Tag Archives: UTSU

UTSU 2010 Election Unofficial Results

President (Voter Turnout 16.2%.)

Masse, Steve: 2977 (41.76%)

Awad, Adam: 4152 (58.24%)

Total: 7129

Vice President, Equity (Voter Turnout 16.1%)

James, Alyssa: 3372 (47.6%)

Sandhu, Danielle: 3712 (52.4%)

Total: 7084

Vice President External (Voter Turnout 16.25%)

Finlay, James: 3500 (49%)

Wang, Zexi: 3650 (51%)

Total: 7150

Vice President Internal and Services (Voter Turnout 16.2%)

Adenmosum, Rolli: 3648 (51%)

Maher, Mike: 3497 (49%)

Total: 7145

Vice President University Affairs (Voter Turnout 16.4%)

Galvez, Maria: 4370 (60.4%)

Lu, Jimmy: 2862 (39.6)

Total: 7232

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St. Michael’s College

Salman, Muriam:                 345

Rawdat, Sal:                       341

Trevisan, Jessica:                337

Modekwe, Kosi:                   328

Watson, Neil:                     293

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For the full unofficial results: click here

On the Board of Directors, the following “Team Change” Candidates were elected:

Humphrey, Pau (At Large.)

Valley, Jonathan (Innis College.)

Rawdat, Sal (SMC.)

Trevisan, Jessica (SMC.)

Pinnington, Thomas (Trinity College.)

Vieira, Anna (Trinity College.)

Curbelo, Mauricio (Engineering)

Vote Change U of T!


Tomorrow is the last day of voting for the 2010 University of Toronto Students’ Union Election. Polls are open from 10:00AM – 7:00PM. Last year, some members of the incumbent slate* won by margins as slim as 35 votes, so every vote counts.

Having thoroughly examined the two slates running in the UTSU election this year I would like to whole-heartedly endorse “Change U of T.” We are all busy students so here is a quick rundown of my reasons for supporting these fine candidates:

Transparency: The Change Slate has an excellent platform but what stood out to me was their emphasis on transparency. The UTSU, currently, doesn’t publish the minutes from its meetings, or hold regular office hours. The Change Slate plans to let some much-needed fresh air into the UTSU.

Steve Masse: Presidential Candidate for Team Change Steve Masse was the clear winner in the candidates debate. He spoke with passion and intelligence on a variety of issues (one’s that actually affect students) and really impressed me. Steve Masse has the experience to be UTSU President and will do an excellent job.

Services: The UTSU should be a service-based organization, not 110% focused on activism. The VPs External and University Affairs should be doing the activism, the President, VPs Internal/Services, Equity and Campus Life should work to make life just a little bit easier for students at U of T. This philosophy has been at the hear of the Change Campaign (though they are all strong advocates for students’ interests) which is exactly what UTSU needs.

Experience: Every member of the Change Slate has their own unique grass-roots experience working with students from all over the U of T. When I vote I want to support a student leader, not a student politician and all of the Change ticket’s executive and BOD candidates are accomplished student leaders.

Vote Change U of T today! For a UTSU that is as excellent as U of T!

*The UTSU incumbency rate from the last 5 years is 100%.

Report Accuses the UTSU of Misallocating $200,000 in Administrative Fees

On Friday January 29, 2010 Innis College Student Society Vice-President Michael Maher and Vice-President Finance Jack Phelan released a 7 page report which discussed what they referred to as “irregularities” in the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s 2009-2010 budget. After scrutinizing the UTSU budget’s various allocations the report concludes that “nearly  $200,000.00 in fees dedicated to the administration of the Health and Dental Plan is being spent on something other than the Health and Dental Plan.”

Maher and Phelan cite “The Policy for Compulsory Non-Academic Incidental Fees” :

§B.5. outlines the nature of levies raised on behalf of a student society and dedicated to a
specific purpose. For reference, it is reproduced here.

