Requests to use Fed-Up funds raise criticism and concern

A consistent item on the bi-weekly agenda for the Brock University Student Administrative Council’s (BUSAC) agenda, has been requests to use the leftover funds from the Fed-Up levy. While the total money still available While there was still $150,000 left in the fund as of the BUSAC meeting on Feb. 24, the frequent requests that have all been approved, are slowly chipping away at the total.

This week, BUSU executives Brian Horvath and Kyle Rose presented three different requests. Horvath asked for $760 to install another commercial-grade microwave at the downtown MIWSFPA campus, which currently only has one microwave available for student use. Rose asked for money to establish a new BUSU position of Food Banks Coordinator. The person would be responsible for administering the food bank in the Social Justice Centre, and the salary of up to $8,000 will be paid out of the Fed-Up levy. Finally, Rose also asked for $5,000 to provide a free breakfast or similar service at Brock’s Hamilton Campus, where students have not been benefiting from any of the services offered here in St. Catharines at the main campus.

The argument for using the Fed-Up levy to finance these initiatives is that they are all in line with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the original referendum that put the Fed-Up levy in place.

The movers of the requests claim that these initiatives are helping make food more affordable, or providing a service that gives students cheaper options when it comes to eating on campus. However, there is some criticism that using the money for small requests such as this, will quickly drain the fund and not actually help the systemic issues of food affordability and sustainability on campus.

The Fed-Up funds were the hot topic at the last BUSAC meeting / Taylor Wallace

The Fed-Up funds were the hot topic at the last BUSAC meeting / Taylor Wallace

“Most [requests] are touching the symptoms, instead of the source of food affordability and sustainability,” said Stephanie Piovesan, a Social Sciences Councillor. “Spending the money in this kind of spirit is using up the funds and not touching on the [original goal].”

Anneka Bosse, a student member present at the BUSAC meeting, and a part of the original founding team of Fed-Up: The Affordable Food Project, though later departed, is concerned that these requests don’t address the bigger issues of food on campus. She talked about how the issues around food affordability are put into the spotlight, but that other areas of concern such as sustainability, healthy and diverse options and education are not addressed with the same attention or concern.

“Instead of [using the Fed-Up fund] for emergency food issues and affordability, there are other bigger issues on campus,” said Bosse. “We need to create an all-around healthy system for sustainability, rather than just affordability, and also address issues such as food insecurity.”

In other important news, Chris Green, General Manager of BUSU, made the announcement that Student CarShare, the car-sharing service on campus, abruptly went out of business and is no longer in operation.

BUSU initially signed a contract with the company in 2014 and was currently in the middle of negotiations to extend that contract. 1,114 students on campus have purchased Student CarShare memberships which allowed them to use the company cars at a low cost rate.

The initial announcement by BUSU, which was made around noon on Mar. 9, came as a complete surprise. An article published in The Finance Post in Feb. 2015 talked about the big potential for the campus, as the student market had not yet been tapped into by any car-sharing companies. The prediction by Michael Lende, CEO of Student CarShare, was that the company would have 200,000 members by the end of 2016.

A statement posted on the Student CarShare website reads “Unfortunately we couldn’t sustain the business model and we have had to shut down Student CarShare.”

“It’s unfortunate,” said Green. “We’ve been with them for two years and were in negotiations to extend our contract.”

Green asks any students that have memberships to contact the BUSU office and they will be refunded for the membership fee. He also said that they will be reaching out to other companies and will have a new company on campus by September.

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