In May of 2017, Spotted: Dawson posted a photo of the proposed DSU budget for the 2017-2018 school year, detailing how the Dawson Student Union planned to spend $50,000 on retreats. This number was eventually brought down to $40,000 at the 2017 Winter General Assembly (GA); $7,000 of the $10,000 that was moved out of the retreats went to clubs, while the rest went to The Plant. Despite this, numerous students were enraged and many began to question how their $19, which is the portion of the tuition that goes to the DSU, was being spent and how much money was allocated to four getaway leadership retreats between the DSU, its clubs, and its services.
In the DSU Bylaws, it is written that “The financial statements of the Union shall be published annually, no later than the thirtieth (30th) of September of each year” (Bylaw XV). These financial statements were not published in September of 2017. Additionally, it is written that “The books and records of the Union may be inspected by Union members in the Union offices on any working day during normal office hours provided twenty-four hours written notice is given. In special circumstances, electronic copies may be made available for students unable to read hard copies of documents” (Bylaw XVI). Essentially, the DSU must provide the budget and spending of the budget to any student who expresses interest. I emailed Cheranda Williams, the DSU treasurer, on April 25th to ask about obtaining the budget and spending. I was asked to write a “formal written notice” in order to see the finances of the DSU.
I interviewed three students who went on the two DSU retreats in the summer and winter of this past year. I asked Sheena Macmillan, News Editor at The Plant, and Vanessa Trotto, Treasurer of Spotlight, about their experience at the retreat. “Overall, it just reminds you [of] things that you already knew, but I don’t know if this applies to everyone,” Vanessa stated. “What worked was that we are all in this hallway with our clubs, but we don’t really know each other. Through the retreat, I was able to make events with different clubs and get to know them. I even got to meet Sheena.” Blushing at Vanessa’s answer, Sheena added, “We had a workshop on how to do ‘minutes’. The whole thing was introducing a new ‘updated form,’ but I didn’t know how to find it online. It’s supposed to be on Facebook.”
Upon further discussion, I asked whether they thought the experience was worth the $40,000 that was put into it. Sheena was strongly opposed to this, saying “it definitely could have been a daytime thing without the sleep-away camp aspect. We could have even met in Conrods on a weekend. It absolutely could have been done at Dawson for a third of the price.” Vanessa somewhat agreed with Sheena, stating that the camp facilities were only used at the summer retreat. “There, of course, needs to be some sort of leadership training. However, since there are only a few people going, it should definitely cost less. The DSU has their own retreat, and they’re only a couple of people.” Gael Chevalier, Events Coordinator of Spotlight, later joined our conversation, saying “How much is the bus they rented? I’m trying to do the math here: the food, the lodging, the employees… [I don’t see how the costs are] even close to $40,000.”
At the DSU General Assembly on April 25th, a motion was proposed by Plant Managing Editor Valeria Lau that would move $10,000 from the retreat budget into Dawson sustainability. In an overwhelming majority, the motion was passed. However, if it weren’t for Spotted: Dawson posting the photo of the retreat budget, it is unlikely that the general student body would have known exactly how part of their tuition is spent. Though it is technically public, the budget and spending of the DSU are needlessly difficult to get a hold of, and without any kind of publicity of DSU finances, Dawson students will continue to be unaware of where their tuition money goes.