Where does the money go?

<em>In this bi-weekly series, Imprint sits down with the heads of different services provided to staff and students across campus to learn where the money is going, how each service helps students, and what is happening behind the scenes.</em>

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The Waterloo Public Interest and Research Group (WPIRG) is a corporation that all full-time undergraduates pay into. The refundable $4.75 fee makes up 99 per cent of the organization&rsquo;s budget said WPIRG treasurer Filzah Nasir.

&nbsp;&ldquo;We can apply for grants for a few specific projects, we get an annual grant from the government for hiring a summer student or two, but those are really small amounts in terms of the overall budget.&rdquo;

Paying into the corporation earns students certain rights.

&nbsp;&ldquo;The $4.75 that they pay into the organization makes them members of the organization so it allows them to do things like vote at our members meetings and our AGM, but they are welcome to&nbsp; any of our events without paying the fee,&rdquo; Nasir said.

WPIRG is run by three full-time staff, a volunteer, nine-seat a board of directors (BoD) elected by all present members of the corporation at the AGM, which can include community members but preference is given to students. BoD members must be a part of the corporation.

The events and action groups run by WPIRG are mainly run by volunteers.

&nbsp;&ldquo;We have a full volunteer base, so we have action groups which are full of volunteers and we have general volunteers for organization and things like running events,&rdquo; Nasir said. General volunteers are not required to have paid the fee.

&ldquo;We hire two volunteer co-ordinators every year, one for the Queer Film Festival (QFF) and one for the School of Public Interest conference &hellip; and we also hire summer students &hellip; they could be co-ops or just students that are off for the summer and those are partially paid for by a grant from the government and partially paid for by WPIRG.

Members meetings, which are held once a month, have recently seen an increase in responsibility. According to WPIRG co-ordinator of outreach and research centre Alex Diceanu, decisions on funding applications and political endorsements are now made at members meetings.

&ldquo;Some of the feedback we got was that students wanted to make those decisions directly as opposed to through their elected representatives on the board so that&rsquo;s been a change.&rdquo;

In addition to opening up endorsements and funding applications to members meetings, the BoD is currently discussing the possibility of approving their budget at their AGM.

&ldquo;Right now it&rsquo;s created with member input and approved by the BoD &hellip; [approving the budget at the AGM] is something we&rsquo;re looking into doing in the future,&rdquo; Nasir said.

WPIRG runs multiple events every year which are free to all students such as QFF and the monthly Cinema Politica.

&ldquo;There [are] general organizational events, and then there [are] events that are normally run by our action groups and working groups so &hellip; this year we had a night of political comedy and a poetry slam as our welcome week event,&rdquo; Nasir said.

They also runs events based on students&rsquo; requests.

&ldquo;Last year a group of different clubs and students asked us to run an event on the Quebec Charter of Values so that&rsquo;s something that students asked us to do for them, so we also provide the infrastructure for students to be able to hold events that they&rsquo;re interested in,&rdquo; Nasir said.

Additionally, WPIRG provides support for students who wish to undertake public campaigns

&ldquo;We have $12,000 set aside in our budget, it&rsquo;s called the UW Campus and Student Solidarity Budget Line and it&rsquo;s basically just money that we set aside for any student funding applications that come through &hellip; so that&rsquo;s any individual or group that wants to pursue a project that they require funds for.

&ldquo;We have about eight active action groups right now which are students that are interested in a project that they would like to see happen so they come to WPIRG and they are provided an annual $1,200 budget to run those projects &hellip; they can apply for additional funding requests through the organization,&rdquo; Nasir said.

Recently, WPIRG has been involved in organizing students against property management company Schembri in an attempt to get students&rsquo; money back from the company due to the current Columbia One situation.

&ldquo;At our last members meeting we passed a motion to cover the ancillary costs with running this campaign so the cost of filing with the tenant board... we figured students were already out something like $5,000 and they shouldn&rsquo;t have to pay more money trying to get that back,&rdquo; Nasir said.

The group has been been working closely with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, but according to Diceanu, they won&rsquo;t be able to support the group through the entire process.

&ldquo;We are looking into possibly hiring a paralegal to provide legal support for the campaign which WPIRG would be paying for either in part or in full,&rdquo; Nasir said.

WPIRG has recently opened up an on-campus office space in the newly built Centre for Peace Advancement at Conrad Grebel. They were located in the SLC for 18 years, but were evicted by Feds last spring. The group will be offering office hours starting next week.


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