B. 5. Student society fees may include levies for specific, limited projects, within the
University including those for academic purposes. Such levies shall:
(a) be approved by whatever process is required by the student society’s constitution
for consideration of a fee increase, and by a referendum;
(b) be in effect for a limited time period or include provision for periodic reviews;
(c) be treated as part of the student society fee but be specifically listed on students’
accounts;
(d) be paid by the Student Accounts office directly to the student society or to a
restricted account for the purposes designated in writing by the student society. Such
a designation must be approved by the council or board or directors of the society.

According to the report the University of Toronto Students’ Union reallocated $200, 000 in fees from a line item entitled “Health and Dental Plan Administration” to “General Revenue.”  A note in the “Financial Statements” section of the UTSU’s 2009 Annual General Meeting Package referring to the Health and Dental Plan states:

3. Health and dental plan surplus and reserve
The group health and dental plan includes an actuarially determined Claims Fluctuation Reserve to
cover anticipated claims for which the plan is liable. Where the premiums collected by the insurer
exceed both the claims made against the plan and the amount required to fully fund the reserve,
the excess may be kept on account with the insurer and used to pay for future deficits that may
occur from year to year, or it can be refunded at the union’s request. In the event that this amount
is refunded and a deficit is subsequently generated, the union’s premiums would be increased to
eliminate it. Management has recorded a reserve equal to the surplus balance to reflect their
intention to leave this amount on deposit with the insuror to cover possible future deficits created
by higher claims against the plan.

The Equivocator’s take:

The report makes some very serious allegations and I recommend reading it several times before jumping to any conclusions. The press release this blog was sent is published below. As a press release was issued by the writer’s of the report we can conclude that the UTSU Executive did not respond within the 10 day period.

Conceivably, there could be a rational explanation for the discrepancy in the budget. Before – or even if – the UTSU offers any explanation, however, this report highlights deficiencies in UTSU’s transparency and accountability.

The Equivocator has asked the President and Vice-President Internal and Services of the UTSU to comment and will publish any response.

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UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO – On January 19th the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) was delivered a report outlining more than $200,000 in misallocated funds.  Jack Phelan and Mike Maher began investigating budget allocations after learning at the UTSU’s AGM that the propriety of budget allocations were not within the purview of the auditor’s report and after Vice-President Najmi made allusions to budget surpluses being used to cover deficits in other budget areas.

The fee in question is the Health and Dental Plan Administrative Fee, a $6.24 per semester levy collected for the purpose of covering expenses associated with the UTSU’s health and dental plans.  Mike Maher, one of the authors of the report is concerned that “the levy represents a significant portion of the UTSU’s operating budget, and is being collected under false pretences. It also forces those taking advantage of the insurance plans to pay extra for the services the Union provides.” Phelan takes issue with the fact that “this oversight might have been more easily discovered had the budgeting process been more open and supporting documentation been more available. Many of the figures in the report are based on conservative estimates simply because none of these figures are publicly available.”

In order to allow the UTSU ample time to explain the irregularities, six copies of the report were couriered to the executive committee on the 19th with the expectation that they would contact the authors within 10 days, as requested in the report.  A response has yet to be received. The report can be found online at www.tinyurl.com/UTSUbudgetreport. Phelan and Maher are now planning to forward their report to University administration for further investigation.

Mike Maher and Jack Phelan are 3rd and 4th year arts and science students as well as executives of the Innis College Student Society. This is not Phelan’s first report concerning the UTSU, he co-authored a document outlining questionable outcomes of the Union’s 2009 general election last year.

Contact Information:
Mike Maher                                           Jack Phelan

416-579-6617                                      647-866-9637

m.maher@utoronto.ca jack.phelan@utoronto.ca

Student Life or Something Like It: The Democracy (or Lack Thereof) of the UTSU Executive.

