UTM held its first “mega” commission meeting of the year, comprised of the Student Life commission, Services Commission, and the Campaigns and Advocacy commission last Monday.
The meeting created multiple working groups and offered many opportunities for attendees to contribute to the planning of upcoming events and campaigns the UTMSU will be working towards in the coming year.
The main point of discussion during the meeting was on the proposed Student Centre expansion.
During the commission meeting, attendees and executives discussed the plans for the York University’s Student Centre expansion. Preliminary construction plans indicate that the new building will provide two-thirds of multi-purpose rooms on the campus, an urban plaza, thirty-six additional club office spaces, and will house seventy per cent of the multi-faith prayer spaces on campus.
UTMSU President Felipe Nagata stated that he has been communicating with the President of the York Federation of Students, Rawan Habib, who recommended a student-led strategy of “getting students to pay for it to make them feel like they’re building something that’s bigger than just a building, but like a legacy.” Nagata says the issue is that the UTMSU might have to pursue a different strategy on account of the fact that York achieved their expansion through a student referendum to have a levy.
When asked how his executive team is in a better position than last year’s executive team to ensure the expansion happens, Nagata highlighted how the current executive are focused on approaching students as opposed to the university administration.
”This year is a lot about community-building,” he continued. ”We’re focusing on students more. Everything that we do is for students first. We try to get students’ input and involvement in everything.”
Nagata told The Medium he is more hopeful regarding the expansion because he sees more enthusiasm among students regarding the expansion. “People don’t usually like their tuition increased but I feel like this year everybody’s so excited to help out and they wouldn’t even mind giving a little bit more money to expanding the centre.”
He added that the money for an expansion would come from the student body, but his executive team would pursue other options like donations from sponsors and the administration once a more concrete idea is presented.
According to Nagata, the next step is to approach students and see how they feel about the idea in a referendum. “I personally think we aren’t ready this year. I think we need the students not only to know a little more about the issue but be sympathetic to the cause as well. We are definitely not there yet.”
In an email correspondence with The Medium, Principal Ulrich Krull stated that “the expansion of the Student Centre has been discussed for some years already, and there are preliminary layouts of the space so that rough cost estimates can be calculated.” Krull further added that the “the UTM administration continues to hold some funds in reserve to help support the construction should a student referendum indicate that such construction should proceed.” Krull stated that at a minimum, the university will provide $2 million.
Aside from the Student’s Centre expansion, the commission meeting also provided students information on what the three commissions would be doing for the rest of the year.
The Student Life Commission established a working group for Halloween events and Pub nights, and established the Wechat committee, which will work to assist and organize events for the Chinese community such as Chinese Cultural Week.
The Services Commission presented a bi-weekly project called OnePeace which will allow students to come together for meditation and yoga in the students’ centre. The UTMSU also informed attendees about the Food Pantry available for students and locals.
The Food Pantry is a volunteer-operated program that can be found in room 2102 of the Davis (DV) building. It provides amenities such as cooking classes, hygienic products, and food coupons.
The Campaigns and Advocacy commission established the mental health working group, which will look at policies such as the university’s mandated leave of absence policy and ensure greater student involvement in the creation of such policies.
Finally, the WUSC local committee was created in the commission meeting to look for ways to improve outreach and coordination services in the UTM refugee pathway program.
The UTMSU’s volunteer coordinator Juliana Salsa told The Medium that the UTMSU is “still looking for a lot of students that want to pitch ideas […] I don’t want the student’s union to be run by the staff there, I want it to be run by the students.”