Here’s how student societies spend your fees

Undergraduate societies receive fees from thousands of constituent students, with budgets in the hundreds of thousands.

The particulars of these budgets can be nebulous, so The Ubyssey broke down the budgets of four major societies on campus — the Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS), the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS), the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) — to find out where your money is going.

How we did it

Our analysis was for the 2019/20 financial year.

The CUS emailed its 2019 second quarter report and the EUS sent its 2019/20 working budget. Information for the SUS was obtained from the SUS 2019/20 budget online. The AUS didn’t provide actual numbers for 2019/20, instead providing projections.

Student fees and other revenues

For the 2019/20 year, the CUS had the largest budget at $856,850 while the SUS and AUS budgeted revenues of $240,000 and $171,145 respectively. The EUS has collected $232,043 so far this year.

According to the 2020/21 academic calendar, CUS, EUS, SUS and AUS student fees were $275.34, $45.09, $27.27 and $13 respectively.

While the calendar lists applied science fees as $106.50, $45.09 goes to the EUS as student fees and the remainder goes to mortgage payments on the Engineering Student Centre.

With the CUS managing a budget five times more than the AUS and collecting a student fee over twice as much as the second closest society, CUS VP Finance Eric Jin Cheng said commerce’s high student fee is commensurate to the services provided by the society.

“A substantive portion of fees collected go towards student services like the career centre,” said Cheng.

The AMS voted in July 2020 to reduce the CUS fee to $175 for the 2020/21 year to assist students during the COVID-19 pandemic taking online courses.

Red sales, the sale of the distinctive red clothing merchandise by the EUS, had an expense of $3,274.67 due to varying demand after factoring in revenue of $14,195.50. Incentivizing subsidies in the form of discounted reds came to an expense of $2,950.00. Expenses for the Engineering Student Centre eatery were largely for food and drink. Sales turned a profit of $842.21.

Services and programs

AMS operations delays due to the pandemic also affected the operations of the societies, according to SUS President Shovon Das and EUS President Emma Dodyk. The EUS incurred security and equipment costs for departmental club events, normally paid back by clubs, due to pandemic-related delays in reimbursement.

Free coffee in the CUS lounge for all commerce students has costed $4,515 so far with $22,000 budgeted for the whole year.

Cheng described the coffee expense, usually in the tens of thousands, as arising from its free availability to all Sauder students.

The CUS also contributed $277,566 to Sauder programs, the largest section of the budget and worth more than the entire AUS budget. This includes $200,056 to the Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre (BCC), $22,500 to the Spark orientation program, $43,000 to international case competitions and $12,000 the Brand Management Mentorship program.

‘These programs are key to career searches for Sauder students,” especially the BCC, Cheng said.

SUS academic portfolio expenses including events and programs by working groups such as Health and Wellness as well as merchandise expenses came to a total of $5,456. An Admiral Projects fund, counting grants, research awards, and employee salaries will cost a total of $38,188.17, accounting for the largest section of the budget.

The EUS publishes the Slipstick and Handbuk, the EUS yearbook and student guide, for $15,093 and $12,421 respectively. Advertisements in the books typically generate $10,000 in revenue, Dodyk said.

The EUS spent $2,323 on tutoring expenses, compared to the $3,900 spent by the AUS.

Over at the AUS, grants were a significant expense, with contributions to the Faculty of Arts, student conference grants and departmental club grants totalling $20,000, $16,000 and $30,000 respectively.

Building maintenance

The SUS spent $748 in maintenance costs for the Abdul Ladha Science Student Centre with an additional $1,471 spent on office supplies, furniture and water. SUS President Das said the pandemic had affected the building’s $63,000 mortgage payment.

“Due to COVID-19, mortgage payments were stalled for the time being,” he said. He added that the SUS made the payment after the budget’s end date of March 7, 2020.

EUS operations of the Engineering Student Centre (ESC) cost $8,185.19, including $4,098 in building maintenance — around $1,600 more than initially budgeted. Operations costs for the centre also included $4,812.61 for capital purchases such as digital signage screens, tables and other improvements.

Unlike the SUS, the EUS owns 50 per cent of its building. The ESC is also larger than Abdul Ladha, which Dodyk said is why building fees are higher for the EUS.

The Arts Student Centre, with construction upcoming, is being funded by a separate AUS fee levied at $26.29 for 2020/21.

Projected maintenance costs included $900 for the Meekison Arts Student Space and $1,900 for office administration.

First-year orientations, spirit weeks and other events

All of the four societies hold first-year orientation events, with the CUS Spark event costing the most at $22,500. SUS’s Science RXN is next, costing $19,237, followed by EUS Week E^0 at $10,329 and AUS KickstART at $5,278.

For faculty spirit week events, the EUS budgeted the most of the societies for E-Week. costing $16,013. The AUS budgeted $11,500 for Arts Week, followed by the SUS with $5,281 for Science Week.

Other AUS events include the Great Arts Send Off with a projected expense of $20,500, and various social events costing $6,150.

CUS hosts POITS, the society’s popular beer garden for Sauder students. Expenses totalled $9,041 for two events held so far this year.

The EUS holds other events including its E-Retreat and the Engineers Ball, costing $21,055 and $22,864 respectively.

While the EUS budgeted $8,000 for in Engineers Ball ticket sales, actual revenue was $7,595. Dodyk said ticket prices were lowered because expenses were lower than expected. Overall, the event ran approximately $3,000 below its budget of around $18,000.

The Iron Ring ceremony, which faced controversy when an associated external organization was criticized for “sexist” remarks, had a net cost of $0 for the EUS. Graduating fees collected from students are transferred to Camp 5 to hold the event.

Executive retreats

The four societies spent similar amounts for their executive retreats. The EUS’s executive retreat came to $1,381.29, followed by the SUS at $1,354.50. The AUS and CUS budgeted $1,250 and $1,000 each.

Other expenses

The AUS had a website management expense of $10,555.28 as part of its ongoing website upgrades. It also incurred a $7,500 expense as a result of being overcharged by a company for website updating services, in addition to the intended fees of $12,000, as a result of administrative error. Due to the company’s declaration of bankruptcy, the recovery of the mischarged funds was placed in doubt at the time and $7,500 from surplus was allocated to the website expenses item.

The AUS resolved June 5 to make one $1,500 donation each to Black Lives Matter Vancouver and the National Bailout Fund. It also donated $5,000 to the AMS Food Bank.

As per a referendum, the EUS made a $9,866 donation to Engineers Without Borders.

This article was updated to correct a graphing error, to reflect that the EUS student fee is $45.09, to clarify that the ESC is larger than Abdul Ladha, to correct figures around the Engineers Ball, to clarify that the Iron Ring Ceremony is paid for by graduation fees and to clarify that the EUS donated to Engineers Without Borders as per a referendum, not a ratified motion. The Ubyssey regrets these errors.