This is the expanded version of my editorial piece from the January 21st edition of “The Newspaper” (found online here)

On December 30th of last year Prime Minister Stephen Harper shut down (prorogued) parliament. This has been the catalyst for a great debate across Canada on accountability in democracy and the power of elected officials. For the majority of his political life, Stephen Harper opposed making appointments to fill vacancies in Canada’s Upper House, describing as the pejorative “Canada’s Unelected Senate.” A philosophical debate over whether elected officials are more accountable than appointed is important and interesting but may seem too esoteric and impractical for average Canadians. At the University of Toronto that debate seems to be happening though not in the open forum that one would expect at a university. The University of Toronto Students’ Union has received criticism for a perceived lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the UTSU Executive.

There are six members of the UTSU Executive: the President, and VPs External, Internal/Services, Equity, University Affairs and Campus Life. U of T students hold all of these positions, all of them receive a substantial salary paid for by U of T students’ fees (the 2010 UTSU budget allocates $745 000 for the “Salaries and Wages” of the UTSU Executive, the UTSU’s employees and their associates/coordinators), all hold a considerable amount of power and manage sizable budgets. Surprisingly, only five of these positions are elected. The Vice President Campus Life is chosen by the USTU Executive and ratified by the board of directors.

The change from democratic election to executive-based appointment of the VP Campus Life is a fairly recent one. In 2005 at a UTSU (then SAC) Annual General Meeting, the position of “Vice-President Student Life” was changed to “Vice-President Campus Life” in part of an omnibus UTSU reform package. The justification for this change was to prevent the UTSU member in charge of club funding from providing “patronage” to the clubs who helped them get elected. This argument tacitly implies that the VP Campus Life could get away with such graft without exposure. If this is so, then simply appointing the position would not fix the much larger problem of a lack of transparency.

The VP Campus Life runs the UTSU’s club recognition process and gets to divvy out a budget of approximately $178 000 dollars. The position was made controversial this academic year when EFUT, the French club here at U of T, was denied funding on account of the intricacies of the UTSU’s club recognition process. EFUT did not provide a complete list of its members to UTSU. Instead of being asked to provide a list, they were simply rejected and told to reapply.

Clubs must apply for funding in October and await the Campus Life commission’s verdict, which they receive in November. If they are rejected, they can’t reapply until January. An emergency meeting of the UTSU Board of Directors was held on December 3rd 2009 to considering allocating funds for several clubs. EFUT received less funding than they requested. The Varsity reports that “according to Vita Carlino, UTSU’s clubs and events coordinator, EFUT will have to submit a written statement expressing their concerns, which will be addressed once the tabled funding requests are resolved. UTSU warns clubs that if they do submit a statement of appeal, there is the possibility that they will receive no funding at all.”

Appointed politicians are supposed to operate above politics and the influence of lobbying or special interest groups. An appointed official is only effective if they serve for an extended period of time. This allows them to bring the benefits of their experience without the dangers of constantly pivoting to various populist bases. There is no incentive to redress complaints about the UTSU Club Recognition process or the actions of the Campus Life Commission as the VP is not accountable to the electorate. The fact that the UTSU operates with the executive having shared powers and responsibilities, all five members receiving pay for their work, makes the VP Campus Life position seem like a bizarre anachronism. For years it seemed like prorogation was an arcane and bygone tool of parliamentary procedure that could not affect Canadian democracy. Two years and two prorogations later it may be prudent to proactively examine our own electoral systems, even at the micro-level of the University of Toronto Students’ Union.

Here is the url to return you to “The Newspaper” website: http://thenewspaper.ca/

If you want to debate democracy and student politics at the University of Toronto please feel free to comment.

Issue # 7 – Who’s Looking Out For You?

