Winnipeg, MB – Amid concerns over cuts to its provincial operating grant and how to adjust its course offerings during a prolonged pandemic, the University of Manitoba has managed to deliver a budget for next year that heeds student recommendations.
The U of M yesterday announced its budget for 2020/2021, including additional funding for campus counselling services, the renewal of an international student relief fund, money towards expanding sexual violence education and prevention initiatives, and funding earmarked to plan for the U of M to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
All four of the commitments mirror recommendations put forward by UMSU in a briefing package submitted to the university’s budget advisory committee at the beginning of March.
Said UMSU President, Jelynn Dela Cruz: “The conversations leading up to this budget feature unprecedented collaboration between UMSU and the University over this past year. Amidst COVID-19, remote learning, and post-secondary cuts, commitments of this magnitude – towards mental health, sustainability, international student aid, and more – are widely appreciated.”
A $300,000 boost to student counselling services was seen as suggested by UMSU. According to its director, David Ness, the university’s Student Counselling Centre had not had a baseline funding increase to counselling staff for at least ten years. The International Accreditation of Counselling Services (IACS) – of which the U of M is a member – recommends one counsellor for every 1,000 students; the ratio on the university’s Fort Garry campus is currently one counsellor for every 2,849 students.
The new budget also commits to $500,000 for the renewal of the International Student Hardship Relief Fund (ISHRF), a special bursary provided by the university to help foreign students with health care costs after the province dropped international student coverage in 2018. With UMSU’s help in its inaugural year, the ISHRF was completely disbursed to international students in need.
In addition, the U of M has allocated $350,000 to help fulfill two of the 43 recommendations contained in a 2019 independent review of its respectful workplace and learning environment (RWLE) policies. The review was prompted by multiple sexual misconduct scandals involving faculty in recent years and calls for increased sexual violence education and prevention programs. The money will also go toward expanding services offered by university’s newly opened Sexual Violence Resource Centre to downtown U of M campuses.
Added UMSU Vice President Student Life, Savannah Szocs: “It’s encouraging to see the University taking long overdue action towards such a pressing issue on campus. We’re now seeing the right steps being taken toward supporting survivors and educating the student and staff community.”
In an article on UMSU’s website detailing its call for the U of M to finance a plan for reaching net zero carbon emissions, the union said doing so “would signal that the U of M was using the public funds it receives, as well as its economic, political, and social capital, to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels within Manitoba, while also linking up to the burgeoning shift away from fossil fuels worldwide.”
Said UMSU Vice President Advocacy, Kristin Smith: “What you’re looking at is an administration who puts student services at the forefront of strategic planning, and that is simply fantastic to see. Thank you to the previous executive teams for getting the ball rolling, and thank you to the University for their commitment to crucial services even in the light of major cuts.“
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