The University of Sydney Union (USU) will enter semester two with a new executive, a revised clubs and societies (C&S) funding model, and a positive budget outlook for the year of 2019. The news comes after a semester in which clubs and societies executives complained of a hurried approach to funding reform and the Union revealed substantial financial underperformance in 2018.
President Connor Wherrett informed Honi that the Union is back on track to report an operating contribution at the end of the year — a stark contrast to the near half a million dollar deficit reported by the USU in 2018. Part of the reason for this is a turnaround in the performance of HostCo, the catering company run by the USU. HostCo previously operated off-campus at a wedding venue in Peakhurst — a venture which was ultimately a “failure” in the words of Wherrett and led to the cessation of the company’s off-campus operations. HostCo reported a profit in the month of June this year.
Wherrett also expressed optimism regarding the performance of the USU’s bars, Hermann’s and Manning.
“Hermann’s is going really, really well, we’ve got a lot of bookings,” he explained.
The USU has also updated its C&S events funding model for the second time this year. On-campus C&S events will now receive 50% of their costs in funding from the USU plus $1 per attending USU member. Previously, under a model introduced in February of this year following the roll-out of Universal Access, this figure was only 30%. Base line subsidies for off-campus events remain at 30%.
The February funding model was criticised by C&S executives for the hastiness of its introduction — barely a week before Welcome Week — and the effect it had on smaller C&S. Most executives are welcoming the new update, though some remain concerned about the future of C&S that run primarily off-campus events.
Joshua Maggiora, Secretary of both the Science Society and the Young Vinnies Society, is one such person.
“The new changes are significantly better, but societies that are heavily focused with off-campus events will not see much of a benefit,” Maggiora said, referring to the decision to keep base funding at 30%.
USU figures show that the average per event funding is down from 2018 by a marginal 3%, and that per attendee funding is down by more than 20% owing to increased attendance. Maggiora remains optimistic that the incoming reforms will address this discrepancy, however.
“I think my two societies were initially worse off due to the new funding changes brought in last semester with not enough new active members from Universal Access to offset this. However, I do think it is likely in the long run both societies will end up better off under Universal Access as once the funding model is completely worked out.”