U.T.S.U.:  Keeping Them Honest

Alex Greco

Political Columnist

A new year, decade and semester, same deal right?  Well, not exactly.  One thing has not changed; I’m looking out for you and on your side, leaving nothing to chance, getting the facts, informing you of the latest developments of issues that are important to you, as a University of Toronto student to make a choice. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the first edition of the second semester of Who’s Looking Out for You?  I vowed in my final column of the first semester that this column would be back better than ever.  After much time and effort, I’m confident that you will feel this to be the case.  This semester, I’m going to focus on topics concerning student politics, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, and the possible political impact, Canadian politics, free trade and NAFTA.  My first column of the semester concerns the U.T.S.U.:  What is the U.T.S.U.?  What the union does for you; its practices; and past and current controversies in general and with SMC.  I’m keeping them honest.  What are we waiting for, let’s get started!

The University of Toronto Student Union, has been representing students since 1901. They proclaim that “they are here to work for you.” Headed by President Sandy Hudson, U.T.S.U. provides student services such as discounted TTC Metropasses, income tax services, daycare, health and dental services. They have many student commissions concerning campus life, university affairs, sustainability, discrimination and student rights.  Year in, year out, they host student rallies like DROP FEES and undertake campaigns such as Copyright Reform and Awareness.  They host a number of events outside the classroom including their annual clubs fair during orientation week, and play a significant role in Orientation Week hosting various social events and organizing a training seminar called JOLT for all orientation staff of the seven colleges, prior to the week itself and events such as Homecoming and Winterfest.

The organization consists of an executive committee, councillors and members that focus on all issues ranging from finance to social issues.  They have an overall operating budget of $ 1 104 500 for 2009-2010, allocating funds to various programs and services. Supporters argue, the organization’s budget is prioritized.  Opponents argue that it lacks transparency and specifics exemplifying it as a perfect example of government waste and corruption.

They have always assured students that they are looking out for them. Students of SMC have felt that to be far from the case.  Over the past year, the relationship between the union and the college has become more than just strained.  It has become downright hostile, to the point that there have been many within SMCSU considering defederation, meaning that the college would legally remove themselves from the U.T.S.U.  In the process, SMC students could lose many services that the union offers, but wouldn’t be required to pay a levy fee of $ 64.00.  To defederate, they would not only have to enter into discussions with the union itself, but also with STUDENT LIFE and the University of Toronto administration.  If successful, the college could be responsible for representing its own interests, needs and concerns. No love is lost between the two parties. Andreas Kloppenburg believes that “the defederation battle would be hostile and ugly arguing that, although there are certainly problems with the U.T.S.U, I think SMC should reform it in the present before leaving it in the futureElectoral reform, reconciliation of College-U.T.S.U. relations and strengthening the Board of Director’s system including the creation of a neutral 3rd party administration U.T.S.U. elections should be top priorities. Many are sharing growing frustration, like Joseph Uranowski: “I abhor how they have operated as a purely political organization. They don’t publish their meeting minutes.  They feel that they are under attack from President David Naylor and any student who disagrees with them. They marginalize SMC.  Defederation is possible and desirable depending on the circumstances.

Over the past 12 months, relations have been further strained.  At last year’s U.T.S.U. general election, the college was denied a request for their own polling station by the U.T.S.U. executive committee.  The result was SMC and Victoria College having to share one polling station, located at Victoria College’s, Wymilwood Cafe.  Some have argued that the college was treated by the union as “insignificant”. Many also griped over the fact that the U.T.S.U. is planning to build a student centre that for many is inconveniently located far from SMC. Also some are upset over the U.T.S.U. involvement in this week’s Winterfest.

U.T.S.U. itself hasn’t been without controversy as demonstrated by the proxy scandal, currently plaguing the organization.  They have been accused of having undemocratic electoral elections, making it difficult for students to run against incumbents.  SMC was furious when the union claimed during the 2009 U.T.S.U. Bi-Election that SMCSU U.T.S.U. representative candidate Jessica Walsh, should be disqualified after her election win due to Walsh and SMC not following certain election rules.  Walsh’s election win was later validated, but calls for change, have grown louder, ever since.

The U.T.S.U. will be representing you for the foreseeable future. They should be held accountable; address controversial issues, and achieve results.  You and I both demand it.  I have highlighted the facts and events you need to know about.  This is your student union.  Keep them honest!

