This is a sponsored post brought to you by the Student Success Centre. The Silhouette is not responsible for anything written in the article.
By Jeff Low (Student Success Centre)
The world of investing can be complicated and full of unfamiliar terms and concepts.
Additionally, as a student, you may think that it’s too early to start thinking about investing — that investing is only for people who are already wealthy and “successful.” This is one of many common misconceptions students and other younger people have about investing, according to Michelle Hung, AKA the Sassy Investor. The fact is, students can enter the world of investing now through gathering information, exploring their options and planning.
Michelle Hung is a chartered financial analyst (CFA) and investing expert who’s worked for seven years in investment banking and venture capital. She’s also an author and content creator, having contributed to Canadian Money Saver Magazine, hosted webinars for Questrade and developed TikToks for the budgeting app Cleo. To date, she’s taught people how to invest (over $2 million total!) and save on average over $9,000 per year.
We had a chance to chat with Michelle Hung and ask her some common investing questions. Here’s what she shared.
Question: How much should I have in my savings before I start investing?
Answer (Michelle Hung, the Sassy Investor): You should have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your savings account, but you can start investing when you feel comfortable at the level of savings you’re at. For example, if you have two months worth of expenses in your savings account (e.g. $6,000, if each month you spend $3,000 on living expenses), and you’re comfortable with that, you can start your investing process while continuing to build up your savings fund.
Q: How do I start investing? What’s the difference between using my bank’s investment team and an independent broker?
A: The first thing you need to do is educate yourself so you know exactly what to invest in and what the risks are. Managing your risk and expectations is critical. Bank-owned brokerages are generally more expensive when it comes to fees, like trading commissions, and they may even charge a quarterly maintenance fee if your balance does not exceed a certain amount (e.g. If you don’t have at least $15,000 in your investment account, you’ll be charged $25 per quarter). Independent brokers like Questrade or Wealthsimple Trade are cheaper. They offer commission-free purchases on ETFs, and they don’t charge maintenance fees (a fee if your account balance falls below a certain amount).
Q: Is there a good website or app I should use to help me invest?
A: Check out Wealthsimple or Questwealth Portfolios if you decide to use a robo-advisor to help you manage/build your own investment portfolio.
Q: What are the requirements, pros and cons of using a platform and trading on my own?
A: Trading on your own is the cheapest option — which means you’re not paying a management fee for someone to manage your investment portfolio. This gives you the most freedom in terms of what you want to put in your portfolio. However, you have to do this work on your own, including the management of it.
If you decide to go with a robo-advisor, which means having your portfolio managed for a fee, you don’t have to worry about how to build and manage your portfolio — they do it for you. Wealthsimple charges an annual fee anywhere between 0.4% to 0.5%, plus the cost of the ETFs. Questwealth Portfolios charges anywhere from 0.2% to 0.25%, plus the cost of the ETFs.
Q: What are ETFs? What are mutual funds? Do you recommend one over the other?
A: “ETF” is an acronym for “exchange-traded funds,” which means these funds can be purchased on the stock exchange like any other stock. Mutual funds have to be purchased through a financial institution and usually carry some restrictions like a minimum initial investment. Mutual funds are also generally expensive, as they carry annual fees of, on average, 2.3% per year (Canadian average). ETFs are cheaper and can start as low as 0.05% per year.
I recommend ETFs mainly because they are lower in cost — these fees can add up to thousands of dollars over a lifetime!
Q: What is a good fee percentage?
A: The lower, the better. There are ETFs that start at 0.05%, and then there are ETFs where they are diverse enough to own just one in your portfolio, which can cost 0.25% per year. These are all reasonably priced, especially compared to the average mutual fund fee of 2.3%.
Q: If I have debt, should I take out any money I have invested to pay off the debt?
A: That depends on your financial situation, the level of debt and the cost of debt (e.g. the interest rate you’re paying). Mathematically, it makes sense if you’re paying 20% in interest costs vs. earning 8% per year, for example, to pay off your debt first. If your investments are held in an RRSP, you shouldn’t sell your investments to pay it off because you’ll be on the hook for taxes.
If, however, you’re thinking about taking money out of your TFSAs to pay off credit card debt, it makes sense. Some people are comfortable carrying some debt for a short period of time, and some just want to get rid of it ASAP — so it all depends on your personal circumstances and what you’re comfortable with.
Q: Should I be thinking about investing if I don’t have a job right now?
A: You can certainly think about it, but I wouldn’t advise on acting on it! I would suggest using this time to educate yourself so you can get started when you’re ready to go — that is, after securing a job/income stream and building some sufficient savings first.
Q: I have reservations about what’s happening in the economy right now. Should I wait to invest? Or is this a good time?
A: When you’re investing, you should avoid: 1) news and current events, and 2) trying to time the markets. The proven and best strategy is to continue investing every month, no matter what is happening in the economy right now or any short-term volatility driven by events, such as the U.S. election. Staying invested, but also continuing to invest through the ups and downs of the stock markets, is the best way to avoid losing money!
Q: I have extra funds that I have saved from OSAP. Should I invest this money in the market, or are there other options to consider?
A: Eventually, you’ll have to pay that money back when you graduate, which means interest will start. Put that money in a high-interest savings account in the meantime (e.g. EQ Bank), so when you graduate, you can reduce your student loan balance immediately, avoiding unnecessary interest costs.
Learn more about the Sassy Investor on her website. Connect with her on social media: Instagram (@TheSassyInvestor), Facebook (@TheSassyInvestor), Twitter (@Sassy_Investor) and YouTube.
The Investing with Michelle Hung series was part of Financial Literacy Month, hosted by Mac’s Money Centre and the Student Success Centre. Information about the series, including webinar recordings, can be found on the Financial Literacy Month web page. Check out the Mac’s Money Centre’s website for more information on managing your money.
Provincial-wide minimum wage increases to $14.25 on Oct. 1, 2020
As of Oct. 1, 2020 the new general minimum wage in Ontario will increase for the first time since the increase to $14.00 per hour from $11.60 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018. That minimum wage increase was put in place by Kathleen Wynne's government in 2017 and the minimum wage was set to increase to $15.00 per hour on Jan. 1, 2019.
The increase to $15.00 per hour was cancelled in September 2018 by the then-newly elected Doug Ford government. The Fight For $15 and Fairness organization, as well as other community and labour groups, opposed the cancellation due to concerns for low-income workers and the high costs of living. The Ford government cited the impact of the $2.40 per hour – nearly 20 per cent – increase on businesses as the reason for the cancellation of the next increase.
The Ontario Living Wage Network is an organization to promote and highlight living wage campaigns across Ontario. The Network has defined a living wage as “the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community.”
“The hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community.”
The website has a Living Wage Employer Directory of certified businesses and organizations that pay their employees the regional living wage or more.
The 2019 living wage in Hamilton, Ontario was $16.45 per hour, an increase from the 2018 living wage of $15.85 per hour. The wage is calculated based on the monthly costs of a family of two adults and two children, both adults work 37.5 hours per week and have no savings or debt repayments.
In March 2020, Ward 3 Hamilton councillor Nrinder Nann presented a motion to increase the minimum wage for all summer students and non-union part-time city employees. The proposed minimum wage was the 2019 Hamilton living wage of $16.45 per hour. The vote was defeated by 10-4. If passed, it would have increased the hourly wages of nearly 1,000 people.
“But if this is socialism as its worst then let's pay for everybody’s bills,” said Councillor Terry Whitehead of Ward 14 who opposed the motion.
In an email statement, McMaster Students Union vice president (Finance) Jess Anderson sent the new MSU wage grid effective Oct. 1, 2020. The MSU wage for all part-time employees was above minimum wage, the lowest current hourly rate at $14.10 and will increase each hourly rate by $0.25.
