policy, notably clause 1.16: “Club funding will not be granted to fund political campaigns (i.e. canvassing).”
“I just hope there’s some more transparency between institution’s student unions and their respective clubs in the coming years.”