Levy underuse doesn’t make sense

Still looking for answers on why the Food Centre doesn’t use all its funds

First off, I’d like to thank UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe for his letter this week about views that he feels should be shared with the UTM student body. I’d encourage all of our readers to write to us with any comments or concerns, be it related to our coverage or issues related to the campus in general. The more views represented in our Opinion section, the more likely we can have meaningful debate.

Now, to address some of Agbeyegbe’s comments:

Many of you may be aware of the large amount of coverage given to the UTMSU Food Centre, especially this year, but previously, too. And one of my main issues with the way that the food centre is run is that it is not given its full levy to use as part of its budget for the year.

For context, the food centre (formerly “food bank”) levy was established after students voted in a 2009 referendum in favour of the new levy “to support the on-campus food bank”. Part of the background of the referendum is that the food bank used to receive donations from a source in the community, which stopped in the summer of 2008. The referendum also mentioned that “in order to be a sustainable food bank, [the food bank] requires a budget hat will come from the food bank student levy”.

Now, as Agbeyegbe points out, when funding is left over from the food centre at the end of the year, it ends up back in UTMSU’s operating budget. If I were a student who voted in the referendum to establish the levy, I wouldn’t be okay with that funding going to other purposes.

Agbeyegbe defends this policy, saying, “If there is ever a need for extra or new funding for the food centre, the funding is secured from the UTMSU operating budget too.”

Well, I wonder, why the word “if”? Earlier this year, we published a story called “Food Centre usage increasing” (Sept. 28), which said exactly what it sounds like it did. In it, we noted that UTMSU VP internal Francesco Otello-DeLuca blamed rising tuition fees and the cost of living as reasons why the food centre was growing in use.

“The increase in usage is also due to rising food prices, especially on campus,” he said. “This directly corresponds to the amount of people we get using the food centre service.”

Also worth noting is that UTMSU has put in many efforts to lobby against Chartwells on campus. Another story published this year called “UTMSU seeks changes to Chartwells contract” (Sept. 14) quoted Agebeyegbe saying “The UTM Food Centre has witnessed a surge in student usage because of the unaffordable food options […] The university administration has failed to address the growing concern related to food security.”

Well, if food security is such a growing problem on campus, then what other reason does UTMSU need to allocate greater funding to the food centre? (Ebi, this is a genuine question.)

Moving on, I’d like to thank Agbeyegbe for the explanation on the academic societies levy. I’d like to point out that part of his defence for the unused academic society levy is based on the fact that “Any money that is left over is re-invested in academic societies by ASAC”. So, I ask again: why should food centre funds be treated any differently?

Agbeyegbe has requested us to ask more questions about things that “appear unclear”. So, here they are. I look forward to hearing your answers.


Also see this week’s letter from Ebi Agbeygbe, president of UTMSU.


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