Brock students will get the chance to vote either “yes” or “no” this coming March in the referendum for a new Programming Levy. As per the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of the levy, all first-year students entering Brock directly from high school will be charged a $100 fee that will be used primarily for O-Week.
Brian Horvath, Vice-President of Student Services of the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU), introduced the levy at this week’s BUSAC meeting on Jan. 27.
“This levy would create the most inclusive orientation week that Brock has ever seen,” said Horvath. “We would be creating a culture at Brock that would have Brock students engaged throughout the year.”
Currently, the majority of the O-Week, Frost Week and Wellness Week budgets comes from the sales of VIB (Very Important Badger) cards which retail for $85 each. Most cards are sold to incoming students during Smart Start, with a large marketing pressure on the BUSU staff to sell as many cards as possible.
“When I meet with students, the first words out of my mouth are to sell this card, rather than telling them what BUSU is about,” said David Berryman, Marketing Coordinator of BUSU.
The levy would give BUSU a set budget of around $400,000, based on the average enrollment of 4,000 new, first-year students.
This school year, the budget for events is based on the $183,000 from VIB sales and approximate $120,000 of sponsorship. However, because the budget is largely based on the uncertain and fluctuating number of VIB sales, BUSU does not have a set budget in advance that they can use to plan events. In addition, the numbers of VIB sales are averaging around 1,600 per year and are not expected to increase.
“We’re not able to offer diversity and we can’t take a lot of chances,” said Chris Green, General Manager of BUSU. “If we don’t break even for every event, we have to start cancelling events.”
An example of an event not producing the expected numbers is the Dzeko & Torres concert on Jan. 13 during Frost Week. Only around 300 students attended the concert, resulting in a total loss of around $15,000. The events for the rest of the year will most likely be more low-key as that kind of loss is a large blow to the budget.
Another problem is the exchange rate with the American dollar. Most agents that BUSU negotiates with are either American or want to be paid in American dollars. Since 2012, the amount of money paid extra to compensate for the exchange has risen from around $50,000 to around $70,000.
A Programming Levy would provide a certain amount of security for such losses.
“We would be able take risks because we could afford the losses,” said Horvath.
With the Programming Levy, all O-Week events would be free to first-year students whereas currently, even VIB members have to pay extra for the big-ticket concert. As well, upper year students would receive tickets for significantly subsidized prices. The money would also be used to encourage and reward the student volunteers who help out with the events.
Some councillors raised concerns however, that a lot of first-years do not attend any O-Week events and that it would be unfair to make everyone pay. The Programming Levy fee is higher than the current $85 price for the VIB card and there would also be no option to opt out of the levy fee.
Another concern raised was that the students affected by the fee, will not actually be able to vote since they are not yet Brock students.
Kyle Rose, President of BUSU, claimed that current students voting have a lot more perspective and experience that first-years would not have on such an issue.
The referendum will take place in March, with further details coming soon.
By-Law and Referendum News
The changes to the BUSAC structure passed their second reading and are now official. There was a certain degree of tension in the room as many councillors felt uncomfortable about passing the bylaw with a large amount of councillors absent from the meeting. Around 22 members were present of the total 45 voting seats.
However, Shanza Hashmi of the Governance Committee, felt strongly that further delays would not bring about any changes.
“We respect the councillors not present and their concerns, but they have had plenty of opportunity to come to the Governance Committee,” said Hashmi. “I find it redundant to table [the bylaw reading] tonight. The report will not change, and the reality is that the Governance Committee has a lot of other bylaws to address.”
In addition, BrockTV will be going to referendum in March as per their MOU. The referendum will address the continuation of the current $3.01 levy per student to keep BrockTV operational and able to provide their services to the Brock community.
Club Funding Requests
The Brock University Archaeological Society (BUAS) was granted $1077 for their scholarly symposium which will be held on Mar. 12. The theme this year is “Day of the Dead”, and will feature five professors presenting on certain aspects of death in the ancient world. Student tickets will be available for $5 and community member tickets for $10.
Brock Fashion HQ was given $4,000 as a loan for their second annual Panorama Fashion Show. The event will be held on Mar. 12 and gives students a chance to showcase their designer, modelling, makeup and photography skills. Early bird tickets are available now for $35.
To view BrockTV’s live feed of the entire BUSAC meeting, go to http://livestream.com/Brocktvlive/events/4747577