Members of the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association (FMUA) have voted to approve the creation of an Endowment Fund and a Special Projects Fund. The referendum was held between November 23 and 27 and was intended to change the FMUA’s levy structure and to evaluate student support for a fall reading week.

The vote resulted in a $300 yearly reduction of the student fees paid to the FMUA.  “As per our bylaws, all the levies have [met] the 60 percent threshold. As such, student fees paid to the FMUA will drop from $600 per semester to $450, resulting in a $300 yearly reduction per student,” read part of an email circulated to all FMUA members at the end of the referendum.

A proposal for the FMUA to lobby for a fall reading week also passed, with 205 votes in favour and 16 opposed. Mathias Memmel, FMUA co-president, stated that one of the issues with the old levy structure lay in “a discrepancy between the FMUA’s budget planning process… and the faculty budget planing process with the provost’s office. These schedule differences resulted in the Faculty Admin [sic] implicitly allocating funds before consultation was had with the FMUA. While I don’t think this was done maliciously, it put the FMUA in a situation where it was not completely autonomous in its budgeting process,” explained Memmel. According to Memmel, the goal was to put the control of the funds back into the hands of the students.

“The previous levy structure essentially gave all our union fees directly to the faculty. The [FMUA] had no control over the money,” said Jacob Abrahamse, a U of T music student, regarding the old levy structure. Abrahamse believes that the referendum results are a positive change from the old system. “[The changes allow our] money to be managed by our own union and not the faculty,” she said, lauding the allocation of funding towards mental health and a student resource centre. Memmel said that the province’s definition of co-curricular services and spaces was also an issue. 

“For the Faculty of Music, co-curricular spaces include the theatres and performance venues. This is… inherent mislabeling, one that plagues all music institutions across the province, that we don’t want to reinforce,” Memmel explained.

While he acknowledges that such venues are necessary to the operation of an applied music program, he commented that labelling them as ‘co-curricular’ is comparable to “slapping co-curricular labels on the applied components of other programs [such as] dental chairs at the Faculty of Dentistry, gymnasiums and pools at [the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education], labs at Engineering etc.”

Under the new levy structure, students no longer fund theatres and music venues. Instead they must seek funding from the province, reducing the amount that students have to pay.

“Correctly labelled or not, these facilities are clearly curricular in nature and since they can’t be run in the [current] budget model, the funding has to come from the province. By no longer funding performance spaces, we were able to reduce the overall amount [paid] by students to the association by 25 percent,”  Memmel explained. He believes that this new system contains a higher level of transparency and allows for a more efficient allocation of funds towards student projects. “In terms of the funds from the Special Projects Fund and the interest gained from the endowment they will be allocated to member and faculty submitted projects,” he stated. Memmel added that the FMUA now holds the ability to approve projects conditionally, solving a previous problem regarding the group’s control over their budget. 

Abrahamse still supports the complete elimination of the student levy. “[As]it stands, little of the money was and will [sic] benefit all students equally,” he said, referring to the allocation of $224,409 in the 2014–2015 academic year towards the production and staging of opera.  “However, the Opera is primarily for graduate students and a small number of third-year and fourth-year vocal majors.”