Until next time, I’m on your side, and definitely looking out for you!

Send feedback, questions and article suggestions to stmikespolitics@gmail.com

To defederate, or not to defederate

Here is an article the I wrote in collaboration with Semra Eylul Sevi for the last issue of the Varsity for this semester. (http://thevarsity.ca/articles/23663) This is my first ever article in the Varsity. When Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae attended the University of Toronto they wrote for the Varsity.

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Daniella Kyei, VP Equity for the University of Toronto Students’ Union, told The Newspaper in an article published in November, “It isn’t completely realistic for any single body to represent all 41,000 undergraduates.” This is a glaring contradiction to the “Welcome Statement” on UTSU’s website, which declares, “UTSU is your students’ union.” There’s a conspicuous gap between UTSU’s claim to represent all U of T undergrads, and the reality that on a campus as diverse as St. George, one group cannot represent all, leaving many feeling powerless and unrepresented.

At St. George, the sense of being disenfranchised has grown to such a degree that there is widespread talk of defederation around campus. Leaders from many of the colleges and the professional faculties have expressed a desire to separate from UTSU. Jimmy Lu, president of the Engineering Society, told us, “Engineers have always had a UTSU separation committee. UTSU campaigns do not provide any benefits to engineering students…” Francesca Imbrogno, president of the St. Michael’s College Student Union, told The Varsity that defederation is a possibility, remarking, “opinions around SMC are pretty serious because no one sees the cons of defederating.” SMCSU will even be holding a town hall on defederation in January. Finally, Daniel Tsekhman, president of the University College Literary and Athletic Association said, “The UC Lit aims to be driven by the opinion of the UC community. If students want to leave, then we will start an open discussion to see if it’s the best option.”

The size of our university community is a big factor in the increasing divide between UTSU and U of T, as students generally feel like a number within the larger university community. The colleges and faculties, on the other hand, promote a sense of identity. They tend to have focused, medium-sized student governments where it’s easier to feel connected to local representatives.

Barring a road-to-Damascus-conversion, UTSU will continue to operate with little transparency and accountability. The colleges and professional faculties already have the infrastructure to provide the services that UTSU provides, such as the health/dental plan and the TTC metro-passes. Catherine Brown, president of Victoria College Students’ Union told us, “At the end of the day, before VUSAC defederates from UTSU we need to make sure that any services we lose from defederating we could provide ourselves.” The colleges and professional faculties could work together to provide these services, while being connected more directly to the students they represent.

If students want a mechanism with which to exit or enter the University of Toronto Students’ Union, the UTSU executive must provide one.

The Echo Chamber: A Tiny Play about a Big Fallacy

By Joseph Uranowski
Written 2009 A.D.

Dramatis Personae
—————————
PRAEFECTA, the consul
INTERNA, a tribune
EXTERNUS, a tribune
AEQUITAS, a tribune
CAPITULUS, a tribune

Scene
——–
Consul Praefecta and four tribunes have exited a meeting with the people of the Academy of Utoria slamming the large wooden door behind them. They converse while walking swiftly towards their fortress.
—————————————————————————————

Internus: How do we feel that meeting transpire, oh transparent and twice elected Praefecus?

[All five stop walking]

Externa mumbles affirmatively.

Capitulus folds arms.

Aequitas remains silent.

Praefecta: I know not why these students were being so obstinate to our plans. Do we not represent the whole of Utoria? They relinquished their voices and right to speak by exercising their right to vote. An echo is always stronger, louder and purer than its source–

Capitulus: Quite true.

Internus: Most correct.

Praefecta: – and this undiluted fact should quench the thirst of the zealous crowd not inflame them.

[The continue walking at a lax pace]


Capitulus:
May I recount an incident that may explain why students at this academy are blind to the fact that we serve their best interests?

Praefecta: We are listening.

