Queer as votes
The campus gender and sexuality centre prepares for its upcoming referendum
The dollar amount is low, but for UR Pride, the stakes are high.
On Jan. 19, UR Pride is hoping that students will elect to add a small fee to their annual tuition – $1 per semester for full-time students and $0.50 for part-timers – with an option to opt-out. According to executive director Lisa Smith, the centre doesn’t want to be wholly dependent on grants from the U of R Students’ Union for its annual funding.
“Each year, we apply to URSU for funding, and usually they say, ‘Yes,’” Smith said.
The grant given to UR Pride each year is approximately $20,000. While the group consistently receives funding from URSU, there are no bylaws in place preventing the students’ union from pulling that funding.
“All we are asking for from students is what we have been getting in the past from URSU,” Smith said.
UR Pride supports diversity on campus and the centre is open to all students. The centre is non-profit LGBTQ service provider for the university, and has started on-campus initiatives like Positive Space and the Queer Youth Group.
UR Pride is currently the only student centre that does not have fees collected directly from the students.
The budget for UR Pride is roughly $43,000 a year; $20,000 of that comes from URSU, $20,000 comes directly from the university, and $3,000 comes from fundraising. The centre pays $30,000 a year for full-time staff members, and around $10,000 a year for events, advertising, books to add to its library collection, and workshops.
This will not be the first time UR Pride has held a referendum to collect levies. Back in 2008, when the group was called GBLUR Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, it was looking to collect $7 annually from full-time students and $3.50 from part-time students. Then, 716 students voted “no,” and 512 students voted “yes.”
Nathan Seckinger, the GBLUR executive director at the time, said the reason for the loss was due to students not knowing where the money was going and the fact that students did not want to pay for a service they do not use.
While Smith is hopeful the students will vote “yes,” she is aware that there is also a chance the referendum will not pass.
“There is always a little bit of worry, but I am hoping that people realize that we’re not asking for a lot,” she said.