Photo C/O Mac Farmstand via Twitter
On March 8, the Student Representative Assembly passed motions to cut the Creating Leadership Amongst Youth Conference, MACycle and Mac Farmstand. These MSU services will no longer be operational for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year.
On Feb. 27, the McMaster Student Union’s Executive Board recommended that the operating policy for these services be rescinded because they were running over-budget and had low student engagement.
According to a memo presented to the Executive Board on Feb. 27 by Vice President (Finance) Alex Johnston and Vice President (Administration) Sarah Figueiredo, the decision to rescind these MSU services is a result of the Student Choice Initiative and a large operating fund deficit of $598,950 in the 2018-2019 academic year.
“Though the Student Choice Initiative is currently deemed unlawful, it is important to continue this work in light of ongoing deficits, financial ability, and whether or not they continue to fill a gap in the McMaster Undergraduate Community,” the memo reads.
Creating Leadership Amongst Youth Conference
CLAY is an annual three-day long conference held in May at Camp Trillium that aims to develop high school students’ leadership skills across Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area.
According to a memo presented to the Executive Board on Feb. 27 by Figueiredo and Associate Vice-President (Services) Martino Salciccioli, CLAY has low student engagement. While delegates enjoy CLAY, only around 70 MSU members, or approximately 0.3 per cent of students, attend the conference consistently each year.
Moreover, the memo states that CLAY has run over-budget by a total of $57,021 between 2011 and 2019. At the SRA meeting on March 8, Salciccioli added that attempts to reduce CLAY’s operating budget have already been taken in previous years. These efforts included reducing the conference’s length from four days to three days and changing the conference location from Camp Muskoka to McMaster University to Camp Trillium.
“All of the options have been exhausted with what to do with rebranding of the service. We’ve looked at shortening dates, we’ve looked at cutting costs, we’ve looked at moving [locations]. We’re currently at the cheapest place to hold three days and two nights, we figured if we shortened the days and nights it wouldn’t be CLAY as it is. It would be a totally different service and a totally different mission,” said Salciccioli at the March 8 SRA meeting.
In their Feb. 27 memo, Figueiredo and Salciccioli suggested other opportunities for students to develop their leadership skills in the community, such as the Central Ontario Leadership Seminar. The memo also references Empowerment Squares, Pathways, the Boys & Girls Club, the Space and the YMCA as additional organizations that offer similar opportunities.
“While these opportunities may not be CLAY, it is clear that there are similar initiatives in our community that function in a similar way to the conference,” the memo reads.
The fee MSU members currently pay towards CLAY will be replaced by a fee $5,000 bursary divided between several high school students pursuing youth leadership opportunities in and around Hamilton. It is currently unclear which leadership programs the bursary is eligible towards.
MACycle aims to educate the McMaster community about cycling as a mode of transportation and to provide student and community cyclists with tools, parts and volunteer assistance for bicycle repair and maintenance. MACycle also sells refurbished and used bicycles.
According to a memo presented to the Executive Board on Feb. 27 by Johnston and Figueiredo, student and volunteer engagement with MACycle is low, with four new and two returning volunteer applications in the 2019-2020 academic year. The memo also includes data from the 2019-2020 MSU Feedback Survey available from Nov. 19, 2019 to Dec. 18, 2020. In the survey, 790 students ranked their participation in MaCycle. Thirty two students responded that they often or heavily used services offered by MacCyle. Six hundred and sixty seven students responded that they had never used services offered by MACycle or knew what MACycle was.
MaCycle 2019-2020 MSU Feedback Survey Results
Additionally, Johnston and Figueiredo state in the memo that MACycle has run a total of $13,270.28 over budget from 2015 to 2020. Upon consultation with the previous MACycle director, there were few options for reducing the cost of the service. The memo adds that previous recommendations made in 2017 to increase service use such as extending service operations, creating a larger volunteer team, increasing the price of parts and creating a paid assistant coordinator position have been unsuccessful.
Johnston added that there are additional resources for bike repairs available to members of the McMaster community.
“There is a bike store right in Westdale, and if you want to get broader into the Hamilton community [. . .] there are a lot of different options for students if they need to repair their bike. And there are also some bike repair stations just outside BSB station, and that was a project funded through the Student Life Enhancement Fund two years ago,” said Johnston at the SRA meeting on March 8.
The Feb. 27 memo states that the MSU Maroons will take over MaCycle’s annual bike auction and proceeds will be donated to an undisclosed Hamilton charity. Johnston explained that the reason the MSU Maroons were recommended to take on the annual bike auction is because of the team’s large number of volunteers.
“That’s a team that we’re looking to rebuild and give a different purpose too . . . It’s also a team with a very large amount of volunteers that can facilitate an auction like this without adding additional work onto another service,” said Johnston at the SRA meeting on March 8.
The memo also states MACycle will be replaced by additional advocacy and partnership efforts between the MSU and the Office of Sustainability.
Mac Farmstand is a student-run farmers market that sells local produce on campus weekly between June and October, and aims to raise awareness of the importance of purchasing local food items.
According to another memo presented to the Executive Board on Feb. 27 by Johnston and Figueiredo, student engagement with Mac Farmstand has declined. There were only seven volunteer applications for executive positions in the 2019-2020 academic year. Out of 790 that ranked their engagement with MacFarmstand in the 2019-2020 MSU Feedback Survey, 45 students responded that they often or heavily participated in Mac Farmstand and 535 students responded that they never participated in Mac Farmstand or knew what Mac Farmstand was. Moreover, the memo states that since Mac Farmstand operates in the summer, the service predominantly caters to faculty and staff as opposed to undergraduate students.
Mac Farmstand 2019-2020 MSU Feedback Survey Results
The memo states that Mac Farmstand has also exceeded its budget by $17,421.56 total since 2015 due to low sales revenues. Johnston and Figueiredo state that reducing expenses would require increasing the costs of products.
“While it is expected to pay a premium for locally sourced goods, it is also important that prices remain reasonable. To generate an increased revenue, prices would need to increase further than they did this year, which is simply not possible and would lead to fewer students/patrons purchasing from the stand,” the memo states.
Concerns that other efforts to provide affordable food to McMaster students, faculty and staff would not be sourced locally were raised in the Silhouette. According to Johnston, she and the future Vice President (Finance) will work with the MSU’s food and beverage department to explore selling local seasonal goods elsewhere on campus.
“I can work with the and the future VP the Food and Beverage Manager to work with our existing supplier to provide those at Union Market . . . and even the Grind,” said Johnston at the SRA meeting on March 8.
The Feb. 27 memo states that local produce may be sold at Union Market in the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year and the grocery store within the Student Activity Building in DBAC when it becomes operational in 2021.