URSU disorganization leaves student groups frustrated and flailing for funding
Bailey Armstrong says the disorganization of the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) in trying to secure money through the Project, Event, and Conference Funding Procedure (PEC) funding applications has been “appalling.”
The President of the Regina Engineering Students’ Society (RESS) did not mince words. “Trying to get money from URSU is like pulling teeth,” said Armstrong. PEC are funds that can be applied for by anyone in the student membership that is in “good standings” with URSU, according to 3.1. Funding Eligibility in the PEC pack on the URSU website. Graduate students are ineligible for application.
After requesting forms for PEC applications on January 9 and receiving them nine days later on January 18, Armstrong said there was little to no instruction on how to fill them out. Another week later, Armstrong received instructions on how to properly fill out forms, but was confused with another engineering student group on campus. A long line of confusion followed wherein URSU mistook each engineering student group as one combined group in the PEC application process. According to Armstrong, limitations on the other engineering student groups were then unreasonably applied to RESS.
Ironing out this issue and distinguishing RESS as a separate group before continuing to follow the PEC application process was “concerning.” Armstrong said they were sent messages through an unofficial URSU communication channel for many of the answers they received.
“We are frustrated with the lack of communication from URSU as a whole,” said Armstrong.
After submitting their PEC funding application, they did not get confirmation that the application had been received until less than 24 hours before they were invited to present to the URSU board of directors in a meeting to receive the funding requested. After scrambling to organize schedules, Armstrong and her colleagues arrived at the place and time of the board meeting to find out that it had been cancelled. They received no indication the meeting would be cancelled.
“PEC is impossible to apply for,” reflected Armstrong. When RESS did present during a board meeting, they did not get their desired funding amount. Armstrong said she can understand how some PEC requests do not get approved, but money student groups are entitled to and did not receive is a “slap in the face.”
RESS did not receive student membership fee payment for spring/summer 2022 or fall 2022 until November 28, 2022. This was a month and a half later than in past years, and the last day for the refund being September 28, 2022. Armstrong said the only way they got the money was by approaching URSU for the money. The fact it had to go that far was “unacceptable.”
Bronwyn Heerspink, president of the University of Regina Politics and International Studies Students’ Association (UR POLIS), felt that she was in a “generally safe window” of time to receive funding for their event planned for January 20, 2023. “I felt like when we submitted it, we were confident we’ve given them enough time,” said Heerspink. The PEC application sent from UR POLIS was submitted on November 18, 2022.
From there, a consistent game of back-and-forth with the URSU front desk followed. Members of UR POLIS approached the front desk to see if funding was approved or rejected. Sometimes they questioned whether the application had even been processed.
With no answers from URSU staff, the event was pushed back from January 20 until March 3.
Heerspink said it was a difficult conversation to explain to community members who were acting as judges in the UR POLIS event that they would have to postpone the event to a later date. “We have members of the university community as judges, like very well-respected people aligned with this,” said Heerspink. “I feel really embarrassed on behalf of us that we have kept them in limbo for so long.”
When the PEC funding was finally ready for pickup, it was addressed to an individual member of UR POLIS instead of UR POLIS as an organization itself, and it was half the amount they had requested. At this point, Heerspink was fed up with the “disorganization” of URSU: “They’ve given us checks before; they have our information on file.”
Amidst budget cuts at the university, PEC funding is a lifeline for many student groups. Heerspink explained that they did receive $1,000 from their department in discretionary funds, but is not hopeful that this will happen next year.
“That’s probably not going to happen next year because of U of R budget cuts,” she said. “[If] we can’t rely on URSU to give us some money, how are we going to run things? How are we going to organize anything?”
Heerspink said PEC funding was eventually sent as a cheque with the correct amount and made out to UR POLIS, but is frustrated the cheque in her hands took four months to process correctly.
Both Armstrong and Heerspink agree that many of the people who are working at the URSU front desk are overwhelmed, and the desk itself is understaffed. Consequently, front desk staff are made to take responsibility instead of URSU leaders and staff members who oversee the approval of funds.
URSU stated at the 2023 AGM in March they had approved $60,000 in PEC funding to student groups.
Talha Akbar, general manager of URSU, explained he knew about the concerns on late PEC cheques landing in the hands of student groups. Akbar explained there was an issue in the final processing where he “wasn’t sure where final approvals were getting stuck.”
Akbar said they have fixed this issue, and that approvals for PEC funding are going much smoother with a turnaround time of two weeks. Akbar said the PEC holdup was “frustrating” when he found out about it.
URSU has seen a larger increase in requests for PEC funding since classes have gone back to in-person delivery, according to Akbar. The processes and policies that surround PEC funding need “severe review” so the process can become more streamlined.
“It is a long process to get these things [PEC policies] reviewed,” claimed Akbar.