We’re nearing the end of another academic year, and with that comes the insurmountable joy of student elections. I’m not picking on anyone in particular here—all student groups have them—but, of course, in this case we are all subject to the intense campaigning and rhetoric that comes along with the union elections. Our local union, UTMSU, can’t quite start campaigning yet, but until then we have some great UTSU action to enjoy. Case in point: last week’s All-Candidates Debate, where I saw more than speaking points.
First, I would like to point out something that is rarely made clear to full-time students at UTM: UTSU is your union as well. That’s right, you have two. And you give them both your hard-earned money. So you should care about who gets elected. And those who care vote. So do that.
On the flipside, I got the sense from watching the video of the debate that many St. George students, even candidates, couldn’t care less about UTM issues. Whenever the topic came up, I noticed that people generally seemed less interested, unless it in some way related to what was happening at St. George. Naturally, many of Munib Sajjad’s (UTMSU’s current VP External and now a member of the incumbent Team Unity) points had to do with UTM—food diversity and such—and I saw a clear shift in the audience’s reaction when he spoke about these topics. People just didn’t seem to care as much. I swear, when I zoomed in on the screen, I could see little, pixellated eye-rolls.
I can’t be the first person to notice some negativity towards UTM from St. George students in general. That just seems to be the culture. Try as we might to create our own identity out here in the woods of Mississauga, there remains a nagging feeling that St. George is the “real” U of T while UTM is merely a (rather pejoratively) “satellite” campus. In my experience, I have found that many St. George students do nothing to suppress that attitude.
What upset me most about this was that at the debate, there was instead plenty of debate on the rather controversial Israeli Apartheid Week—an event that, in my opinion, shouldn’t even be addressed by our student union. Issues of equity aside, I don’t think student unions should take such a divisive, political stance on any kind of geopolitical issue.
In any case, that’s certainly not what our unions are meant to do, especially when they could have been discussing campus issues. Like, say, those of UTM.
Michael Di Leo