Free–market capitalism is undoubtedly the economic system under which commercial activity is most profitable. If the commerce program, offered jointly by the Rotman School of Management and the Faculty of Arts and Science, wants to maximize the earning potential of its students and create a climate conducive to increasing prosperity, it should extol the virtues of capitalism and encourage its students to embrace free–market principles. However, Rotman’s management of its various student groups displays a somewhat anti-capitalist mentality.
In addition to the Rotman Commerce Students’ Association (RCSA), there are eight student groups recognized by the Commerce program; each of these eight groups focuses on a specialized area of business. For example, Rotman Commerce Beyond Business focuses on corporate social responsibility; the Rotman Commerce Finance Association focuses on finance; and Rotman Commerce Women in Business promotes initiatives for women in business. Each recognized student group receives funding from the university’s operating budget, external sponsorships, and fundraisers. The problem is that the university’s operating budget includes tuition and government funding. In other words, U of T’s commerce students are relying on tax and tuition money to support their activities, which operate at a loss. The reason these students need this external funding is because sponsorships, fundraisers, and ticket sales are insufficient to cover their costs.
To make matters worse, it seems that nobody knows exactly how much money from tuition-paying students is being used to fund the activities of Rotman’s recognized student groups. Furthermore, while these groups are required to report to Rotman Commerce, their financial information is not published online for public scrutiny. The only way to view the RCSA’s financials is through a direct request to the association’s president during times when it is conducting an audit. In other words, not only do students have no idea how much of their money is being taken by student groups, but they also do not know what the money is being used for.
Despite being students who aspire to be leaders in the business world, the elected presidents and executive teams of Rotman’s recognized student groups are displaying incompetence and irresponsibility. Even more shocking than the fact that tomorrow’s business leaders apparently cannot run organizations that break even is that they receive a plethora of free resources from Rotman Commerce — including free marketing, space on the Rotman Commerce website, access to Rotman Commerce rooms and AV equipment, and other support. Having studied commerce for several years, the students who run these organizations should understand that if they cannot break even without using external funds, then their organizations have a negative net impact on society.
Rotman Commerce needs to reform its student organizations; if its student groups cannot operate without subsidies, then the market has spoken: these groups should cease to exist. By rewarding these failing organizations and listing them as recognized student groups, Rotman Commerce is condoning incompetence and contradicting the rules of capitalism. Rotman Commerce should shut down any student group that bears its name and cannot survive without bailouts. As it stands today, Rotman Commerce’s recognized student groups are a stain on capitalism.
Matthew Lau is a second-year student studying commerce.