U of T’s General Assembly was held on January 19 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Multifaith Centre. The UTSU-sponsored assembly was meant as a platform for students to have their voices heard.

Students attempting to raise concerns at the General Assembly were greeted by shouting from UTSU supporters with little intervention from the chair.

The Student Political Action Comittee, StudentPAC, promised to raise the concerns of students who are not able to speak themselves. The committee’s Facebook page states, “We want to know how you would make U of T a better place. We’re listening, and we are working to make our student union listen too.”

“We went to the General Assembly in good faith to talk and engage with UTSU,” said Brett Chang, a StudentPAC representative, in a press release to

U of T. “Instead we got shouted down for raising issues they didn’t want to discuss. It’s no wonder that ordinary students don’t feel welcome at UTSU events and don’t get more involved in student government—it’s a very hostile environment.”

“We will continue to talk about the issues that matter to ordinary students,” continued Chang. “And when UTSU is ready to open its doors to ordinary students, we’ll try to talk with them about these issues too.”

Chang stated that StudentPAC attempted to ask how UTSU provides real tuition relief, increases clubs’ funding, and improves campus social events, but instead of receiving support, they were quieted by UTSU and its supporters.

“We are going to the General Assembly to ask the questions that students ask themselves all the time,” said Chang in a press release to U of T in the days leading up to the General Assembly. “Why have the salaries of UTSU executives gone up even though tuition increases year after year? Why can’t we have a decent homecoming? Why do our clubs receive next to no funding even though UTSU has thousands of dollars to spend on failed protests?”

The Governing Council consists of 50 seats of which only eight are reserved for students. A 16-percent student representation does not allow for student concerns to be heard or dealt with.

“StudentPAC is run by students for students, and we want this assembly to be about students,” said Chang. “This meeting is being promoted as the U of T General Assembly, not a political protest. It should be about the concerns shared by ordinary U of T students. That’s what StudentPAC intends to make it about.”

In days leading up to the General Assembly, organizers claimed they received no support from the UTSU. However, StudentPAC disputed this fact in a press release to the university. They stated that the minutes from the last UTSU meeting, regarding the “Save Our University” campaign, showed that UTSU has assisted with the organization of the General Assembly, that UTSU VP External Zexi Wang endorsed the Assembly at a UTSU Board of Directors meeting, and is listed as a supporter and organizer of the assembly in last week’s issue of The Varsity.

  • While the questions Brett Chang and StudentPAC are asking are legitimate and should be asked from time to time, it seems that they were based on misconception and a lack of understanding of how the UTSU works.

    1. “Why have the salaries of UTSU executives gone up even though tuition increases year after year?”

    From the fiscal year (“FY”) that ended in April 2009 and the FY that ended 2010, there was actually a 0.991% decrease in Salaries, Benefits and Wages (from $852,001 in 08/09 to $845,000 in 09/10), not an increase as Chang claims. These figures include items such as CPP, EI, WSIB, etc.

    It should be noted that the executives only make up a small fraction of 4/5ths of a million dollars (estimated at around $25,000 per executive), with most of the money designated for salaries goes towards paying the salaries and benefits of UTSU staffers responsible for the day-to-day operations of the UTSU, and the wages of part time frontline and support staff.

    2. “Why can’t we have a decent homecoming?”

    Homecoming at UofT was only revived last year, but was changed into Blue-and-White Spirit Week. There are those who state that we need to spend more money to increase participation, and more a better “homecoming”. I disagree to some degree. Spending more money does not necessarily mean a better event or even higher levels of participation. The primary key to a successful homecoming is Alumni involvement, support, and sponsorship, which is vibrant and strong at Queen’s, but is lacklustre and nearly non-existent at UofT. Participation at events also depends on campus culture. Kingston is a university town and Queen’s has a home-away-from-home atmosphere, while we’re largely commuters and Toronto is not a community centred on the University. There is just no way we can compare or seek to have the same level of school spirit as Queen’s.

    Also, one should be asked, why aren’t they directed these questions towards the college councils when they are largely (at least they’re suppose to be) responsible for school spirit and social events? I’m not trying to blame the college councils for anything, it’s just curious that they didn’t take that step first.

    3. “Why do our clubs receive next to no funding even though UTSU has thousands of dollars to spend on failed protests?”

    If you look at the 2009-2010 Operating budget (this is latest one available on the web), $180,000 is designated for clubs compared to $76,500 for campaign, projects, and events. The $76,500 is designated for campaigns and projects, such as “Save Arts & Science” (largely successful, as the Dean backed down from pushing foward with his plan), “Stop Flat Fees” (partially successful, seeing as flat fees start at 4 FCE rather than the originally proposed 3 FCE), and “Blue-and-White Spirit Week” which wasn’t too bad. Failed protests? Far from it. And the assumptions made by SPAC that all UTSU does is “failed” protests is false. UTSU actually does a lot more than protesting, pushing rhetoric, and yelling slogans. There is a lot work that gets done behind-the-scene and without much notice. The UTSU executives speak with Provincial ministers and officials, and regularly meet with the University administration to discuss and sometimes negotiate with them on a number of issues on our behalf.

    I would suggest that if Chang or other students have concerns about the UTSU they wish to voice, they should speak directly to Adam Awad and/or other UTSU executives. Set up a meeting or organize a sit down. It’s the best way to get answers, rather forcing confrontation during a public meeting.

  • yo

    “rather forcing confrontation during a public meeting.”

    It sounds like the only confrontation came from the UTSU cheerleaders.