Ahead of the implementation of optional student fees this fall, IGNITE has published a blog post outlining the different ways it has “changed the lives of students”, aiming to highlight its usefulness as students consider whether or not to fund it.
“Amid the turmoils of the recent Ford government cuts, the resources, and services offered to students like YOU are greatly at risk,” Sulvey Polanco writes for the student union, which serves both Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber.
Earlier this year, the provincial government under Premier Doug Ford mandated the Student Choice Initiative that will allow students to opt-out of certain “ancillary fees”, many of which fund the operations of IGNITE outside the health and dental insurance plans.
It was part of an announcement that also included a 10 per cent tuition cut for domestic students and significant cuts to provincial student grants and loans. Under the previous government some 200,000 low-income students could attend post-secondary entirely under grants, but now no-longer.
In the blog post, Polanco claims that IGNITE has helped thousands of students within three different categories: student life, personal life, and future life.
In an effort to relieve the financial insecurity that plagues many in school, the student union has allocated over $400,000 in bursaries to 550 students in the past year, Polanco writes. IGNITE has also held 44 social events that nearly 4,000 students went to, about one sixth of the campus population.
When it comes to the personal life impacts of IGNITE, the blog post highlights the pay-what-you-can soupbar that was launched last September, an initiative that was not part of any elected representative’s platform and replaced the initiative to bring back the alcohol-serving Linx Lounge.
“Through our Soupbar and the Feed it Forward initiative, we have served nearly 7,000 bowls of soups to students making it over $27,000 in savings,” Polanco adds. For many that are unable to purchase lunch on a daily basis, the Soupbar is critical.
IGNITE has also given away 3,300 menstrual kist as part of an initiative launched by former Lakeshore Vice President Alisa Lim — who served in the role from 2017 to 2018.
Polanco also highlighted the 54 clubs administered by the student union that allows students to network and also get out-of-classroom skills that could help with first steps into their careers in the future.
Some students have in the past criticized how IGNITE has administered and ran the clubs, including several that have tried to start a club before being shut down before or just after being approved. There are strict policies around what clubs can do.
IGNITE has also hosted several Real Talks events for Black History Month and International Women’s Day for what Polanco said was over 300 students. It is unclear if this means 300 students for all the events combined or per event, however, 300 students is less than one per cent of students.
“By bringing in inspirational and positive role models for students to listen to for free, it gives the power to educate and empower so many people,” the post adds.
In the final section titled “future life”, Polanco writes that IGNITE has changed her life by giving her an opportunity to have “real-life working experience in a field I am so passionate about.”
“Through this, I’m able to contribute to the 120+ student-written articles that have been published onto the IGNITE website since September.”
IGNITE currently employs 79 part-time, student staff, according to Polanco, and highlighted the 25 candidates for leadership positions in the last election and 8,000 student voters.
“These elections give students the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions and be a voice for their student body. After all, nobody knows the struggles that students go through more than students do.”
The election saw about 24.5 per cent of the student population voting, a percentage that is higher than many of IGNITE’s counterparts. However, one of the elected vice presidents, who went just by Simran, quit her position in June without giving a reason publicly.
IGNITE announced then that they would look to hire a vice president from the student body instead, an unprecedented move by a student union. Typically, student governments hold by-elections when an elected representative leaves office early, such as in the case of the Guelph Senate.
The IGNITE blog post is accurate in terms of what it highlights as services funded by the approximately $75 student fee that is now at least partially optional. The full breakdown has not been revealed at this time and budget discussions have been behind closed doors.
The Avro Post published a series of reports in the spring after several interviews with the student union’s executive director that revealed the extent of chaos the provincial government was at the time putting the student unions through.
The Post has reached out this week for further information on the current status of how students will be presented with the optional student fees and what back-up plans IGNITE has in place. Other unions have dropped programs and staff in advance of the fall in anticipation of the opt-out.
The fall will reveal whether IGNITE’s efforts to keep students on board will be enough. Many student governments are preparing to recieve about 50 per cent of their regular support.
For the first time in IGNITE history, the Board of Directors approved the annual budget as per normal but with the knowledge and stipulation that it would be replaced in the summer by the newly elected board.
The fall will reveal what situation the student union is in. However, IGNITE has not confirmed to The Post whether they will release the number of students that opted-in after fees are paid in late August or early September.