6 stupid ways student unions used your money - Macleans.ca

6 stupid ways student unions used your money

You won’t believe what they’re spending it on

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JalilArfaoui/Flickr

It’s the time of year when most students in Canada ignore posters imploring them to vote for student government executives. Although student unions may seem irrelevant, they’re not. They collect millions of dollars each year in mandatory student fees and spend it, sometimes on things most students wouldn’t support—if only they knew.

Here are six stupid things Canadian student unions did with your money. If this doesn’t motivate you to research the candidates and vote in your campus elections, I don’t know what will.

1. Spent it on big parties you didn’t attend

Avicii, one of the top electronic acts in the world, doesn’t usually show up in places like Windsor, Ont. Snoop Dogg doesn’t often party in St. John’s, Nfld. It should be no surprise then that the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance lost about $40,000 on their show in September and that the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union lost $100,000 on Snoop. The Kwantlen Student Association may hold the record though. They lost $128,000 on Jay Sean. Jay… who?

2. Lost it selling beer and nachos… to students

Entrepreneurs dream of winning the lease on a pub that thousands of twenty-something students pass daily. Yet, from The Breezeway at Memorial University to AfterMath at the University of the Fraser Valley, student unions are running pubs into the ground, sometimes losing millions.

One of the reasons Koerner’s Pub at the University of British Columbia shut down was because of “tension between the Graduate Student Society and the Canadian Union of Public Employees,” according to The Ubyssey. As a graduate of UBC, I can attest to the fact that Koerner’s unionized pub staff basically refused to serve customers in its dying days. It’s a shame the pub staff was unionized at all considering how many students would kill for jobs on campus with tips.

3. Spent it on partisan political protesters

Angela Regnier, former University of Toronto Students’ Union executive director, was arrested during a demonstration in Toronto where the flag of the terrorist Tamil Tigers was flown. The charges against her were withdrawn, but she managed to get several student unions to commit student money to her legal defense. The Tamil cause continues to fascinate the UTSU.

And let’s not forget how the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa spent an undisclosed amount busing students to protest capitalism at the infamous G20 Summit in Toronto in 2010.

4. Spent it to stifle debate

Universities are supposed to be places where people can fight each other with ideas. Student unions, however, often try to shut down debate. Anti-abortion groups are the favourite target, most recently at Brandon University where the student union is trying to keep a pro-life group out. And when right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter came to the University of Ottawa, the Student Federation at the University of Ottawa helped get her speech cancelled. In December the University of Toronto Students’ Union attempted to shut down a U of T sanctioned speech by a men’s rights advocate.

5. Used it to pay their staff a lot of money

It was recently revealed that McMaster Association of Part-time Students executive director Sam Minniti was paid a salary of $126,151 in 2011 plus a bonus of $12,000 and $101,116 in retroactive pay. Although such high compensation is rare, it is common to see elected student union leaders offer staff members raises and then up benefiting when they’re later hired as staff themselves.

6. Acted flippant after it was stolen

Haanim Nur, one-time president of the University of Regina Students’ Union and executive with the Canadian Federation of Students Saskatchewan, admitted to forging cheques worth $700. Although the money was repaid, both organizations initially refused to call police or recover the money.

What stupid thing did your student union spend money on? Tell us in the comments section.