EDITORIAL: A yes is not sufficient for equity vote

The “Feed Students Support Survivors” campaign, which aims to increase funding for the Good Food Centre (GFC) and Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line (SASSL), is a good start. But adequate funding shouldn’t depend on referendums.

The referendum, approved by the Board of Governors on Sept. 28, on an effort led by both centres hopes to improve their services by attaching a $5 levy per semester to student fees. Voting runs from Nov. 6-9 for undergraduate and graduate students.

A survey earlier this semester found clear need for improved funding for both services. Eighty four per cent of students polled said they’ve had to, at one time, choose between paying for healthy food and paying for school. The centre said this means “the GFC will often run out of food by the end of delivery day – (which means) turning students away for the remainder of the week.”

The food we receive generally comes from the Daily Bread Food Bank and is gauged by the food they have available and our membership. We received $46826.62 worth of goods last year. We never receive the amount of food that we require even though we have requested more skids,” Claire Davis, volunteer community outreach coordinator at the Good Food Centre, said.

Likewise, 50 per cent of students polled said they’d experienced sexual violence or knew someone who had and wished they had someone to speak to about it. That’s tough when the line doesn’t run 24 hours a day. “Right now, only two part-time coordinators have to fill any gaps in the schedule and our support system for callers and volunteers is not where it should be at,” Davis said.

Right now the Centres need funding to cover the bare minimum of part-time staffing. Career Boost funding is not a substantial amount to cover operations for both Centres, as well as the other Equity Service Centres, and we are really scratching by with the hours that we currently operate.” Claire Davis said

Both services have proposed service extensions, should “yes” win.

The Good Food Centre said it will use the levy to order bulk food items from wholesalers, in addition to their Daily Bread delivery, to ensure its shelves are stocked in keeping with need. The hope is that the centre’s weekly food deliveries will last longer than one day. The centre also hopes to extend its operating hours. That’s a big deal for precariously employed students.

Meanwhile, the SASSL has committed to expanding its sexual health, birth control and hygiene supplies, extending its operating hours and expanding its training programs for volunteers.

“With the funding we will be better able to operate the Good Food Centre as 5-days a week and ensure that there is enough food available to justify increased hours. For SASSL we want to ensure that there is a better supervision structure for volunteers. With funds, we can hire a clinical supervisor to train and take care of callers and volunteers, and have more part-time staff to cover the much needed late and early hours where we might get more crisis calls,” Davis said. “In both centres, more coordinators means a stronger outreach presence across campus – something incredibly hard to do at the moment.”

You’d have to be some kind of monster to oppose giving more money to our campus food bank or survivor support line. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting angry that an extra $5 is being added to their tuition to ensure our campus food bank shelves don’t run bare, or that there’s someone paid to be on the line throughout the night to talk to distressed survivors.

But an adequately funded campus food bank and survivor support line shouldn’t be up to a vote.

Food security and survivor support are not “add on” expenses we should be able to opt out of collectively. It’s offensive that our administrators have relegated these programs to “add on” status. Putting adequate funding for these badly needed programs up to a referendum cheapens them and puts their security in a precarious position.

It is a cause for outrage and the campaigners for the levy should use it to their advantage.

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