It doesn’t take much to see just how much money students put into their unions and university. UTMSU is given $22.13 a semester. UTSU is given $33.48 a semester. Students are left with thousands of dollars’ worth of debt upon graduating. While the financial aspect of school is enough to bear, students also pour a lot of time and energy into this institution. Suffice to say, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that students deserve answers from those who claim to be on their side with issues.
This past week, the chaos surrounding Jordan Peterson’s comments worsened. His free speech rally was met with outbursts and disruptions from those trying to silence him. The rally even served as the catalyst for threats on social media towards the trans community.
While these events were taking place, it became clear that someone needed to answer for them. Peterson hasn’t been shying away from the media. But when it comes to the threats posted on social media and how the university plans to handle them, the spotlight shone on the administration for answers.
And here’s the troubling thing. The university didn’t provide much in terms of an answer. And this isn’t the first time that the university hasn’t responded to questions in times when answers are needed the most.
In 2015, when the strike was happening, U of T couldn’t be reached for comment regarding the future of courses. As quoted in our article, “Agreement struck down, strike goes on”, the university “did not respond to The Medium’s questions about the number of courses, labs, and tutorials not running during the strike and the university’s plans for the courses that have been cancelled due to the strike.”
History didn’t necessarily repeat itself with their response to Peterson, but The Medium received several statements this week from union executives calling out the university’s lack of action regarding the online threats and Peterson’s comments. Denio Lourenco and Cassandra Williams, of UTMSU and UTSU respectively, both stated their disappointment with the university’s letter addressing the social media threats. But, the university’s response—or lack thereof—is just the beginning in a long line of answers that leave students with more questions. And this problem is just one of many.
When it comes to the quest for answers, it isn’t uncommon for questions to be answered days too late or at the very last minute, preventing any follow-up questions. Comments are often blanketed under vague statements promising change or assuring students that issues are being looked into. These cookie-cutter comments are the hallmark of those unwilling to provide answers. Information is shrouded in confidentiality and students are left wondering what to make of answers that never really provided an answer at all.
That being said, it’s unfair to say that the university is the sole source of information. It’s also unfair to comment on the university’s lack of a decent response when those very organizations have done the same thing in the past.
In recent weeks, The Medium published an article, “New UTMSU hire raises questions”, where UTMSU executives couldn’t be reached for comment regarding Sajjad’s hire. Of the answers that were provided, they were the typical, political responses that answer the question while simultaneously leaving wiggle room for technicalities or semantics.
Equally large topics such as the lawsuit between UTMSU and UTMSFL were also met with obstacles. Last year, former UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe did not provide comments regarding if UTMSU would be participating in legal questioning and who from UTMSU would be questioned. A follow-up article published just three days ago by The Medium turned to current executives who, after saying they needed to contact UTMSU’s lawyer, never got back to us on questions asked.
UTSU is no exception. When news of the lawsuit filed against several former executives first surfaced, students were curious for more information. Though, upon approaching executives for comment, Wathey and Hudson did not respond to our requests for comment.
These are just a few examples picked from the dozens that have happened over the years.
It’s times like these where I wonder how many times a reader has picked up the paper to see the line, “As of press time…” or “…could not be reached for comment”. Students deserve answers to their questions, especially from those who made it their job to represent students.
The student unions and the administration have made a point to tell students that one of their main objectives is to be transparent. But with answers that protect their own self-interest half the time, maybe students’ definition of the word differs from theirs.
How can they justify dodging questions when it’s the student’s right to know what goes on in this university? These appointed leaders and public figures are meant to provide insight into the difficult topics. Instead, what they’ve done is teach students that the riskier the question, the vaguer the answer—if you’re even lucky enough to get one.