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Part-time MSU employees, all full-time students, work variable hours. The Union Market customer service representative job description specified 8-15 hours per week. However, it is unclear if and how hours per week have changed at MSU business units, such as Union Market and TwelvEighty Bar & Grill, have changed due to reduced operating hours.
The McMaster Student Work Program, also known as Work/Study, is available for students with financial need to work a maximum of 10 hours per week during the school year.
The placements offered through Work/Study require minimum wage but, according to the Registrar, many employers pay above the minimum wage. Of the 27 positions still available as of Sept. 28, 2020, the majority offer above the $14.00 per hour and $14.25 per hour minimum wage.
In late 2017, Ontario experienced its longest college labour dispute when the Ontario Public Service Employees Union went on strike.
Representatives from the student associations of multiple colleges penned an open letter to members of provincial parliament, speaking on behalf of their respective student bodies.
One of these representatives was Nicola Lau, president of the Seneca Student Federation at the time. She led 2,000 students in a protest that gained attention from media outlets such as Global News and CBC — a fact with which she introduces herself in the Facebook description of “OSAP CUT 2019”, a group she created on Sept. 7, 2019 as a means of reaching out to students severely affected by the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) cuts.
Too bad your cuts to #onpse & #osapcuts will make it impossible for many students to experience the great opportunities offered by @McMasterU and other institutions across the province. Your funding changes in 2020 will make it even worse. #cutshurtkids #handsoffmyeducation
— AJ (@MacGirl2002) August 10, 2019
The provincial government announced their planned OSAP cuts in January 2019; this constituted the end of reduced tuition for low-income students and a change in the guidelines for OSAP grant and loan eligibility. In response, student advocacy organizations such as the Students for Ontario, March for our Education and the Ontario Student Action network hosted a march toward Queen’s Park, with student activists and MPPs expressing their intolerance for consequences stemming from OSAP cuts.
When the OSAP changes came into effect in the summer of 2019, another wave of outrage emerged across Ontario as students reported that their OSAP estimates were much lower than previous years. This led to an additional round of protests from several Ontario universities, with some taking to social media to show their frustration.
Lau, now a second year Health and Aging student at McMaster, points out that the protests have since trickled into near non-existence. She feels that the level of outrage has faded into a quiet reaction, a change that she does not believe adequately represents the struggles that students continue to experience every day as a result of the cuts.
“I think that the problem is that when Doug Ford came out last year [with the OSAP cuts], a lot of people were really angry, right? A lot of people were like, ‘Okay, I need to stand up right now. We have to do something about it.’ But quickly, all these actions and things just stopped,” said Lau.
As a student impacted by OSAP cuts herself, Lau is determined to provide a platform for students to voice their concerns. She started “OSAP CUT 2019” with the hope of raising awareness until she has gathered people for a protest similar to what she did as president of the Seneca Student Federation.
Since the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, the Facebook group has amassed more than 100 members. Most members are students who cannot afford textbooks and school supplies or are on the verge of dropping out because they are no longer financially equipped to continue. The Facebook group has also attracted concerned parents, who are worried about their childrens’ future post-secondary experiences as the full extent of the OSAP cuts gradually become clearer.
Lau is particularly disappointed with what she perceives to be the lack of action on behalf of McMaster students and the McMaster Students Union.
“Why is McMaster, such a big school, not caring about [the OSAP cuts]? Why are we not having protests? I don’t get what they [the MSU] is doing. I don’t get what they’re doing with our student money,” said Lau.
However, Shemar Hackett, vice-president (Education) of the MSU, says that students have indeed reached out to the MSU with concerns about OSAP cuts. As a member of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) steering committee, he has also encouraged McMaster’s participation in OUSA’s letter writing campaign, an initiative that calls for students to write letters to Premier Ford’s office to highlight how the cuts have affected them thus far.
“Students aren’t always aware of the issues that involve them, and what they can do about it,” said Hackett, when asked about the student-led advocacy scene in McMaster.
Financial accessibility is one of Hackett’s priorities for the school year, according to his year plan. Much of this, according to Hackett, revolves around gathering as a student community and lobbying for change.
