Student groups on campus feeling financial impact after opt-out increase

A new digital opt-out process resulted in an increase in student fee opt-outs compared to previous years, leaving fee-recieving groups in uncertain financial situations.

The AMS processed over 7,000 opt-outs for optional fees including those for AMS Resource Groups, the Bike Kitchen and campus performances. According to affected organizations, the number typically ranged from 200 to 300 in previous years.

Students are able to opt-out of certain student fees established by the AMS or by AMS referenda. In total, a student who decides to opt out of all optional student fees saves $24.86.

The ability to opt-out of fees digitally – as opposed to needing to visit each organization in person like in years prior – was made available to students following the 2022 referendum.

The AMS posted four times in now-deleted Instagram posts alongside two emails about opt-outs during the opt-out period. In a statement sent to The Ubyssey, Abhi Mishra, VP Finance, wrote the purpose of the campaign was to encourage affordability on campus.

“We were trying to ensure that students experiencing financial hardships or any other circumstances in their lives are aware of the resources the AMS offers. What we can see is that affordability looks to be an essential concern for students on campus.”

According to Mishra, balancing student-voted measures and support for these organizations is the goal of the AMS.

“It's time to sit down with the organizations to discuss financial plans going forward … Our role is to support everybody to the best ability that we can,” said Mishra.

However, organizations on the receiving end are struggling with the sudden jump in opt-outs, and feel the AMS could have done more.

The Bike Kitchen, which currently has an optional fee of $4.17 following the 2022 referendum, is facing a loss of almost $30,000 in budget. This is a major setback for the Bike Kitchen as it has been in a financially unstable position since 2016.

“We’re more confused than anything,” said Alex Alvarez, the manager of the Bike Kitchen. “We were kind of blindsided by the whole thing.”

Aleena Haq, head of marketing for the UBC Social Justice Centre and Linda Cen, president of Get Thrifty both said their yearly budgets have decreased.

Cen said Get Thrifty received 6585 opt-outs for their $1.09 fee, totalling to a loss of $7177.65.

The increase in opt-outs have forced these organizations to reevaluate their ambitions and capabilities.

The Social Justice Centre, which functions under the AMS Resource Group umbrella, may scale down their mutual aid efforts, which they provide resources for the unhoused after de-encampments on the downtown Eastside.

“The funding really goes into community service and supporting communities on campus, other groups that don’t have as much access to resources as we do ... It’s not like we’re using the funding on a bunch of trivial stuff,” said Haq.

For the Bike Kitchen, Alvarez said they now must decide whether or not they have the financial capacity to plan both Bikes for BIPOC and Pride Night – two programs geared towards providing accessible transportation for marginalized communities.

Haq criticized the AMS for not highlighting the work the groups do and resources these groups provide to marginalized communities.

“We could be spending our time organizing for things that actually matter, rather than trying to fight with our own student body, trying to get the [money for] things that we deserve on our campus … if that money goes away, what’s the point of having resources?”

Alvarez agreed students should be able to choose what they pay for, but wished the AMS did more to provide students with the background knowledge to make “informed decisions,” instead of a “hit this button to save money.”