U of T students may have noticed sponsored advertisements on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook from You Decide UofT, the group campaigning for a referendum on the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
You Decide organizers have been paying out of their own pockets for these advertisements, according to campaign organizer Daman Singh, who confirmed that the cost of the campaign so far has been approximately $400. The campaign has not been actively soliciting donations.
Singh commented, “While this is not an outrageously high amount, it is difficult for a group of full time students to be putting forth this sort of funding without any reimbursement.”
Campaigns for the UTSU executive elections include reimbursement and usually cost approximately $6,000. “$400 may not seem like a lot, but it is important to remember that the You Decide campaign is significantly longer and does not include reimbursement,” said Singh.
The UTSU has not endorsed the You Decide campaign, and Singh confirms that You Decide has “no interest in being formally endorsed by the UTSU. There is no involvement from the UTSU in this campaign and we will not compromise our autonomy in order to receive funding.”
Singh added that You Decide has applied to the Student Initiative Fund, a grant offered by U of T Student Life for community projects, but admits it is “a bit of a long shot” that their group would receive the funding required to keep up their social media campaign.
When asked about how You Decide targets U of T students with their ad campaign, Singh stated, “The Facebook ad campaign is targeted at Local 98 members through Facebook’s internal demographic targeting options. Facebook allows users to limit the scope of their ads in various ways, from location, to age, and even the school that a person attends.” Creating a Facebook ad is a relatively simple process; one could turn a Facebook post from a page into a sponsored post in “a few clicks,” said Singh. Candidates and slates for the UTSU executive elections have also previously placed Facebook ads.
The social media advertisements are meant to draw student attention to the movement without the benefit of an online petition. Because of the size of the campus, Singh told The Varsity that “large scale mobilization efforts on campus have a very small audience of students who are already engaged in extracurricular activities on campus.”