Despite the overlap between her intentions and the MSU’s, Lau questions what has really changed. She does not believe that change is happening quickly enough, she noted that students are beginning to struggle with juggling multiple part-time jobs in order to stay in school and other students having to scavenge rent money on top of their academic responsibilities.
Lau fears it might soon be too late to change the new status quo.
As a response, she has taken it upon herself, as well as the many others involved in her Facebook group, to form a voice on behalf of all those affected by the OSAP cuts. Lau hopes for the group to continue growing and, through its growth, to persuade the government to listen to them before it is too late.
In the group’s Facebook description, Lau writes, “Let’s not [let] these politicians change what will not even affect them … Let’s make a difference together.”
The Campus Store will no longer be selling single-use plastic bags in an effort to make McMaster University more sustainable.
According to Donna Shapiro, the campus store director, the store was selling over 20,000 plastic or tote bags each year.
“We look at the waste on campus and we look at the plastic bags. Those bags are heavy duty plastic bags. We’re not talking about Walmart plastic bags, because they have to hold textbooks,” said Shapiro.
The Campus Store has previously taken measures to reduce the environmental impact of bag sales in the past, charging 15 cents per plastic bag. While the initiative failed to reduce plastic bag sales, it prompted the store to look into other more sustainable alternatives.
Louise Walker, the sales floor manager at the Campus Store, said it took their team a long time to evaluate alternatives such as paper or compostable bags. Each time they pursued an option in hopes that it would pose a solution, she said, they realized that it was much worse than plastic.
Eventually, she reached out to the university and got into contact with Kate Whalen. Whalen is the former developer and manager of McMaster’s office of sustainability as well as the current senior manager of academic sustainability programs at the university.
While many at the Campus Store supported the elimination of single-use plastic bags, they also considered student needs.
“I think my biggest concern was that the thought of a customer coming here and not being able to put their items in [a bag]. So Kate [Whalen] helped us think about the donation bin, where we could take donation plastic bags,” explained Shapiro.
The donation bin encourages shoppers to bring their own bag. If customers do not have their own bags, they can reuse a donated plastic bag or purchase a water resistant tote bag for 75 cents.
“The goal is not to sell the bag — the goal is for students to bring a backpack, their own recyclable bag or to carry it in their hands,” emphasized Walker.
The campaign, called “Maroon is the New Green,” launched on Aug. 24. The initiative is the first of many steps the Campus Store intends to take to make McMaster more sustainable, according to Walker.
“We’re looking at changing a mindset. People are used to bringing their bags to the grocery store but they’re not used to bringing their bags here,” said Walker.
The Campus Store’s remaining plastic bags, as well as bags donated by the store’s staff have been filtered into the donation box.
The store’s green team, a group of staff interested in supporting more sustainable practices, is now working closely with a group of students in the SUSTAIN 3S03 course to raise awareness of the campaign and continue to help the store look at greener alternatives.
The Campus Store is already looking at what reusability could look like in the future. They are working with student groups to create more sustainable products, such as washable cutlery sets and stainless steel straws.
“It fulfills two things: it’s a student entrepreneur we will be supporting, but also they are reusable materials,” said Shapiro.
She added that the Campus Store is always open to feedback about how they are able to improve a process. Students are encouraged to provide feedback to the Campus Store regarding their green initiatives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Eden Wondmeneh
As a first-year student living on residence, I had to cough up an outrageous amount of money for a mediocre living experience.
Separate from the fees, incoming students wishing to have a guaranteed residence space on-campus must achieve, at minimum, an 81.5 per cent in their senior year of high school.
It’s as if an acceptance to McMaster is not enough to attend the university, with residence being the only option for many out-of-province students.
Even if you find yourself as one of the almost 3700 students living on McMaster residence, you are expected to move out promptly after your final exam in April. In fact, you are expected to leave residence by 3:00 p.m. on the very next day.
