Students brought their concerns to UTSU at its “What’s Missing?” town hall held at the St. George campus last Wednesday.
The town hall was meant to be a forum for students to discuss changes they hope to see on campus and the campaigns they wanted UTSU to focus on.
An executive made it clear at the beginning that this town hall was not intended for discussing the upcoming need to restructure UTSU’s board to comply with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act.
UTSU ELECTORAL REFORM
At the event, some students raised concerns about UTSU’s elections code, calling it inaccessible.
Specifically, Katrina Vogan took issue with apparent inequities in the slate system, which allows candidates to pool their resources and gain an advantage over independent candidates.
She cited the fact that some colleges have banned slates in their elections, and asked UTSU representatives if they would consider removing slates from its own elections.
“Are [the benefits of slates] enough to justify the clear financial inequity that’s resulting for students interested in running independent campaigns? I don’t think they are,” said Vogan.
Another student said that when there are no slates, the elections encourage “honest debate” between individual candidates since each independent would focus on the issues that they care about.
UTSU president Yolen Bollo-Kamara responded that there are merits to both types of elections and that UTSU runs in similar ways to other unions.
She also noted that the CRO can loan money to independents before the election to help make the process more accessible.
Former UTSU VP university affairs Pierre Harfouche, who resigned last November, proposed that UTSU run a non-binding plebiscite on its ballots during the spring general election to gauge student opinion on the subject.
UTSU representatives expressed interest in discussing the topic further in the future.
Students also shared their opinions on what kinds of campaigns they wanted to see UTSU organize.
VP equity Najiba Sardar mentioned plans to run a campaign on unpaid internships as well one on destigmatizing feminism this semester.
A student also raised concerns about the number of speeding vehicles at St. George, and called for more cameras to be installed and for greater police enforcement along with possible speed bumps to curb the problem.
Other concerns that were raised at the town hall included accountability for grades awarded by TAs and promotion of mental health resources.
“I’m pleased with how the town hall went and really appreciated feedback from students regarding issues on which to focus our advocacy, improving UTSU services, and strengthening our university community,” said Bollo-Kamara in an email after the event. “We took detailed notes and are developing a plan to investigate and begin or further work on the issues students raised.”
REFORMING THE BOARD
At the beginning of the event, Sardar noted that the town hall was not intended to discuss UTSU’s board structure.
The board structure was a major subject of controversy last fall when the union tried to pass a motion to replace its current structure with directors representing various constituencies, mostly representing minority groups.
Asked when discussions would take place surrounding UTSU’s board structure—which must become compliant with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act by next October—Bollo-Kamara said UTSU hopes to hold at least two additional town halls this semester, including one at UTM.
She said Wednesday’s town hall was intended to solicit feedback on what students would like to see from their university and students’ union, which would provide context for further discussions about UTSU’s board structure.
“Our goal is to facilitate more student involvement in creating a representative structure for the board of directors and shaping the direction of their students’ union,” she said.