UTMSU’s annual Academic Advocacy Week last week brought attention to aspects affecting student academics on campus.

“The goals of Academic Advocacy Week are to get students thinking about three main things: their academic rights, our campaign called Fight the Fees, and divestment,” said Vanessa Demello, UTMSU’s VP university affairs and academics, in an email to The Medium.

“Instead of focusing on only academic supports, we expanded to include different topics that directly and sometimes indirectly affect our academic lives,” Demello stated.

UTMSU hosted an information session called, “Who Runs this Joint Anyway?”, where Nour Alideeb, UTMSU’s president, led students in a discussion over concerns surrounding U of T’s governance system, and its effect on student rights, policies, and tuition investments.

During the session, students engaged in a game of Snakes and Ladders, which, according to Alideeb, represented a journey of issues that students face, including grade forgiveness, tuition fees, and parking fees, up to Governing Council meetings where students find it hard to present their concerns.

Alideeb encouraged students to learn more about their school’s administration and to take part in campus council meetings.

“Our students are talking about free education, governance reform, better academic support, and a more accessible education,” Demello stated.

“The conversation won’t end here, because now our students know where to find information; they’re learning more about their student rights, they know what resources they have access to and what campaigns, events, and services they should look forward to this upcoming year.”

“We want to make conversations around serious topics like student rights, career pathways, university affairs, and academic support in a fun and engaging way early on in the school year, to better equip our students for their year(s) ahead,” Demello added.

A farmer’s market was held on Tuesday to promote “access to healthier food and products on campus.”

UTMSU’s president, Nour Alideeb, talks about Governing Council.
UTMSU’s president, Nour Alideeb, talks about Governing Council.

UTM’s Health and Counselling Centre also held a booth with Kimberly Green, the school’s dietician, who talked to students about the health benefits of spicy foods and gave away home-grown peppers and vegetables.

The week also included a Research Opportunity Program presentation by UTM’s Association of Graduate Students, and a presentation by Downtown Legal Services in collaboration with the Political Science and Pre-Law Association.

The Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre also provided workshops this week to teach students about citations, writing skills, and academic integrity.

According to U of T’s Annual Report on Cases of Academic Discipline, the rate of student offenders for the year 2015/16 has reached 382, 35 more than that of 2013/14, which was 347.

The number of repeated offences has gone down from 46 in 2013/14 to 37 in 2014/15.

“[…] I have personally worked on at least 20 academic-related offence cases since I took office on May 1, 2015,” said Demello, when asked about the number of cases she has dealt with to help students avoid academic offenses.

According to Demello, around 200 students seek UTMSU’s help annually regarding academic offences.