With the average cost of living at Mac being just under $12,000, this deadline does not fit with what students have paid for. It likely exists in order to stagger students’ departure as a way to prevent chaos and large wait times, but for many students it’s an impossible deadline to meet.
As it is an odd request for students to pack up their entire dorm so quickly after their final exams, students with ‘legitimate’ reasons for not being able to meet the deadline can apply for an extension.
Those that can apply for this extension are international and out-of-province students with travel requirements, those with exceptional circumstances or those with academic requirements to fulfill like a new exam or deferred lab. But even if a student has one of these ‘legitimate’ reasons, there is still a chance that the extension won’t be granted.
Ultimately, the terms of the extension application are made so that students who have assignment accommodations, need time before their new lease or sublet agreements take affect, have extracurricular commitments or have storage needs till the end of term have no options and are scrambling to find alternative accommodations.
It’s as if these aren’t legitimate reasons to need to stay in a dorm room, that you have already paid for, until the official end of term.
I am currently struggling to figure out what to do come the end of term. My exams happen to fall on the earlier spectrum of exam season, and since my family is scattered across America during my assigned move-out date, I’m stuck between an alarmingly expensive taxi ride back home or a cheaper but nightmarish, impossible GO bus trip with my 40 pieces of luggage.
My situation is much easier to deal with than those who are from out of town or students with accessibility accommodations, who need to stay in Hamilton for a few days or weeks extra.
The entire purpose of residence is to make university life, both academic and social, accessible and convenient for students; a goal that the move-out policy directly opposes.
Students shouldn’t have to request an extension at all, but for the sake of staggering departure times, students should be able to request and receive an extension for a much broader list of reasons than that which currently exists.
In doing so, McMaster can make exam season a little less strenuous for the students who paid to live on-campus until the end of term.
By: Rida Pasha
McMaster Hospitality Services offers meal express plans for purchase to all students, staff and faculty. Users can swipe their McMaster University ID card to easily access the range of food choices on-campus, as well as at participating restaurants off-campus.
While this may be a convenient solution for those that want to purchase food on-campus, it can pose a problem for many students living in residence.
Each student living on-campus is required to purchase a mandatory meal plan ranging from $2,975 to $4,735. For many students who are unable or don’t prefer to cook or store food, this meal plan can be a relief.
Meal plan options range from minimum, light, regular and varsity, each increasing in price, allowing students to choose the option that best suits their needs. Each plan is suggested based on how often the student is on campus, how much they regularly eat and how much they can afford.
Since the meal plan is paid in advance, many students and parents feel a sense of security knowing that they food is always available throughout the entire academic year.
With tuition and residence fees on the rise, forcing the purchase of a meal plan places an unnecessary financial strain on students. This can create a boundary against students being able to live on-campus.
Additionally, mandatory meal plans limit students’ options to eat as the plan restricts students’ to eating on-campus with only a few participating off-campus restaurants.
While McMaster does try to offer a variety of food options, eating at the same places daily can be tiring for many students, especially for those that are on campus during weekends and only go home during long breaks.
The meal plan becomes an unnecessary hassle for those that seek to try out new restaurants, prefer to eat off-campus or even just wish to eat out less.
Looking more deeply into the structure of meal plans, the money within the paid meal plans are divided into two categories: basic and freedom.
The basic account is nonrefundable and is used for most on-campus locations. The freedom account is fully refundable and is used for specific off-campus restaurants, confectionary, personal grooming items and convenience products.
There is more money allocated to the basic account than the freedom account since students are likely to be on-campus more.
However, when the freedom account money runs out, students can’t transfer money from the basic to the freedom account in order to take full advantage of their meal plan.
This means that when the freedom account is depleted, students either have to add additional money into that account or can no longer use their meal plan at participating off-campus restaurants.
Students are then left with only on-campus food options, limiting the variety of food available using their already-expensive meal plan.
At the very least, students living in Bates and Mary Keyes residences should be able to make the decision to opt-out of mandatory meal plans, since they have apartment and suite-style rooms equipped with kitchens.