Capitulus: One day Internus and I were walking through the college we all detest, SMC –

[All five spit on the ground]

–We heard two students discussing their views on us, the UTSA. Afraid of being recognized we ducked behind a shrub. Internus had to then find a rock to conceal himself, as the brier couldn’t hide us both. You know that old saying: “One bush cannot conceal two –”

Praefecta: (interrupting) Yes, yes we all know that cliché.

Capitulus: The two students differed on their opinion of our council. One supported solidarity and argued the truth. The other was a traitor to the university. The more agreeable of the two argued that our ability to invoke solely the weaker arguments and yet triumph is an art worth more than a hundred thousand dollars, which is almost equal to our salaries. The other disagreed, saying that the main grievance of SMC is that our attempts to marginalize that college are too transparent and that we do not represent the majority.

Praefecta:
Aequitas, how do you defend your college?

Aequitas remains silent.

Internus: That’s preposterous! The very notion that we are not the majority is absurd!

Externa mumbles affirmatively.


Capitulus:
We do speak for all the students, right? Now that I think –

Praefecta: Of course we do, I’ll prove it.

[All gather around Praefecta]

Picture a crowd of forty-one-thousand. All gathered in one place. No one there to lead them. What do you notice?

Internus:
They are quite noisy. A crowd like that would be very rambunctious.

Praefecta: Exactly. Now, instead of imagining, just remember our last meeting. Were we not equally riotous as the crowd in your imagination?

Capitulus:
We were even louder. I can recall many instances where our orations shook the very boardroom table we encircled.

Praefecta:
Then it logically flows that we posses the voices of all forty-one-thousand students who attend this academy. We are indistinguishable from a multitude and that is because we represent the masses in everything we say and do.

Internus: What a righteous and natural argument you make.

Externa mumbles affirmatively.

Aequitas remains silent.

Capitulus:
That is a most self-evident truth.

Praefecta: I agree. So self-evident that we shall never discuss this topic again.

[They arrive at their fortress where a large bowl of water sits on a table beside a cup of red powder and a cup of sugar. Praefecta mixes the powder, the sugar, and the water and all five drink.]

SMC Declaration of Independence

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which Laws of God and of Nature entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The motto of the University of St. Michael’s College is “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge.” St. Michael’s College Students’ Union operates as a service-based body that seeks to unite the students of SMC and enrich their university experience while adhering to high standards of transparency, accountability, inclusivity, prudence, and openness. SMCSU derives its authority from the consent of the 4500 undergraduate students at St. Michael’s College. St. Michael’s College and its students’ union have worked with and are willing to work with an expanded students’ union representing all students at the University of Toronto as long as the aforementioned principles are abided by and St. Michael’s College is treated with respect and consideration. University-wide students’ unions, long established, should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is SMC’s right, it is their duty, to separate from an all-encompassing students’ union and aggregate its power to the SMCSU. The history of the present University of Toronto Students’ Union is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over St. Michael’s College. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They did deny St. Michael’s College a polling station during the 2009 spring election even after repeated protest and offers to pay for such a polling station by the SMCSU.

They disqualified a rightfully elected candidate without publicly posting notification of that candidate’s demerits as stipulated in Article VI Section J of the Elections Procedural Code of the University of Toronto Students’ Union.

They have resisted requests by a substantial number of University of Toronto students to post their meeting minutes online in a timely fashion.

They have regularly squandered students’ money on divisive and unnecessary political campaigning.

They have embarked on building a superfluous students’ centre in an area too far from SMC, Victoria College and Trinity College to be of convenienence. They decided to continue on this venture with only eight percent of the student population having voted in a referendum on the matter, resulting in only a slim majority who supported this measure.

Current President Sandy Hudson has publicly compared those who oppose abortion to “white supremacists” and has voted work towards denying students and groups with this opinion space on campus.

They have repeatedly disrespected the office of the President of University of Toronto and held protests that lowered the level of civil discourse that one rightfully expects to exist at a university of the University of Toronto’s caliber.

