During the EUS 2013 election period, undergraduate engineering students voted in favour of introducing the Engineering Undergraduate Support Fund (EUSF) in Sept. 2013. The $200,000 per-year fund will be raised through a mandatory fee of $80 per year for full-time engineering students and $40 per year for part-time students.
The EUSF was created in response to the provincial government’s recent cuts to Quebec universities’ operating budgets. The Faculty of Engineering is concerned the cuts will result in a loss of staff, and subsequently, diminished student services and decreases in the hours taught by teaching assistants (TAs).
The EUSF will expire after two years, at which point another referendum may be called to determine whether the fund will be renewed.
According to the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), engineering professors will be able to apply for funding from the EUSF in order to pay for TAs, lab and tutorial sections, and support staff such as technicians. A committee, chaired by the president of the EUS, will manage the EUSF based on votes from student representatives, the dean of engineering, and faculty representatives from each engineering department.
The idea for the fund came from EUS President Simon Zhu and Dirk Dubois, president of the Electrical, Computer, and Software Engineering Undergraduate Society, who looked to the existing Engineering Equipment Fund as a model. Zhu said their motivation was to improve students’ educational experience by taking funding into their own hands, in light of the recent budget cuts.
“I don’t think this responsibility—or as some would say, burden—should fall on the students,” Zhu said. “However, given the… disappointing reality that we as students find ourselves in, the EUS believes that this fund is the most actionable and feasible approach at this time that would most benefit our students.”
While the EUSF is intended to maintain the quality of teaching and education within the faculty, some engineering students expressed concern over the implementation of the fund, and emphasized the need for the committee to retain transparency. However, many students also highlighted the benefits they will see from the EUSF through funding for TAs and lab technicians.
“I think it’s a good idea because the TAs are very important in [the Faculty of] Engineering,” Michael Blackburn, U1 Engineering, said. “I go to the tutorials because our professor is really bad, and I learn more from the TAs. Also, keeping the labs modern and working correctly [by lab technicians] is very important.”
Neither the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) nor the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) have plans to begin funds similar to the EUSF in their faculties.
“While I understand the intentions behind such a fee, I do not feel that student fees should be used to substitute for the services that our tuition money should provide,” AUS Vice-President Internal Justin Fletcher said. “It seems to be a band-aid for a larger issue of the government’s dearth of motivation to fund adequately post-secondary education.”
SUS President Joanna Xu said that because the Faculty of Science has many more students than the Faculty of Engineering, a fee like the EUSF might not be beneficial. She added that SUS’s past experience with smaller funds has shown that extensive research is necessary in order to properly manage a fund like the EUSF.
“We are sceptical of the effects of a similar fund in [the Faculty of] Science given the sheer size of our faculty, especially since there is a lack of information about how the budget cuts will specifically affect Science students,” Xu said.