The USC has an extra $600,000 to spend on financial aid and more safety measures after several in-person events were cancelled as campus closed its doors in March.
Under the new spending plan, half of the surplus will go to a new bursaries and grants program, $150,000 to fund additional pandemic safety measures and the final quarter for initiatives from the University Students' Council executives.
Vice-president governance and finance Marc St. Pierre noted at council's first meeting of the school year, that the surplus comes from last academic year, before the current executive took over in the spring.
When the pandemic hit North America in March, the USC followed the administration in locking down and cancelling events — most notably a Reklaws concern planned for later that month.
This is the second time the USC has faced a problem it rarely has: spending its budget. Many of the spring's cancelled events were funded after A$AP Rocky cancelled his high-profile performance at Purple Fest the night before, giving the USC a refund. Last year's executives split the bill, paying off the expected loss from the concert, establishing a Community Impact Fund and putting at least $30,000 into student programming for the winter semester.
Winter events were cancelled due to the pandemic and funding has once again been recycled, this time into COVID-19 financial plans.
The ambitious new $300,000 financial aid program is still in the planning stages, according to St. Pierre. He said, however, the money will be kept separate from Western's own aid programs, though it is supported by the university.
“It's just to make sure that we're allocating this money in the right way to the right students, and that's the goal at the end of the day,” St. Pierre said.
A breakdown of the new bursary and grant program will be given in October’s council meeting after review from the USC's Board of Directors, which is separate from council.
In addition to cancelled events, higher-than-expected profits from The Spoke last year were included in the surplus and will subsidize some USC initiatives and student fees such as academic support, health and wellness, student life, clubs, peer programs, and orientation.
The final $150,000 will be set aside to fund the USC executives' initiatives. St. Pierre anticipates this money will fund projects like a digital atrium to showcase booths that regularly occupied the University Community Centre atrium before the pandemic, an online platform for clubs and possible digital platforms where students can socialize — all of which would come with hefty technology fees.
“The big push for this is going to be to make sure that students feel safe and are comfortable using these services and to have the ability to access them in the right ways,” St. Pierre said.
The executives can also choose to reinvested the money for the following fiscal year rather than initiatives now.
The money spent on financial aid is the most risky investment of the three, according to St. Pierre, because a large amount of money will be focused solely on one initiative. The allocation of the $300,000 plan is still to be debated by council in October.
Although the motion carried with 88 per cent of council in favour, St. Pierre said he hopes members will continue to hold him accountable for these decisions.
“I know council's always interesting to see the different priorities,” he said. “I know some people have political priorities or perhaps different student interests, so it's good to see there's some opposition.”