They have held events on the same day or at the same time as those by SMC and the SMCSU with the malicious intention of undermining attendance in the SMC/SMCSU events.

In the Spring Election of 2009, the candidates on the “Access” slate who now make up the executive of the UTSU repeatedly claimed, falsely, that the Government of Ontario was planning to raise tuition by more than twenty percent with the expressed intention of frightening the students of the University of Toronto and causing them to behave irrationally and vote for the aforesaid slate.

They have consistently failed to plan and execute events and services designed to improve the university experience of the students they extract fees from. Instead, they advertise heavily for the failed Drop Fees event that has occurred five years in a row with no accomplishment.

The UTSU has received complaints about these grievances on many occasions but has failed to acknowledge their own failures and continues to act in a manner unrepresentative of students’ interests.

St. Michael’s College exists happily in the federated system of the University of Toronto. We have thrived academically, artistically, socially and spiritually with our brothers and sisters in the other colleges and faculties. Unfortunately, the UTSU has chosen, year after year, to use the resources given freely by students from St. Michael’s College and the rest of the University of Toronto in a divisive and wasteful manner. It is therefore necessary that St. Michael’s College separate itself and the financial resources of its students from the University of Toronto Students’ Union as long as they intend on continuing to operate in the manner they have for the last four years.

Drop UTSU Fees

November 5th was the 5th Annual Drop Fees Day of Action.* Nothing says University-level argument and civil discourse like a mob of people yelling in megaphones at no one in particular. For a critique of the “movement” there is an article from Carleton University’s** newspaper (here), from my associate Alex (here), from The Varsity (here) and the Strand (here). Adam Awad, the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s VP University Affairs, wrote an article for the Varsity (here) where he defends the Drop Fees Campaign. The problem I have with Mr. Awad’s article is that he provides no real evidence to counter the claim that 5 years of shouting has been entirely ineffective. The VP University Affairs offers only a fallacious Post hoc ergo propter hoc statement that because Premier Dalton Mcguinty put more money into education after the campaign started it was the DFP (Drop Fees People) who made the government act that way, not the Liberal Platform from the previous election or anything like that. ***

The problem with the premise of the Drop Fees Campaign aside there is also the question of the UTSU’s hypocrisy (which I have written about before here.) As a student and liberal I believe that education, especially post-secondary, is important to the economy and should be funded to the fullest. Unfortunately, there is a discrepancy between idealism and reality. The money that funds our excellent University doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If you got 100% of your information from the DFP you would conclude that the Government of Ontario has billions of dollars just lying around and they are refusing to put that money into education so they can maintain their gold filled pool. Ontario is in a recession with a multi-billion dollar deficit. They can increase funding to education but that would require the Provincial Government raise taxes. Since many university students get help paying for their education from their parents then what is the point?

ROSI tells me that year after year I pay around $70 a year in fees to the University of Toronto Students’ Union. This is not including the money I pay for the dental/health plans I don’t use (though it is a good thing that they exist as international students use them.)

Of this $70 dollars a portion goes to the Canadian Federation of Students. Another chunk goes to pay the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s Executive’s exorbitant salaries. They spend another slice of that pie on the Drop Fees Campaign. The tiny sliver left over is split between funding events like the Israeli Apartheid week, a menagerie of other protests and pet causes and the various “services” that the UTSU is supposed to provide. You may argue that the UTSU does provide the TTC Metro Passes but that implies that they distribute them with a large discount and take he loss. In reality the UTSU makes money from the Metro Pass sales.

The UTSU protests high fees while wasting our money. On top of this, a few years back they had a referendum on building a $20 million Students’ Centre**** which raised our fees and produced nothing in 2 years. In the referendum 8% of students voted and a fraction of a percentage over 50% of that voted “yes.” If you saw the Drop Fees Parade this year (and every year before) you may have noticed fewer people in attendance. The UTSU is becoming like the Republican Party in the United States, smaller in number and more extreme.

When I talk to people about the UTSU they usually ask “What is the UTSU?” Which answers the obvious question: “Are we getting our moneys worth?”