Each kitchen includes a fridge, stove, an oven in Bates, a microwave in Mary Keyes and cupboard space to store food, as well as a full-sized fridge shared amongst the roommates.
Although Hospitality Services offers a reduced meal plan for students living in these residences, the amenities provided make it reasonable for students to live on-campus without requiring a meal plan. Reduced meal plan are still, at a minimum, an added $2,975 cost.
Unlike McMaster, the University of Waterloo allows students with a personal kitchen in their residence to choose whether they would like to purchase a meal plan or not.
Following suit, McMaster University needs to consider the circumstances and preference of students by making all meal plans optional.
By: Maryanne Oketch
One of the reasons I chose to enrol at McMaster University was for the diversity that the school claimed to offer. Coming from a predominantly white secondary school, I was excited to attend a new school. I was hopeful that I would make connections within my program and maybe gain a support system consisting of people that could relate to the experience of being Black in academia.
When I entered the integrated science program in 2016, I was disheartened to realize that in my year of entry, I was the only student in my program that was Black, alongside two other individuals with mixed backgrounds. Within the week, this dropped to two, as one person switched out. Within the month, it then became clear that the two of us were not just the only Black students in our year, but in the whole four-year program.
This lack of Black peers created a feeling that I had to be the best of the best, and when I couldn’t reach that goal, I would withdraw rather than reaching out. This caused damage to my grades, reputation and relationships with my peers.
It is a well-known fact that there is a disparity between the Black population and our representation in higher education. This gap can be seen more in supplementary-based programs that McMaster offers, and my experience unfortunately is not an isolated one.
Multiple students from different programs stated that the lack of Black students in their programs made them feel like there were few people who could relate to the struggles that come with being Black.
There was also another complexity that I did not consider — the fact that there are more Black women in academia than Black men. One health sciences student, upon realizing that they were the only Black man in their whole year, experienced feelings of isolation.
In addition, a justice, political philosophy and law student was the only Black man in their program, and though he is friends with Black women, he notes that it is not fully the same.
Regrettably, the issues that stem from the lack of diversity do not just have interpersonal effects, but also affect the learning experience. A student in the arts and science program said that there were times when a professor or student would ask a question that pertained to race, and the question would seem pointed at them, the only Black student in their year.
This student can also recall a moment when a professor made a comment about how some students may be used to hearing racist jokes, and then locked eyes with them, creating an uncomfortable situation.
Another former arts and science student had a class where a classmate attempted to defend slavery, and a professor who taught a class about oppression but refused to use the term “racism”. The student states that they never felt challenged by the program, and felt that they had to do the challenging rather than their instructors. This was due, they say, to the structure and instruction of the program being catered to their affluent white peers and not to them.
The catering of programs does not seem limited to just arts and science but can also be seen in McMaster Engineering Society programs. A student within the program switched out after one semester due to the lack of actual inquiry in the program, but a focus on the marks received.
When a peer in their program stated that "the disadvantaged [in Hamilton] aren't doing enough for the more privileged to help them," the professor did not immediately shut down this false and insensitive statement, but instead was complacent. In addition, the structure of the program encouraged students to repeat the same statistics because that is what is needed for a good grade, and not because the students wished to learn more about societal issues.
If multiple Black students in different years and different programs are saying the same thing, there needs to be some sort of change to support these students when they are in the program. I am not suggesting these programs change their selection process, because this lack of diversity is a systemic issue, and I do not have the knowledge to provide suitable solutions to help mitigate the effects.
Regardless, if McMaster strives for diversity and does not have the necessary structure to support the diverse students that they already have, then their efforts are just a baseless claim to obtain more money from a diverse group of students.
By: Jacqueline McNeill
CW: Mentions of sexual assault
It’s no secret that McMaster University’s “Brighter World” campaign has not been well-received by students, as demonstrated by recent actions by student protestors who replaced the slogan with “Whiter World” on a protest banner and distributed “Whiter World” posters in Dec. 2018.
