The students’ union has accessed reserve funds to support their student employees while the University of Saskatchewan campus is closed. The executive is also currently reviewing ways to advocate for students’ needs amid the pandemic.
The University Students’ Council meeting on March 12 was dominated by a sense of uncertainty, as the councillors correctly anticipated that it would be the last in-person meeting for the group this term. Among their preparations for this eventuality, the council passed the annual budget for the U of S Students’ Union’s a week ahead of time and released $100,000 dollars from the union’s reserves.
This fund will support the union’s less than full-time employees, including the workers at Student Crew, Louis’ and Louis’ Loft. Most of these workers are students that have hourly rates and no paid sick time, so they are left without that source of income while the campus is closed.
“This involves a rapidly moving situation,” General Manager Caroline Cottrell said ahead of the vote. “My concern is about our student workers because they are our employees and … for some of them this is how they put food in their mouths.”
These workers have been receiving an amount reportedly similar to what they would have usually made if the campus were open. They will only receive this support until the end of the academic year in April, when their jobs would have ended under normal circumstances. The USSU is not currently planning to hire for the spring and summer months.
“To my knowledge, there is no foreseen end to this pandemic and there is no foreseen end to the measures the university has taken,” said USSU President Regan Ratt-Misponas in an interview with the Sheaf. “There is a wonderful incoming executive that I know will be able to ensure that there are good outcomes and that we’re able to hire students, hopefully, as things return to normal come September.”
While the closure of campus locations like Louis’ Loft and Louis’ Pub affects the USSU’s finances, they have just under half a million dollars in their liquid reserve and business interruption insurance. Though the remaining USC meetings have been cancelled, the executive and senior staff have continued to manage the union’s operations and finances through online meetings and votes.
Ratt-Misponas says that advocacy has been a frequent topic in the executive’s recent meetings.
“We need to ensure that students have a sense of protection and that students aren’t punished for these difficult times that we’re in,” Ratt-Misponas said. “In our ongoing conversations with the administration we continue to lobby and in the coming days, I think that there’ll be more to expect.”
There has been recent movement online from U of S students pushing for the university to implement a pass/fail grading system, following the example of other Canadian universities. Ratt‑Misponas says the executive is not currently making a statement as they learn more about the situation.
“We’re educating ourselves right now about things that different institutions are doing, but we’ve also been able to have conversations with the administration,” RattMisponas said. “It has been encouraging — I’m glad that other folks are also taking on efforts to advocate for their fellow students, especially during these times.”
Ana Cristina Camacho | News Editor
Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor