The Erindale College Council met last week to discuss the budgets for residence, food services, and conference services. The UTM Students’ Union took the opportunity to request that a vote be taken to strike the results of the parking vote from the minutes of the meeting in December.
Tensions rose between UTMSU and the chair of ECC when speakers were cut off after a lengthy debate to call to question the vote on parking fees. The student union states that since the order of speakers was not respected and the vote was taken after the meeting was scheduled to adjourn, the resulting vote in favour of parking fees was not legal.
“The integrity of Erindale College Council is at risk,” said UTMSU’s president, Gilbert Cassar. The responsibility of the ECC is to make sure that first-time speakers are allowed to express themselves. What happened was quite conspicuous. First-time speakers were overridden to allow someone else to call to question, which limits debate.”
Cassar suggested that a new vote be conducted.
“The words ‘integrity of the ECC’ have been used frequently, and that bothers me,” said professor Deep Saini, the principal of UTM and vice-president of U of T. “The last minutes carry three and a half pages of summary on the parking debate. To say that not enough discussion happened on this issue is incorrect.”
The council voted to maintain the results of the parking vote from the December meeting to increase parking fees by 3% with inflation.
Fees for residence and food services will also be increased by 5%.
The residence budget for 2012/13 shows a positive operating result of over $500,000, which will be put towards the outstanding mortgage of the recently constructed residence buildings.
With this year’s residence at 95% capacity, Cassar suggested that the university take greater measures to promote the campus’s residences to generate more revenue rather than resort to fee increases.
Mark Overton, the dean of student affairs, explained that the university must be careful not to overbook and risk compromising single rooms, a selling point when recruiting new students.
“I do appreciate that [residence is expensive], but if a landlord has a 95% occupancy rate, that speaks to whether or not the landlord’s rates are in line with the market,” said professor Lee Bailey, the chair of the Resource Planning and Priorities Committee.
While representatives of the student union spoke against residence fee increases, Gina Lai, an undergraduate student, ECC member, and representative on the Student Housing Advisory Committee, expressed her approval of UTM’s services and said the cost is justified.
“I think the 5% increase is reasonable, because UTM housing actually provides really good services compared to other universities—such as PALs and genOne,” Lai said.
Bill McFadden, the director of hospitality and retail operation, presented the plans for food vendors on campus. The Tim Hortons in the Davis Building will undergo expansion and renovation, and the cafeteria in North will be remodelled.
All the budgets for the upcoming academic year were approved by an overwhelming majority, with representatives from UTMSU either abstaining or voting against.
At the end of the meeting, Saini addressed the council to clarify the issue of the proceedings of the December meeting. He explained that ECC is an advisory body that makes recommendations to the principal but does not hold formal decision-making power.
“I have the responsibility to make a decision that is fiscally sound,” Saini said. “What would I be faced with if I didn’t accept the parking budget? This means that we wouldn’t be able to build a parking structure and students in the future would say that lack of parking space is a barrier to their education. Another scenario is that we wouldn’t increase parking fees but we would take money away from one of the other needs of the institution.
“At the end of the day, let’s just look at the reality. The proposed increases are tiny sums of money, but it is going to help us avoid some much more painful decisions that we would otherwise have to make.”