The fall semester is just around the corner and, as students return to the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) is moving forward with new and returning initiatives to support UTM students during their studies.
This year, the UTMSU’s executive team consists of President Gulfy Bekbolatova, Vice President Equity Ruth Alemayehu, Vice President External Okikioladuni (Kiki) Ayoola, Vice President Internal Yongxin (John) Liang, Vice President Campus Life Jasnoor Sandhu, and Vice President University Affairs Layana Alnabhan.
The Medium sat down with President Gulfy Bekbolatova and Vice President Campus Life Jasnoor Sandhu to speak about the upcoming academic year. Among the UTMSU’s “top priorities” this year is the expansion of UTM’s Student Centre. Bekbolatova notes that the current Student Centre—having been built in 1999, at a time when UTM was home to around 6,000 students—is not large enough to accommodate the growing need for student meeting space.
“Now we have over 16,000 students [and] over 100 campus groups,” says Bekbolatova, who also shares that the team aims to make the process of designing this new Student Centre a collaborative effort. UTMSU executives have been reaching out to student groups across campus to ascertain what types of spaces would be most beneficial to include within the plans for the new Student Centre. Conversations with administration, as well as with student groups and societies, will continue throughout the coming months. “The student centre expansion project is not like a UTMSU project. It’s an everyone project,” says Bekbolatova. “This is a historic time when students can actually put in their own input and voices into building a new university, building and renovating the current student centre.”
Another new initiative the UTMSU is focusing on this year is the introduction of a mandatory consent culture course. “Students deserve to feel safe and comfortable in every single classroom, every single lecture [and] tutorial,” says Bekbolatova. “We know that some staff and faculty on campus have never had consent training […] and we believe it’s really, really important to have this consent course mandatory for all staff and faculty.” The introduction of this course will be a large part of Lobby Week 2024, which will take place during the fourth week of January 2024.
Lobby Week 2023 took place from January 30 to February 3 of this year and focused on campaigns such as the Academic Policy Code Amendment, Food Security Now, and the request for an extension to the Credit/No Credit deadline. While the Credit/No Credit extension has yet to be achieved, Bekbolatova reports a “victory” when it comes to the Academic Policy Code Amendment, as UTM administration has committed to amending The Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. Other campaigns, such as the Education for All campaign, will also be continued by this year’s UTMSU team.
In addition to these initiatives, Vice President Campus Life Jasnoor Sandhu shares that the UTMSU has a full schedule of events slated within the upcoming month. The annual Welcome Back Week is scheduled for September 18 to 22, which will provide UTM campus groups and societies the opportunity to table and network with new and returning students. A light boat cruise, for which tickets are currently available for purchase by all UTM students, will also be held on September 22. As well, Sandhu shares that there are plans to hold the East Meets West concert, with details to be announced at a later time.
Additionally, throughout the year, students can look forward to Halloweek, Multicultural Week, and new events such as Art-tic Week—happening in January 2024—which is a combination of UTMSU events previously known as Frost Week and Art Week that will celebrate the arts scene at UTM.
With a new year comes more goals to attain and challenges to overcome. By continuing existing initiatives and expanding upon support systems, the UTMSU will be helping students ease into the start of a new, memorable academic year.
Managing Editor (Volume 49); Senior Copy Editor (July–November, Volume 49); Copy Editor (Volume 48) — Juliana is a fourth-year student completing a double major in English and Professional Writing and Communication. She previously worked as a Copy Editor for Volume 48 and briefly as Senior Copy Editor for Volume 49. When she isn’t adding commas or splitting up run-on sentences, Juliana loves to read, play violin, sing, fangirl over multiple TV shows, and completely spoil her two dogs.