Clubs and Societies Week reigns at UTM

All types of students came out to the annual Clubs and Societies Week at UTM from September 17 to the 21. A large number of UTM’s social and academic groups occupied booths in and outside of the Student Centre to showcase their events and increase membership. The noise and excitement didn’t die down all week, with students flocking to sign up for clubs and societies of their choice and see what UTM’s student life has to offer. UTMAC, PAUSE, SEC, the Forensic Students’ Society, and The Medium were just a few student organizations that were on hand to answer questions, hand out flyers and candy, and offer memberships or opportunities to get involved.

Many first-year students were delighted to discover that an academic society from their own field of study or a club tailored to their specific interests exists at UTM.

Many students also don’t know much about how these clubs and societies get their funding—a process that isn’t as difficult as it may appear.

Filipe Santos, UTMSU’s VP campus life, described the several steps involved. First, in order to qualify to receive funding, a club must be approved and granted recognition by UTMSU’s Clubs Committee and Board of Directors. A club is granted recognition on the condition that it adheres to the requirements set for all UTMSU clubs in the Clubs Handbook. The conditions include creating a constitution and attending executive training sessions.

On top of this, clubs must also be “in good standing” with UTMSU. They must pass their annual audits, abide by club policies, submit paperwork, and obtain a registered UTMSU clubs account. Some of the documents that must be submitted include the club’s financial and bank statements from the previous year, a constitution, and member and executive lists.

All club funding is determined and approved by UTMSU’s Board of Directors. The recommendations to the board come from the Clubs Committee, a voting advisory body that votes on club issues. The members that sit on this committee are the VP campus life, the president, the VP internal and services, and four directors of the Board, all of whom are voted into the committee by the entire Board of Directors at one of the first board meetings.

This year, Christopher Thompson (president), Santos (VP campus life and chair of the committee), Raymond Noronha (VP internal and services), Grace Lu (Division 2 director), Dania Hasan (Division 3 director), and Mark Levi (Division 3 director) sit on the Clubs Committee. According to the UTMSU website, the Clubs Committee will “do such tasks as creating new clubs, building new club services, revising club policies, helping out existing clubs, and other tasks deemed necessary by the CC”.

The Clubs Committee makes recommendations for a given club’s funding based on factors such as how much the club requested, whether it is a new or previously recognized club, whether the club passed its audit, how much of their previous funding they spent, the amount remaining in the club’s bank account, the club’s event list, and the club’s use of emergency funding. (When clubs feel they do not have enough funding, they may apply for short-term or emergency funding throughout the year.)

According to Santos, the Clubs Committee does not expect a club to spend all of its funding, but if by the end of the year at least 70% has been used for the club’s operations, it “shows positive and supportive use of the money”.

“If a club uses less than 70% of its UTMSU funding, then they will probably not receive increased funding, because the funding given to clubs is meant for clubs to use to hold events for their membership,” said Santos. “If they are not using the amount given or are misusing it, the amount may stay the same or decrease in future years to reflect that. Their remaining amount does not necessarily make it better or worse; it just allows [us] to make a more informed decision when assessing funding amounts.

“A club does not simply get more funding because they are holding good events. The funding process is mostly determined by financial factors,” added Santos. “We hope that all clubs are having good events and have great turnouts, but that does not solely affect their funding. Really, if clubs want to get increased funding, they need to make good use of the funding given to them in that year, follow through with their responsibilities, apply and motivate for additional funding, and continue to gradually provide more for their membership.”

The process for funding clubs is very different from the one in place for funding academic societies, which is handled by UTMSU’s VP university affairs and academics. This year, that person is Andrew Ursel.

The idea was that the clubs have their own kind of mandate, and that is more social. The academic societies are designed to help students who want to further their career, or want to have more intimate connection with faculty and the faculty’s research.

Prof. Jeffrey Graham

An agreement was signed between UTMSU and Gage Averill, UTM’s  dean at the time, to create an academic societies mandate. The Academic Societies Advisory Committee was also created at this time, comprising three members appointed by UTMSU and three appointed by the dean. One member is the chair; this year’s is Erik Schneiderhan.

The agreement requires that every student at UTM pay an academic fee levy, which the dean must match dollar for dollar. Thus, the students supply half of the funding for academic societies, and the dean supplies the other half. A formula for allocating funding to be allotted to the academic societies is calculated based on how many students are enrolled in courses and programs in the department.

Professor Jeffrey Graham serves on ASAC and is the faculty liaison to the Psychology Association of Undergraduate Students at Erindale, which was created in 2007 with Graham as the inaugural chair.

“The idea was that the clubs have their own kind of mandate, and that is more social. The academic societies are designed to help students who want to further their career, or want to have more intimate connection with faculty and the faculty’s research,” said Graham. “So academic societies really are involved in getting the students to know the faculty better. At the end of the year, ASAC looks at who’s done what, how they’ve spent their money, how many faculty members are they getting out to these events, and that’s really our measure of how well the money is being spent.

”The goal of this is to empower UTM students financially, socially, and administratively through creating an academic society that improves academic advocacy,” he added. “It gives students a direct channel and a say in what their program looks like.”

The agreement was re-signed in 2010, and will last until 2013. It also helps to “define and describe the relationship between UTMSU and UTM in all respects to academic funding”.

“Basically, the numbers of how many students are invested into that particular area is correlated with how much money that particular society gets,” said Di Cenzo, who was ASAC’s chair and UTMSU’s VP university affairs and academics last year. “Students are getting the benefit of the buck in that way. The money is going towards what students are studying. It goes by a ratio of how much students are invested into that particular program.”

Di Cenzo said that there isn’t a large difference in the amount of funding from one society to another.

“If you’re a really good club, you keep getting more and more. Our system doesn’t go that way,” continued Di Cenzo. “Because if you go by how [many] students are actually in those subject POSts, in those classes, you know how many students are literally invested into that, and that’s where the money is determined.”

“We really steer ASAC clear of that,” added Ursel. “[We] have a ratio system. It works extremely well; it’s a fair system. We make sure that the only way money gets distributed is through that ratio system.”

“You’re almost taking away any of the human aspect; you’re just going purely by the numbers,” Di Cenzo chimed in.

“To a certain extent, it’s about how active a society is,” Ursel concluded. “If you’re an inactive society, that’s really unfair to a lot of students. They have a certain amount of money allocated to them, and if they’re not doing anything with it, and giving nothing back to their membership, that’s really unfair to students.”

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