Besides encouraging racist and ableist ideologies of what a “good”, “smart” or “bright” student is, the Brighter World campaign clashes with the problematic histories of the wealthy, white men that McMaster happily accepts money from; namely from Ron Joyce and Michael DeGroote.
With the recent passing of Joyce, McMaster released a statement claiming that he was a “generous philanthropist, a dedicated volunteer and a great friend to McMaster.”
"He was enthusiastic and committed to making a difference in so many ways, and he will be greatly missed," says McMaster president @PatrickDeane37. Ron Joyce was a generous philanthropist and a dedicated volunteer. We are saddened by his loss. | https://t.co/o73r3l3UKj
— McMaster University (@McMasterU) February 1, 2019
This statement, as well as every narrative McMaster has put forward about Joyce, overlooks the sexual assault allegations against the billionaire in addition to numerous other lawsuits against him. The allegations of these suits include intentional infliction of mental suffering, cheating Lori Horton out of her share of the Tim Horton’s franchise, and more.
Joyce attempted to have the sexual assault suit against him dropped, but the Appeal Court ruled in 2017 that the allegations warranted a trial. At this trial, Joyce maintained that he gave the victim $50,000 as “a gesture of friendship” rather than money to bribe her away. He denied that any assault had occurred, despite the $50,000 in perceived hush money.
The fact that McMaster never cut ties or removed Joyce’s name from our school after these allegations is telling for students.
Amidst the current discussion of how McMaster and the McMaster Students Union treat sexual assault cases and survivors, McMaster’s friendship with Joyce reveals where their priorities lie.
As long as Joyce’s sexual assault trial is left unacknowledged, McMaster continues to send the message that they value capital over the safety and mental health of students and survivors.
McMaster has also explicitly supported Michael DeGroote after his murky financial escapades came to light.
DeGroote, whose name is on our business and medical schools, invested in a casino business venture that initially appeared to be just that. However, he continued to invest even when it was evident that there was organized crime involvement in the venture.
Although it could be argued that DeGroote was unaware of this — however ignorant he’d have to be for this to be the case — he was recorded promising to send $150,000 “no strings attached” to a man who had offered to create evidence to prove that the brothers who started the casino venture had defrauded DeGroote.
“There’s ways of buying evidence, but it’s got to be done right,” DeGroote said in the recording.
Despite the overwhelming evidence generated from a year-long investigation by the CBC and the Globe and Mail, McMaster reaffirmed to CBC that DeGroote is a “thoughtful, visionary, and very generous man,” while refusing to address if DeGroote’s involvement with mafia activity would change the way they accept money from him in the future.
The names of Ron Joyce and Michael DeGroote on our campus are a constant reminder of how little McMaster values its students, and that Mac administration will let anything slide if the donation is big enough. Even if McMaster is unlikely to alter the names of these buildings and schools, it is crucial for students to be aware of where funding for them came from, and the therefore hypocritical nature of McMaster’s Brighter World.
If McMaster truly aims to create a Brighter World which campaigns for the “health and well-being of all”, they can start by scrubbing off these stains on our campus.
Every so often, students walking through the McMaster University Student Centre are met with faces of The Beatles, large maps of the world and even prints of Banksy’s most popular works.
The Imaginus poster sale, which has been touring Canadian university and college campuses since 1975, is a staple of the university experience. It is not uncommon to see their posters plastered over the walls of dorms and off-campus housing.
The Imaginus poster sale is happening right now in MUSC!
— MSU Campus Events (@msucampusevents) January 31, 2019
At first glance, the poster sales seem innocent enough. For under $10, you can get away with two good-sized posters of your favourite band or quote — what could be wrong with that?
A lot, actually. The Imaginus poster sale has been critiqued in the past for selling posters that promote cultural appropriation, and poster sales in general have been scrutinized for the ethics of selling reproduced and borderline copyright-infringement artwork. This can especially raise eyebrows as it is rare that the collected profits ever reach the original artists.
