Engineering students to yea or nay doubling levy

Rose Ghamari, president of the Ryerson Engineering Student Society. (Mohamed Omar / Ryersonian Staff)

Rose Ghamari, president of the Ryerson Engineering Student Society. (Mohamed Omar / Ryersonian Staff)

Engineering students are a day away from finding out the results of a referendum asking them to double their student society’s annual levy.

More than 3,000 full-time students in the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science’s (FEAS) nine disciplines are voting on whetherthey want to raise the annual student levy the Ryerson Engineering Student Society (RESS) receives every year.

RESS is asking its members to boost per-student annual funding to $65 from $33.70. In return, the society promises to increase existing budgets with an emphasis on supporting student groups.

“It’s not really that we want to provide more services. We find that students are asking for a lot more than we can provide,” RESS president Rose Ghamari said. “Last year, there was about a $100,000 gap between what we could provide to students and what was requested.”

If the referendum passes in its favour, RESS plans on splitting the total increase in student levies between several allocation categories. Seventy-four per cent would fund student groups within RESS, such as competitive engineering design teams and course unions.

Thirteen per cent of the budget would go towards helping students attend local and national engineering conferences, eight per cent would be allocated for thesis and capstone grants and five per cent of the budget would be put away to start an endowment fund.

Corporate sponsors also provide RESS with funds, according to Ghamari, but on a much smaller scale.

Although he is not part of the society’s decision-making process, Sri Krishnan, the dean of FEAS, said he supports increasing the levy.

“If you take other engineering programs, the contributions from the student body is quite substantial,” Krishnan said. “Pretty much all other universities have a higher student levy than Ryerson.”

Krishnan cites the example of the University of Toronto, where full-time engineering students pay their society about $297 per year, according to Skule’s website.

FEAS’s contribution to funding is limited to competitions and related travelling arrangements. Funds are given out on a “demand basis” as students apply for funding to competitions they want to attend.

“I evaluate and see which one needs to be funded so students can have a meaningful competition and build the reputation of engineering,” Krishnan said.

But not all affected students are in favour of the proposed levy boost.

Abhinav Ahuja, an engineering student, said although RESS apologized for the controversy surrounding an event that involved scantily clad students crawling through slush last March, they’ve cast a bad light on all engineering students. Ahuja said he thinks the society needs to refocus its mandate to gain support.

“They need to concentrate on the academics because that is the one common factor that every engineering student has,” Ahuja said.

Academically, the RESS provides services such as resumé workshops, thesis grants, networking opportunities and an exam bank. Ahuja says he finds many of these services at Ryerson lacking in comparison to other engineering societies.

“If they could give a definite increase to academic resources, like now McMaster pays fourth-year students to tutor lower-year students. (U of T’s) exam bank is really well organized. That is what we need.”

In light of criticism student societies have received for their social events over the years, many are refocusing their mandates, said Mike Kovacs, president of the Engineering Student Society Council of Ontario.

“I find that there are a lot of people who are turned off immediately in their first (frosh) week. A lot of engineering student societies are realizing that. (During) the last few years there’s been a lot more welcoming and that’s led to a lot more participation,” he said.

Ghamari said RESS strives to provide events and services everyone will enjoy, but adds that different students have different opinions on events.

The referendum on ends tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.

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