Student union still won’t publish its budget

Students currently need to meet with the VP Finance to see details


Photo by Jenna Marie Wakani.

The University of Prince Edward Island Student Union says it will continue to keep the details of its budgets “for members only.” In other words, these pie charts with no figures attached are all that will remain posted on their website—the place where the public would normally expect to find details.

This comes after students demanded at a meeting last week that the union make their plans for spending easier to find, reports The Cadre.

That meeting resulted from a Facebook post that made the rounds. It said: “$700 of your dollars will go to the UPEISU over four years. Do you think that the SU budget should be accessible to the students and be able to see how they’re spending your money? Post this if you are concerned…”

But the student union argues that the budget is already available to members. That’s true—it’s available for students who trek down to the Vice-President of Finance’s office and happen to find her unoccupied. Or for those who made an appointment already. Who has time for that?

The UPEISU says that it is planning to make it accessible online, but rather bizarrely, students will need to log in with their student ID numbers to get access. It’s apparently that much of a secret.

UPEISU President Rob Livingstone explained in an e-mail that the budget can’t be public because of “the fluid nature of the document.” He explains that “projects arise after the final approved copy has been made or approved projects are cancelled.” He also says the secrecy is for “privacy” reasons because “we did not wish to force full-time non-student staff to disclose their salaries.”

Certainly no one likes their salaries published. But students deserve to know at least the anticipated cost of salaries overall. That way they can decide for themselves whether it’s reasonable that the average wage at their student union is $31 per hour, like it is at Simon Fraser University.

Why does this matter? Because student unions frequently lose money and students rarely ever find out. Can you think of a better prospect for making money than a license to sell beer and nachos to students? Probably not. Yet managers of campus pubs across the country lose reams of students’ dough each year. Just look at the financial statements of the Students’ Council at University of Western Ontario. Their campus pubs lost $189,000 in 2009 (although they’re doing better now).

Wouldn’t it be nice for students to know how much money their student union is planning to lose this year, so that they can support politicians who help keep student fees from rising next year?

Sadly, UPEISU isn’t the only student union that won’t publish its anticipated spending in an obvious spot for all to see. In my recent study of 45 Canadian universities only 35 per cent had an easy-to-find fee breakdown. More than half wouldn’t even respond to a request to see one.

That leads to the question. Have student unions got something to hide?


Student union still won’t publish its budget

  1. The budget is going to be available to all the students attending UPEI. Previously any student who wished to see it could see it. It was never not available. They’re going to make it MORE accessible by putting it on the website, though it will remain only available to UPEI students.

  2. I think that this article is unfair. First of all, to even question whether the salaries of full time students working on the student union are too high is ludicrous. These are university students that we are talking about, who have all the same academic commitments that we regular students have, but added to that are all the responsibilities of their positions. I personally witnessed a friend who took on a full time position on the UPEISU, who worked upwards of 40 hours a week, while maintaining her academic life. I think for all that, 30/hr is well worth the fact that they are constantly planning and organizing for the students, as well as defending them when needed. I think there should be a little less criticism and a little more thank yous. The UPEISU goes above and beyond for the students of UPEI.

    • It seems you’re taking this a little too personally.

      When you look at jobs available to *most* students, salaries don’t range from 30 dollars per hour. Naturally students who work hard for next to nothing, and maintain their academic life, feel a bit betrayed when their hard earned cash is used to pay lucrative salaries to people.

      Now I’d be the first to defend student employees, but there’s something to be said of relatively too high salaries in the public sector vs equivalent jobs having much more limited salaries in the private sector.

      Besides, UPEISU’s salary line doesn’t even look too high, 213,000 is pretty standard when you look at full time employees and executives.

      • The line you refer to covers only full-time employees. Executive Salaries are grouped under the heading Executive Salaries. The President makes over $22k in a year. Executive Salaries for 5 execs total $74k.

  3. As the councillor who brought forward the motion to Council RE: the budget, I feel some clarification is needed. The reason council agreed to open it only to current students is because of the fluid nature of the document. It changes often. While my initial intentions were to have it publicly posted, I bit the bullet to get council to more easily agree. Further, council agreed that permanent, full-time employees were not to have their salaries indicated in the budget document. However, we did agree that salaries of those in non-permanent positions would be listed. There are also further developments that will come in the next few weeks that I’m sure will remedy many of the arguments in this article.


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