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In the midst of second semester, summer might be the furthest thing from students’ minds. But the MSU and its partners are looking even further ahead: to Welcome Week.

As faculty societies begin to gear up for another year of planning for the incoming first-years, the Student Success Centre (SSC) and the MSU, as part of the Welcome Week Review subcommittee of the Student Services Committee, have just compiled their financial report from Welcome Week 2012.

The report comes in the wake of last year’s changes to orientation fees. In the past, incoming first-years had to register and pay for a MacPass, allowing them entry for the week’s events; they no longer have to, and are instead automatically charged fees.

In a campaign led by then-MSU president Matt Dillon-Leitch, the 2012 annual general assembly met its quorum of three percent of the student body for the first time in 17 years. Because it had the required 601 students, all votes passed were binding. And the students chose to implement the $110 mandatory fee for Welcome Week for new first-years.

The aim was to create a system with a widely bought but reasonably priced pass in order to have a “bigger and better” Welcome Week.

But despite the ample cash and months for all of the parties to report back, the finances remain unclear.

“This is our first year of developing what this consolidated financial report is,” explained Gina Robinson, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the Student Success Centre.

But David Campbell, MSU VP (Administration), added that of the current breakdown, “we didn’t find any drastic areas that are way off.”

The $110 spent by each student is split between the MSU, the Student Success Centre, off-campus residence life, swag and miscellaneous merchandise, and the nine different faculties.

Campbell noted that there was some chance a “few dollars here and there” might be shifted from one division to another, but that the total value of the levy would stay consistent, potentially being indexed to CPI.

Although the breakdown was good, Campbell and Robinson explained that the reports sent to them from the faculty societies were far from consistent.

“Some of the statements weren’t really well put together,” said Robinson. “They didn’t always add [up] properly.”

Each faculty received $11 per student, but most supplemented this basic fee with additional money from their faculty societies.

“There were some faculties we had to go back to and ask for a second round of reporting, but there were no major [discrepancies],” Campbell said. “There’s nobody we suspect that egregiously misspent.”

He elaborated by saying that the faculties had no real guidelines for determining what constituted a Welcome Week expense.

Things like summer rep training or post-Welcome Week rep appreciation create some ambiguity when it comes to budgeting and reporting. And certain expenditures, like last-minute rain locations for faculty day, have resulted in misrepresented budgets and false deficits.

With this in mind, the faculty expenditures will be confirmed, said Campbell, but he didn’t expect the differences determined from clearing up ambiguity to amount to a lot of money.

Both Robinson and Campbell described their new roles as “gatekeepers” for the faculty finances, which are compiled and streamlined by the Office of Student Affairs for the first time this year.

“I feel really good about it because that way we can account to the student body exactly,” Robinson said.

The MSU and the Student Success Centre, like the faculties, received funds from the guaranteed sale of MacPasses to all first years.

The MSU and its divisions of Avtek and Campus Events are responsible for putting on Welcome Week concerts; this year, the performances by the Sheepdogs and Steve Angello cost roughly $40,000 and $50,000 respectively, including production costs, making them some of the biggest concerts Welcome Week has ever seen.

Meanwhile, the Student Success Centre offered a range of programming similar to what it has in past years, including $16000 spent on the Summer reading Program and $10,000 spent on the IRIS theatre production. It also funded the off-campus students’ Sunday night social, spending $7,000 as part of their goal to expand programming for off-campus students.

Brian Decker and Sam Colbert

Executive Editor and Managing Editor

 

General Assembly (GA) has total control of the McMaster Students Union (MSU). It can recall presidents, change student fees and fundamentally repurpose the MSU and its services in whatever manner its attendees see fit.

That is, as long as 601 people show up.

That number represents three per cent of the more than 20,000 full-time undergraduates at McMaster, which is the required percentage to reach quorum – the level at which votes are binding on the MSU. Without sufficient attendance, the Assembly’s motions are powerless.

This year’s General Assembly will take place on March 28 and has a chance to break an unfortunate trend. Quorum hasn’t been reached since 1995, with attendance suffering since and bottoming out with a 25-person gathering in 2008.

“We’ve had some pretty substantial issues in the past couple of years that have gotten a lot of people out and we still haven’t reach quorum,” said MSU speaker, Jeff Wyngaarden, who will chair the event.

With a new marketing campaign and a few big-ticket motions already on the table, there’s a modicum of optimism around GA this year. The new campaign, which include signs advertising only “the601.ca,” has been part of a collaboration between Campus Events, Underground Media & Design, the MSU’s student life coordinator Michael Wooder and president Matthew Dillon-Leitch, among others.

“I think when you say ‘General Assembly’ – when the MSU throws its logo on different things – people sort of shut down and ignore it,” said Dillon-Leitch, who is hoping this year’s GA will be different than in the past 17 years.

“You have to make things a little different, a little more interesting, because the impact is really what’s important,” he said.

“It holds the Board and the SRA (Student Representative Assembly) accountable,” said Wyngaarden. “This is really the opportunity to

make sure they’re doing what you want them to be doing, and also to bring forward projects that aren’t on the table that you want to see happen.”

As of Wednesday night, Wyngaarden had received four motions for this year’s Assembly – the first two moved by Dillon-Leitch. The first would scrap the MacPass, putting in its place a flat $120 fee for all incoming first-year students whether they attend Welcome Week or not, subsequently increasing funding for the Week overall.

Second is a proposal for a five-dollar charge to all full-time undergraduate students for an annual, Roy Joyce Stadium-sized concert. With the additional funds, Campus Events could bring in a major act and accommodate more than 5,000 students for a free show.

The third and fourth motions are both for mandated MSU lobbying efforts, one for a grocery store in MUSC to replace Travel Cuts and the other for a reduction in tuition, along with additional grants for students and an increase in provincial funding for universities.

Motions passed at GA have the same power as those in referenda, which typically accompany the MSU’s presidential elections. Through GA, students can do things the SRA can’t do on its own – make fee changes, for example.

The MSU, which is distinct from the University and operates under a multi-million-dollar annual budget, charges four to five hundred dollars to each student yearly. With that money, it supports a governance structure, businesses and a number of services (including the Silhouette).

Wednesday’s event will run from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Burridge Gym. It is expected that more motions will come forward before the event.

Aware of the Students Union’s annual struggle to reach quorum for the Assembly, Dillon-Leitch kept his answer short when asked if he thought this year’s GA would draw enough people.

“I sure hope so,” he said.

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