But beyond the possible problematic nature of the content of their posters, the Imaginus poster sales take away opportunities from student artists. As it stands, McMaster University students cannot sell their artwork on campus for a profit.
According to the Policy on Student Groups, student groups on campus “may not engage in activities that are essentially commercial in nature.”
This policy is what caused the shutdown of an art sale by McMaster’s Starving Artists Society last year. The club is made up of student artists and creatives that are looking to expand their portfolio and reach a wider audience.
The event that was shut down was meant to be an opportunity for student artists to market their artwork to their peers and even profit off of their hard work. Many of Mac’s student artist community are involved with SAS and were negatively affected by the university’s decision to shut the event down.
Essentially, the university has allowed Imaginus to have an unfair monopoly on selling art on campus. For a university that already arguably disvalues the arts, to dissuade student artists from profiting from their work is a serious matter.
This brings to light a larger issue at hand. Why should any students be disallowed to sell their products on campus — especially when outside companies are given space in our student centre to sell their products?
This situation unfortunately reflects the situation of many non-student local artists within the community. In our corporate world, it is extremely difficult to establish a reliable clientele and profit off of one’s work. Mass commercialized products inherently cost less and as a result, this drives away sales from local artists.
As the university makes a profit from the poster sales, and in general from any vendors on campus, it is unlikely that this issue will be addressed anytime soon.
Until it is, you can support local and student artists through sharing their work, reaching out to them and contributing towards their sales. The SAS also runs art crawls and other events where students can get in contact with student artists!
Everyone has a Friends poster in their house. When you buy local and student, not only are you supporting your peers, but you’re likely acquiring higher quality and truly unique works of art.
On Jan 17, the provincial government announced plans to change the Ontario Student Assistance Program and cut tuition by 10 per cent.
The OSAP changes include requiring students to take out a loan when receiving an Ontario Student Grant, lowering the threshold to receive financial assistance, and eliminating the six-month interest-free period after graduation.
On Jan. 31, more than 75 student associations across Canada released an open letter demanding the government reverse the changes to OSAP.
Students at McMaster are also being affected by the changes, with more than 17,000 full-time students having applied for OSAP.
Many students are concerned about the shift in financial assistance towards loans instead of non-repayable grants.
First-year social sciences student Bryce Lawrence does not get money from her parents for tuition and says she would not be able to go to school without receiving grants and loans through OSAP.
This past year, Lawrence qualified to receive a higher proportion of grants compared to loans. Going forward, she will receive more money in loans and less in grants.
“The 10 per cent tuition decrease is nothing compared to the amount that we are not going to be getting anymore and it is going to be harder for a lot of students,” Lawrence said.
During the school year, Lawrence works three days a week, with the money going directly to basic expenses like groceries, gas and her phone bill.
“I worked hard in high school to get here and I need that money to get myself through it so that in the future I can get myself a good career that will help support a family,” Lawrence said.
Looking forward to next year, Lawrence says the money she gets from OSAP probably will not be enough to cover additional costs on top of tuition.
“It’s just frustrating,” She added. “It is going be weird not having the amount of money I need. Literally nothing is free in school. It is so expensive, and once the money goes into my tuition, I will not have enough to pay for my textbooks and stuff.”
Second-year political science student Zack Anderson said the elimination of the six-month interest-free period is especially harmful.
“It is already stressful enough once I do graduate to try and find a stable income, but I always kind of knew that that six-month cushion was going to be there for me and now that rug’s been pulled out from under me,” he said.
Anderson has relied heavily on OSAP. However, even with OSAP, Anderson still struggles to cover school and living costs beyond just tuition.
This year, he was forced to take a reduced course load and work three jobs to pay for tuition and living costs.
Over the summer, Anderson was working 70-hour weeks to save up for school.
“I have had to take out loans off the bank, I have maxed out credit cards before, done all these kinds of things to try to survive and you take it day by day, week by week,” Anderson said.
While there have yet to be any announcements since Jan. 17, the Ford government’s plans are expected to be in place for the 2019-2020 academic year.