UMSU recently submitted its budget proposal to the U of M administration, recommending areas that it believes the university should direct funding toward.
UMSU president Jaron Rykiss explained that the union’s recommendations are referenced and consulted by university administration when making budgetary decisions.
Rykiss said that the Student Counselling Centre (SCC) is one area that the union hopes to see investment in. He said that although the current Student Counselling Center is a great resource for students, many may not be aware of the services it offers.
“With the increasing demands on mental health, there is going to consistently be more of a need to have strong mental health supports at university,” he said.
Rykiss said that the union would like to see the university hire more counsellors, particularly counsellors with racialized backgrounds. He said that UMSU wants the SCC to be “cemented in a proper foundation” so that students can get the support they need.
Another area that Rykiss hopes to see more funds put toward is waste management on campus. He highlighted the importance of campus sustainability.
“We want to make sure that when we create an enormous amount of waste on campus, that that waste is being handled properly and that it’s being taken care of properly for sustainability reasons,” he said, adding that “no one really wants to go to a dirty campus.”
He said that waste bins on campus are often overflowing, and hopes that more funding will help to address this.
Rykiss said that, over the past year, issues concerning security have been brought to UMSU’s attention. He said that the union has inquired about increasing security cameras and security staff on campus, and would like to see campus security receive more funding.
Many of the areas of focus for UMSU’s budget proposal come from its annual survey of students. Rykiss explained that some of the information from last year’s survey was used to inform the union’s recommendations this year, but noted that with the return to in-person classes, “the playing field is completely different” when it comes to students’ needs.
He said that in addition to the annual survey, UMSU is able to discern students’ priorities through “the conversations that we have with students throughout the year.”
“When we identify that there’s an area which is looking to need more support or when we hear from the administration that an area seems to be lacking, that’s when we say ‘okay, well if this is an important area to students then we should 100 per cent be advocating to increase supports in that area,’” he said.
He also highlighted open education resources as another priority for the union.
Rykiss said that to ensure that the university works for students to the best of its ability and that the university has a strong community, “we have to pay attention to the little areas that need support.”