Every year, the Student Life Enhancement Fund, a joint collaboration between the McMaster Students Union and the university, accepts idea submissions about improvements around campus. These are vetted down and reduced to a few finalists for the students at large to vote on.
In the past, this has successfully provided improvements to Compass, microwaves and electrical outlets in the McMaster University Student Centre and the fitness and boulder circuit near the track field across from Les Prince. The results from the most recent process that starting in January of this year will bring about a new round of changes.
These changes will be upgrades to second floor furniture in MUSC, upgrades to MUSC atrium furniture, charging stations across campus, investment in composting opportunities and a MSU Maccess resource library.
“I think that there are limited resources across campus, and I think this is a great way to ensure student needs are being met,” said Daniel D’Souza, vice president (Finance).
D’Souza explained the financials behind the fund,
“Students will pay their tuition, they’ll pay the MSU fee and then they’ll pay a [large number] of ancillary fees through the university. ... Some of those fees go to student affairs. In the past, this has been a pool of money that was used by manager of student affairs to say, ‘Okay, we want these projects.’”
The fund has changed a bit since it began in its current, student-driven form in the 2011-12 academic year, but considering that it draws from student affairs, its current level of $150,000 per year dedicated to SLEF is a comfortable amount.
“It’s a delicate balance between how much is for student ideas and how much should be put towards core student services like career support and health. So that number right now I think is a good number in comparison to what else is in that fund,” said D’Souza.
At the time of writing, it is unknown how long it will take to implement this year’s projects.
While all of the upgrades that have been done and will continue to be done are a direct benefit, there is a major, indirect benefit as well. The ability to gauge student feedback and concerns, even if the ideas do not make it through the final voting phase, has had an influence on larger projects.
"I think that there are limited resources across campus, and I think this is a great way to ensure student needs are being met."
Vice president (Finance)
McMaster Students Union
In particular, the Pulse expansion and student activity building referendum conducted in March of this year may have been inspired by past requests.
“SLEF is a platform for students to voice their concerns. I think [from] some of the things that we’ve seen in the past, it’s clear that students want more space, they want more amenities on campus. And I think those are some of the driving factors behind the building of this new student centre,” said D’Souza.
He also acknowledged that some of the ideas denied in the past may be more feasible in the next few years with this increased access to space on campus. When it comes to the new student activity building, however, the Student Representative Assembly is not going to wait until SLEF to start the feedback process.
“Right now, there is a committee struck by the SRA that is a student activity building consultation committee, so over the summer, they are making a plan right now to consult students on what else students want to go in this building.”
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Sitting outside of Les Prince Hall is the most recent installation of the initiatives made possible by the Student Life Enhancement Fund.
Officially labeled as the McMaster Outdoor Fitness Circuit and Boulder Climbing Facility, the outdoor installation is a playground for fitness enthusiasts and beginners alike. Located by the track in front of Les Prince, the circuit contains various bars and benches that allow an individual to perform a variety of strength and conditioning sets. Two large, man-made boulders are also connected by a small rope-bridge.
The installation was originally built in August, but had its official launch on Nov. 12.
"I think it's a cool idea because we're always talking about space and how space is a premium and hard to come by, and I think it's cool that [Athletics and Recreation] is moving outside," said MSU President Ehima Osazuwa.
“Inside, there is literally no space to do anything, so we need to think about creative and new ways of utilizing space; there's a lot of outdoor space on campus that we currently don't really utilize,” he said.
The circuit was one of two initiatives selected by students as the best ideas during last year's Presidential elections, alongside a plan to enhance and optimize the space in the Student Centre.
An open period for new, student submissions is currently ongoing for SLEF, and Osazuwa described his excitement for several ideas including heated bus shelters and napping stations on campus.
Once the submission period ends, members of the Board of Directors will determine the feasibility of projects and present a shortlist to students to vote on during the Presidential elections this year. Once the top ideas are chosen, a suitable partner must be found to keep the initiative maintained and sustainable, like with the outdoor circuit being maintained by Athletics & Recreation.
“I'm a really big fan of SLEF because I think SLEF gives people the chance to dictate where their money is going to, and also give us creative and new ideas as to where we should spend student dollars on,” said Osazuwa.
However, not all initiatives necessarily have such a quick turnaround. An on-campus skating rink has been in the works for over three years now, but has run into various issues regarding feasibility and the logistics in implementing one and maintaining it during the winter.
While Osazuwa highlighted various hurdles such as the falling Canadian dollar and the details involved in maintenance, he indicated that he was hopeful with the progress this year.
“There's been more progress compared to previous years,” said Osazuwa.
Students have until Nov. 20 to submit their ideas.
Photo Credit: Jon White/Photo Editor
With the approval process still underway, several projects have been allocated financing under the Student Life Enhancement Fund.
Approved projects range from a $10,000 improvement to the audio equipment at Bridges Café to the installation of a public skating rink—a project with a cost of $95,000.
SLEF was developed to provide capital for infrastructure or service projects that would positively improve student life. Student-run and McMaster-based programs alike may apply for funds to support projects that don’t necessarily fit into their operating budget.
The money is collected via undergraduate student services fees and administered by the Student Services Committee, made up of employees from the MSU and the University.
Until Mar. 7, 2014, groups and individuals had the opportunity to submit proposals for a request of funds. Project proposals had to fall into specific criteria.
Projects should seek to enhance student life through a new program, activity or one-time event. It must also align with Forward with Integrity principles and represent something new that isn’t currently offered to students.
Ideas then go through process of “weeding out” where ideas which are redundant or not feasible are rejected.
Below is a list of approved projects. Approvals are not limited to this list. These proposals have been allocated funds, but the costs have not yet been expended.
3D printer to be publically available, $5,000
Will allow students to experiment with new technologies and spur innovative thinking.
Outdoor community ice rink, $95,000
To be built in between Edwards Hall and McKay Hall. Said to enhance campus atmosphere and encourage an active lifestyle.
Student Entrepreneurship program, $100,000
The program will seek to foster the development of a student entrepreneur culture. It will provide students with the opportunity to network and engage with the community.
Enhanced audio equipment for Bridges, $10,000
The goal is to offer student groups free access to A/V equipment when they use Bridges as a hosting venue.
Volunteer engagement expansion program, $10,000
This will expand the current program and add events like keynote speakers, info sessions and a larger, improved, Volunteer Crawl. The program also aims to retain students within the Hamilton community.