The UTM administration reorganized the Environmental Affairs Office and eliminated Aubrey Iwaniw’s position as environmental project coordinator.
Iwaniw had worked as the environmental project coordinator in the EAO since 2004 and also headed the UTM Green Team. She engaged more than 700 students in her projects during her time at the EAO.
“It appears that there is a revival of increasing bureaucracy to lead these sorts of departments like the environment: business case things, and keeping things neat and tidy, and having one department do one thing. And it makes good sense on paper; it is very neat and tidy. But the world doesn’t work that way. The world is messy [and] disorganized, and everyone is just hanging on,” says Iwaniw.
“And that’s the good stuff. That’s where change happens and people are inspired. People are not inspired by orderly nature. They are satisfied in some way, but they are not inspired. So this change, that may seem completely appropriate, may not initiate innovation and inspiration.”
The Department of Facilities, Management, and Planning took over the responsibilities of the EAO, including oversight of the Green Team.
“There is a perception that we eliminated the EAO and eliminated the Green Team, when in fact that is not what happened. We took a look at the environmental sustainability initiatives in a broader context in terms of what had become integrated into our operations on campus, and no longer required a free-standing EAO,” says Paul Donoghue, UTM’s Chief Administrative Officer. “In a sense, the office hasn’t been dissolved, because the responsibilities have been transferred to a group of senior people in FMP.”
The Green Team is a group of Work-Study students who work on institutional waste reduction, alternative transportation, and litter campaigns on campus. In the last few years, the Green Team has offered 25 to 30 positions.
“My understanding is that when the Green Team started, the whole notion of the team was very much volunteer-based. But the volunteer aspect, which I think is incredibly important, was gradually supplanted, where the number of students volunteering compared to the number of students employed was really quite different from when it started,” says Donoghue. “That illustrates the other problem, that is, the evolution of the Work-Study as the driving force behind the Green Team. It has become incredibly vulnerable and we’ve seen what happened. The government, with no notification, unilaterally just pulled the plug on the program.”
During the summer, the provincial government withdrew funding from the Work-Study program. All employed positions will be funded by the university and departments. For the fall semester this year, the FMP has posted only eight Work-Study positions for the Green Team.
“I think the Green Team is critically important. I need advice from students about how we reinvigorate the volunteerism and how we can coordinate with other environmental groups on campus,” says Donoghue. “I understand not everybody shares that view, and there’s a perception that this organizational change pulled the plug on Green Team. Well, in fact, we haven’t. We’re protecting the Green Team and we’re trying to build it.”
Besides managing the Green Team, Iwaniw taught ENV232 with professor Monika Havelka. Iwaniw was also responsible for starting the conversations with Mississauga Transit in 2004 that eventually brought the U-Pass to UTM.
“I remember the first year [of the U-Pass]. Only a small number of people were taking the bus, because nobody knew about the U-Pass. Now everyone knows about it. It is normalized. And that changes lots of things,” says Iwaniw. “It changes people’s behaviours towards transit. It’s no longer believed to be something for poor people; it’s something for young people. People are moving around the city and living in areas along transit corridors, where before that wasn’t as important.”
Critics of the reorganization argue that students directly affected by the changes were not consulted or informed. Rahul Mehta, a UTM alumnus who was involved with environmental initiatives, set up a Facebook page for students, staff, and faculty to give their feedback on the reorganization.
“All the work of the EAO directly impacts the youth, so it would be logical that if a large part of it is removed, the youth would be informed,” says Mehta. “You know, it is very convenient how they chose the summer—the most isolated time with the fewest amount of staff and fewest amount of students.”
Mehta plans to start a petition early in the school year to get student, staff, and faculty feedback to the changes and gauge the impact of the loss of Iwaniw.
Iwaniw also liaised with off-campus organizations. “Partnerships need to be informed if drastic changes like this happen. Otherwise, it’s going to give UTM a bad image, because these partnerships are inevitably going to find out,” says Mehta. “I don’t think the administration gave them enough credit when they decided to make this decision so abruptly.”
Students directly involved with the Green Team talked about the lack of planning on the administration’s part and the experiential loss with Iwaniw’s departure. According to these students, Iwaniw was central to uniting individuals, groups, and faculty with common environmental goals.
“I would definitely say that my work was hindered by Aubrey’s absence. Nobody had a clear understanding of what I was working on, or prior years’ experience of the position and its duties,” says Amanda Puopolo, a fourth-year environmental management student who was working under Iwaniw during the summer as the naturalization and stewardship coordinator. “Although I was provided with the logistical means of completing my work from meetings with the grounds department at UTM, it lacked the support, resources, and knowledge base that I had with Aubrey when I began the job.”