Eng Soc in the Age of Ford

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Posted on: July 10, 2019

I like EngSoc. While I don’t have
much interest in running anything,
people can benefit from EngSoc
in a litany of ways, from services
such as the exam bank, and events
like Engplay, or simply from the
opportunity to meet more people.
Since the society provides so much
utility, it’s inevitable that they run
up some fees.

The fees for EngSoc spring
2019 are sixteen dollars and forty
cents a person. Since between tuition,
fees and rent students can expect
to spend upwards of ten thousand
d o l l a r s p e r t e r m , i n t h e g r a n d
scheme of things it isn’t likely to
break the bank. However, it’s still
a significant fee for students. For
the price of an Engsoc fee, a student
can get a meal in the plaza – a large
shawarma platter for example. While
individually, the fee is trivial, it’s
anticipated to raise $50,000 in the
summer term alone.

However, with Doug Ford’s
upcoming changes to education
funding, it will soon be significantly
easier to opt out of paying the fee.
Currently, one needs to refund the
fee in the first few weeks of the
term and come back in one of the
last few weeks to get it back. If you
miss the deadlines, you’re out of
luck. It wouldn’t be unreasonable
to anticipate that there’ll be more
refunds, even if I personally have
benefit from some EngSoc services.

From VP Student Life Emma
Swarney’s data analysis, it seems that
only 70% of engineering students
use any EngSoc service whatsoever.
She also remarked that this result
might be skewed high towards those
who use EngSoc services. If 30%
of engineering students withdrew
their EngSoc fees, they’d very likely
cripple the society’s funding for the
term. Even if half the students who
didn’t use the society’s services
refunded their fees, $7500 would be
a shocking adjustment. EngSoc is
resilient, but they’ll have to adapt
to the new policy changes.

The way I see it, EngSoc
will need to find a way to keep the
uninvolved students from withdrawing
their fees one way or another. While
obviously they can’t keep everyone,
the two most effective ways seem
clear: being more transparent with
finances and demonstrating utility
to students.

Historically, EngSoc budget’s
have been opaque – to find the budget
one needed to either ask the VP
finance (which was no guarantee
of seeing the budget) or to attend
meetings (where those who attend
are highly unlikely to withdraw their
fees in the first place). However, as
of this term, the budgets (current and
historical) are now available on the
website. While this budget left some
questions (with $1,650 budgeted for
“discretionary” spending and $2,100
budgeted for “appreciation”.), it
was relatively well maintained, but
the “actuals”, or final values have
not been updated for the previous
term (as of July 6, 2019).

One big detail I couldn’t
find in the budget were the C&Ds.
These stores are arguably one of the
most publicly known components of
EngSoc (alongside POETs). Luckily
for me, VP Finance Michelle Teplitski
was helpful enough to provide the
details.

“The C&D has lost 3K since the
start of the term due to food purchases
and POS maintenance. Mary [the
EngSoc manager] budgeted a 9K
loss total for the term.”
This makes sense because
the CND is such a large project –
just the spaces and food are very
expensive to maintain. 44% of
students also reported using the
exam bank – with a budgeted cost
of one hundred twenty-five dollars
being a wonderful investment that
serves over half the people who use
EngSoc Services. Unfortunately, for
new courses and upper year courses,
the exam banks tend to be rather
meager. Beyond that, the final general
utility used by students would likely
be the discount sticker. For those
unaware, at the EngSoc office (CPH
1327) you can get a discount card
offering 10% off at the DōShack,
among other services of comparable
utility. While there’s many events
EngSoc offers, a lot of them are
time and event specific, whereas
the benefits listed above are more
generally applicable. Moreover, it’s
difficult to figure out which events
are interesting for each person.

The second component
of ensuring that as few people
withdraw their fees as possible is
increasing engagement. There’s not
a massive lack of services – in fact
there’s dozens of events, socials
and directorships from the budget,
but as Emma Swarney in her post
noted, lack of knowledge of these
events is a key issue. In fact, they’ve
already taken to addressing this by
having an EngSoc calender on their
website, having reddit posts from
/u/UWEngSoc, and having Facebook
posts. Evidently this isn’t enough, and
it’d behoove the society to promote
their flagship events more visibly
than posts on a Facebook group.

Ultimately, even if one
doesn’t actively participate in a
student society, many people could
see the benefit of them. While it
might not be the obligation of EngSoc
to demonstrate their worth, they’d
be well advised to engage with the
30% who don’t see the value.

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