Eli Ridder | Analysis
The Avro Post has requested a more in-depth, or line-by-line, operating budget from IGNITE for nearly two years now, since the publication’s inception, but the student union has never given one up.
It hasn’t been alone in this. Several students and IGNITE candidates have also called for more transparency for the student union’s finances.
But how does the budget document from the student government at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber stack up against counterparts across Canada?
First off, the operating budget of IGNITE, funded by about $75 in student fees from each student for an $11 million budget each school year, is detailed in six categories.
These sections are split into governance, events, administration, communications, capital and the most costly: services. Each category has up to five sub-headings.
The problem with this infographic, according to student journalists and transparency critics, is that it does not reveal the specifics of where hundreds of thousands of dollars are going.
For example, $45,000 was set aside for “advocacy” in last year’s budget, and for this fall, $40,000 was set aside. It is not clear why this decision was made or how it breaks down.
On the other side of the story, an IGNITE executive back in spring 2018 said they produce an infographic because it engages students more and is easier to understand.
The Avro Post asked why not publish a more in-depth budget beside it for those that wanted to dig deeper, but there was never a response.
This was new though: IGNITE Executive Director Ercole Perrone told students during the Mar. 27 Annual General Meeting that individuals could visit the offices to get more detailed information.
However, the student union has repeatedly ignored requests from The Avro Post to get a line-by-line budget. A Board director told the publication on Saturday that financial decisions on the specific subheadings are split into decision-making committees.
This is because it would be impractical for the Board of Directors — who are in charge of financial oversight — to vote on each line, the director explained.
However, there is no public document that The Avro Post can find derailing the different committees, unlike the Ontario College of Art and Design’s student union that goes through the effort of detailing each committee and the roles they play.
This week, The Avro Post will be joining the Humber Et Cetera in looking for answers at the IGNITE offices at Humber College North Campus regarding specific budgetary items and how student money is spent over the year.
It comes as posters were taped to the doors of the IGNITE offices and across North Campus calling for a the release of a line-by-line budget by an anonymous individual.
How does it stack up?
There is a brief backstory to the budget issues. There is more, dating back to the highly controversial rebrand in 2016, but that can be explored elsewhere.
But a lot of the frustration over the budget infographic starts with the fact that there is no other post-secondary institution student union that only releases a half-page graphic interpretation of their operating budget.
The 2018-2019 operating budget for the University of Guelph is 20 pages long, the George Brown Student Assiociation document has 12 pages and the University of Waterloo’s student union publishes hundreds of budget lines digitally.
With the only cases where there does not appear to be a budget published by some student unions, a lengthy audit is posted after the school year by an independent company.
IGNITE also has an annual audit, however, like the budget, it does not go much further than the infographics. For example, it only details $37,814 spent on “advocacy” during the 2017-2018 school year.
Critics say it makes it hard for candidates who are running to make changes at the student union to know where money is being spent and look at how that could be changed. Others say it is a blatant lack of transparency.
The Avro Post, however, is seeking a full breakdown so that accurate reporting can be carried out detailing how the $75 fee students pay impact their lives during their enrolment at either Humber College or the University of Guelph-Humber.
Image of budget numbers from The Avro Post.