Exclusive: IGNITE tackles unprecedented Student Choice Initiative

Melissa Lopez, Eli Ridder | Report

The IGNITE student union that represents those enrolled at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber are tackling what is considered an unprecedented situation in the form of the Student Choice Initiative coming into play this fall, Executive Director Ercole Perrone told The Avro Post on Monday.

The SCI was introduced by the Progressive Conservative Ontario government earlier this year and establishes certain opt-out abilities for students when they are paying the non-tuition fees that fund organizations such as student unions, campus publications and other post-secondary groups.

During the first of two planned meetings between journalists and the student union’s executive director, Perrone detailed IGNITE’s plans to The Avro Post surrounding their financial future and explained how they plan to carry out the budget, which outlines spending during the IGNITE’s fiscal year taking place from April 1 to Mar. 31 every year.

Perrone, during an interview at Humber College’s North Campus where the de-facto IGNITE headquarters are located, first explained that the fiscal budget goes through a process starting every year in October when new ideas are brought forward and current initiatives are being considered together.

“That entails internal conversations with our executives, our full-time staff…and we get some high-level understanding of (sic) ‘what are we experiencing?’, ‘how are students are responding to the services’, events and offerings that we’re providing?’” Perrone said.

The executive director explained that “everything is on the table” when it comes to planning for the next budget in regards to “trying to do something better, different, new [and] impactful for students as of April 1” of every year.

But now, the standard budget procedure for IGNITE, as with many student unions across the province, has been derailed by the government. In February the Board of Directors, the body that deals with approving the budget IGNITE-wise approved a budget that is not the final copy.

“Our world has, quite frankly, changed a significant amount,” Perrone explained. As previously reported, the final budget for IGNITE will have to be approved ahead of September during the summer, when the student union has finalized what fees will be compulsory or optional as well as how many students have not opted-out.

Perrone showed The Avro Post the budget that the student union would have had if the optional student fees did not come into play. This was the budget that was passed but not confirmed at the Board of Directors meeting in February.

Monday marked the first time that a request from a TAP journalist resulted in being able to access a line-by-line format of the budget and get more in-depth information on how IGNITE planned to tackle the optional student fees.

IGNITE year-after-year, since its inception in 2016, has released an infographic with six broad categories on it without going into much further detail. In the past, executives have explained to The Avro Post that this is because students would find it overwhelming or uninteresting.

Analysis: IGNITE and the ‘Line-by-Line’

When The Avro Post asked at this meeting why this budget was not on the student union’s website, Perrone said this was because it was not the final version.

When he was asked about releasing the previous year’s budget in a more in-depth or “line-by-line” form, he repeated what other IGNITE officials have said in the past: that students would not be interested.

Recently, several students have called for a line-by-line budget in public, privately to The Avro Post and also anonymously via posters put up around Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber.

Two journalists with The Avro Post will be meeting with the executive director for a second time this Friday, where more details are expected to be revealed on the budget, how the student union plans to form around the optional student fees and how they will approach the Student Choice Initiative.

Image of IGNITE from The Avro Post.

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