UTMSU executives and students came together in the Campaigns and Advocacy Commission last Tuesday to discuss academic policies, equity initiatives, and to approve the UTMSU budget.
Vice-President University affairs & academics Miguel Cabral discussed the academic policy initiatives the UTMSU has been working on, including the removal of subscription-based services like iClickers and Top Hat.
“That’s something we’ve realized that students overwhelmingly don’t like because it’s an additional cost to students. So, we want to have that removed,” said Cabral.
Another academic policy initiative the UTMSU has been pursuing is self-assigned sick notes, where students will be able to claim two sick days per course without requiring a signed doctor’s note.
“It was successfully piloted in the summer,” said Cabral. “We’re hoping to have it fully piloted by all departments across campus but we’re still trying to push to have that implemented.”
Vice-President Equity Habon Ali went over the equity initiatives. “Our top priorities in the upcoming weeks, as well as the next year, include Black History Month, eXpression Against Oppression (XAO) week, and environmental initiatives.”
“Expression Against Oppression is an annual event that happens, and it’s essentially a week full of events that tackle various forms of oppression and raises awareness about equity and social justice issues.”
Ali also discussed the environmental initiatives that the UTMSU has been focusing on. “Some of the environmental initiatives include collaborating with sustainable groups on campus like Zero Waste and Trashion Show, as well as building workshops and farmers markets, tree planting events, and purchasing sustainable items for students to use on campus.”
The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Program, in which the UTMSU sponsors a refugee student every year to study at UTM, was also mentioned among the equity initiatives.
“This is a program that has been around since 2008. So, it’s been about 11 years which means we’ve had about 12 students come here,” said Atif Abdullah, UTMSU president and chairperson of the Commission.
Vice-President External Kai Ng discussed Chartwells and food services on campus. “We have always been trying to improve the food service of Chartwells and also to increase affordability of all foodservice providers,” said Ng.
Another issue that Ng brought up regarding Chartwells was about catering opportunities and prices for club events as “the university does not allow clubs to bring their own food.”
“It is very overpriced,” said Ng. “The only departments that can order food from Chartwells are academic departments, usually clubs are not even close to being able to afford the food.”
The commission then proceeded to go over and approve the Campaigns and Advocacy Budget totaling $28,700. However, Atif Abdullah stated that this budget was “not an ‘end all, be all’” and if changes were to be made, they would be presented to the commission in later meetings.
The priorities focused on UTMSU volunteers and the organization of Black History Month were given the largest sums, receiving $6,000 each. The XAO and We the Students initiatives were approved for $4,000 and $3,000 respectively.
Miguel Cabral also discussed Academic Advocacy Week, which was budgeted $2,500.
“It’s an initiative to basically help educate students on what academic resources are available to them, [and] help students know their rights as students,” said Cabral, “because these are very important aspects for an everyday student to be able to know.”
The Campaigns and Advocacy Commission will be having its next meeting in January, where they will discuss the outcomes of the first meeting and the campaigns they will be working on.
The Commission plans to have a meeting every month starting January 2020.