A change to Student Union space booking policies may bar some student-run fundraising events from taking place on campus.
The new philanthropic activities terms and conditions will require students acting on behalf of charities and nonprofit organizations to pay full commercial pricing for renting space in the Student Union Building (SUB). In the past, all student events paid the same rate: $0.00.
This is problematic for fundraisers like Child’s Play, the largest student-run fundraiser on campus, hosted by the computer students association (CSA).
“Every year we end up pulling in about $3,000 – $5,000 from students,” said Graham St. Eloi, CSA treasurer. “That all goes to BC Children’s Hospital through Child’s Play.”
This year would be Child’s Play’s ninth year at UFV. Last year they raised $4,600, and the year before that, $5,200.
As a student club, the CSA could book space in the SUB at no charge, and their total cost to host the event last year was about $500, which went towards event security. This year, the Student Union has quoted them full price: over $7,000 to rent the space they need in the Student Union Building.
According to the press release regarding the changes to booking procedures, yet to be released publicly, “These changes represent opportunities to protect student money and our investment in the building.”
In the past, outside organizers have used students in a fraudulent way to host events for free. The new policy is aimed to protect student interests, SUS vice-president internal Jaleen Mackay said.
“If we said yes to that as a precedent setting decision, we would be filled with charities and NPOs all the time,” said Mackay.
The press release stipulates that, if students fundraise on behalf of other students, they will only have to pay “variable costs,” which includes labour, equipment fees, licensing, etc. Only student events representing an external organization will have to pay full commercial rates.
MacKay said SUS still wants to reduce the costs as much as possible. However, any representation of an external organization will still be required to pay full price.
“If you are fundraising for a charity, you’re acting on behalf of that charity,” said MacKay. “If you want to fundraise for students, i.e. for your own club or directly back to students in some way, to the SUS emergency grant or to contribute to our food bank, things like that, reduce fees as much as possible”
“This means that the benefits of the SUB go back to students — the stakeholders and patrons who paid for the space — not external organizations,” the press release said.
Many clubs and associations that book space for events they host under a charity or non-profit’s name will now have to rethink event plans, if they can’t find the funds to rent space.
“I think it’s absolutely careless,” said UFV student Sonja Klotz. “To say we’re a member of the student society but you now are treated like a commercial entity. A charity is not a commercial entity, there is no profit gained except profits that go to human rights causes or development initiatives like national disasters.”
“My issue is that we’re under SUS already,” Klotz said. “If we pay into [SUS] already, and abide by the policies and regulations the student society has for clubs, that should be enough … They don’t need to tax their own clubs and associations, that’s how you create enemies, it’s how you decrease student engagement and involvement,” said Klotz.
Clubs may be able to submit funding requests to SUS to offset the financial burden of renting space. There is not yet a policy outlining how the requests will be approved, and how much of the cost may be covered by SUS.
“I’m going to attempt to ask for the funds for the booking,” said St. Eloi. “They haven’t said if they’re going to approve that or not, they haven’t said anything about whether or not we’re allowed to.”
This year’s Child’s Play fundraiser was set for November 17, but the club is losing planning time by having to figure out how they’ll fund their event.
In order to afford the $7,000 rental bill, CSA could request funding from SUS. MacKay said that SUS may help CSA with the cost of space rental, but essentially would be cycling money back to itself.
“In the short term, I believe it will present difficulties to students, and in the short term, yes, I think it will restrict more than help for some clubs and associations,” said MacKay. “But in the long term, which is what we’re looking at, a policy like this, I ultimately think it protects students a lot more.”
“For me, as a student, that kind of scares me because we’re supposed to be the engaging, politically active demographic,” said Klotz. “We’re taught that the campus is the place where you can create these spaces for political and national engagement. It feels like charities don’t matter to our student society, and they just want to profit from it.”