EDITORIAL: Funding required for post-secondary extracurriculars

Apr 18, 2024 | Editorial, OP-ED

OCAD University is the latest post-secondary institution to cut funding for its student-led events in the wake of funding reduction from the provincial government.

This is just one recent example of colleges and universities cutting extracurricular activities.

Artist Alley is the only student-led event meant to give OCAD students a space to sell their art to the community. This year was the first that the school considered charging Artist Alley organizers and students rent for the use of the OCAD campus for the day-long event.

The cost for these services for the latest Artist Alley event, held on April 6, was $535, according to a statement from Artist Alley organizers.

While OCAD eventually agreed to fund this event, future funding remains unclear.

“It’s a shame because this could be a really amazing extracurricular activity, an opportunity for students to learn skills that aren’t necessarily taught in class,” said an Artist Alley organizer who wished to remain anonymous because of fear of reprisal from the school.

OCAD students deserve to host events on their campus without financial concern, especially when there are already so few that provide a space to learn outside of the classroom.

The McCaul Street school was one of several universities that ran on a deficit in 2023, according to their 2022-23 Operating Budget report.

“At least 10 Ontario universities are currently projecting an operating budget deficit for 2023-24 for a combined total of more than $175M, growing to $250M in 2024-25,” said a statement from the Council of Ontario Universities.

The statement said the provincial government’s underfunding of universities forced cuts to student support and services. The council said universities need increased funding to prevent further cuts in services, extracurriculars and athletics.

This means that future events could see less funding from universities and colleges due to government budget reductions.

“The school should be funding it, they should be fully supporting it because it’s a showcase of all the talent that’s at the school,” OCAD student Asia Ruggiero said.

A photo of OCAD student Asia Ruggiero.

OCAD student Asia Ruggiero said the school needs to fund its extracurriculars. Photo credit: Liv Chug

OCAD has covered Artist Alley facility fees for the last six years.

“We have not, until this coming year, had a funding program for student groups, they are self-funded through whatever choices they make,” said Sarah Mulholland, manager of student affairs at OCAD.

“We do have another funding program coming in our next fiscal year which will provide a modest amount of funding through an application process that we are developing right now,” Mulholland said.

A photo of Sarah Mulholland, Manager of Student Affairs at OCAD.

OCAD’s Manager of Student Affairs prepares a modest amount of funding for Artist Alley. Photo credit: Sarah Mulholland

OCAD is one of many universities that cannot afford to cover incurred costs for extracurricular events.

This problem involves the need for funds from the provincial government, but also a proper distribution of those funds on behalf of the OCAD Board of Governors.

“Budgets reflect priorities. In recent years OCAD U has adopted an austerity agenda that compromised the student learning experience, our academic integrity and working conditions for faculty and staff,” read an open letter from OCAD’s student union.

“OCAD University’s Academic Plan champions the humanist and social dimensions of higher education, but its Operating Budget reflects a cut-throat market logic,” it said.

While the Board of Governors develops a plan to run their school on an operational deficit, students pay the price.

Supporting students by funding extracurricular events is just as important as funding those taking place during operating hours.

The provincial government and post-secondary school boards should provide a place for students to host their events safely and without financial concern.