The fundamental problem with the University of Toronto Students’ Union is that they are an activist group, not a service-based student union like SMCSU or VUSAC. The article defending the Drop Fees Campaign that I mentioned above was written by Adam Awad. His job on the UTSU is University Affairs. The UTSU VP External is Hadia Akhtar, her job should be lobbying the government. Unfortunately 100% of the executive dedicates 95% of their time to protesting.

Conclusions:

The college system at the University of Toronto is good as each college elects their own student union to provide certain services and having a smaller, more efficient bureaucracy is good. The UTSU should focus on providing certain services really well, uniting the student body and lobbying the Government and University Administration in a rational and intelligent manner. Instead, the UTSU puts all of its efforts into divisive wedge issues, disrespecting the Premier and President Naylor, while ignoring what students actually want.

It should be mentioned that the UTSU has completely ignored the fact that the TTC is going to raise fares. They also have done nothing to lobby the government to legalize Cannabis. Both of these issues affect students to a great degree.

If the UTSU really wanted us to pay less for our education they would:

Drop UTSU Fees!

* Also known as: the CFS’ Drop Fees- Fight global warming-End the War in Afghanistan- Free Palestine-End Poverty- Stop Racism- Vote NDP- Reform Copyright-End the Monarchy-Ban the Seal Hunt- Lose Weight With Acai Berries- Extravaganza!
** Carleton is current in the procession of defederating from the Canadian Federation of Students.
*** I would like to personally thank the Drop Fees Protesters for: Electing President Barack Obama. The campaign started before Mr. Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004 so crusaders like UTSU President Sandy Hudson can be seen as responsible for his Senate Election, his Primary victories and his 2008 triumph over John McCain.
**** A second Hart House.

Don’t drop students to drop fees (A re-post)

From: The Charlatan. Carleton University’s Newspaper.

Nobody enjoys paying tuition fees.

No kidding.

But the Drop Fees campaign, led each year by the Ontario wing of the Canadian Federation of Students, insists that there is an alternative.

With the list of 29 items that campaigners are asking the Ontario government to satisfy, they’ve set out to make university life less financially devastating to students. But looking through the campaign’s list of demands, it’s hard not to ask: “Will you please show your work?”

The campaign fails to explain where money would come from in the event that tuition fees are lowered. The only answer we’ve heard is: “The government should pay it.”

Does this mean that taxes would have to increase? Would wages be cut for staff and faculty?

This point should be the crux of the campaign and the fact that it isn’t certainly raises questions as to what the repercussions of this program’s success may be.

If the burden falls onto taxpayers, then hard-working students’ mommies and daddies could end up paying even more for their children’s education.

And would families living in poverty, the very people the campaign supposedly intends to help, have to pay higher taxes to pay for lower tuition fees, too?

Another hole in the Drop Fees initiative is created by the call to increase the number of faculty per student. This serious issue, which many students relate to with frustration, comes into conflict with the first campaign objective.

Again, where would the funding come from to support the added staff?

In order to recruit faculty in the first place, universities have to make attractive financial or research resource offers.

The unfriendly truth is that faculty costs money and this part of the initiative would only add to the financial strain.

Perhaps the most frustrating repercussion of this entire campaign is that not all students would benefit from it, and some could actually be harmed by it.

Many professional and graduate programs have historically had more flexibility to charge higher tuition fees. With this system in place, policies proposed by Drop Fees might not benefit professional programs like nursing, engineering and medicine, for example.

In addition, the Drop Fees initiative plans to eliminate the Ontario textbook and technology grant available to all students who qualify for loans under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). The campaign recommends putting this money, instead, towards an overall drop in tuition fees.

Considering this grant is only $150 per student to begin with, when spread out over all post-secondary students, this is not going to go far.

Under this plan, students in technical and professional programs not only stand to miss out on the lowered fees that form the basis of the campaign, they will also lose this grant. What technical student in his or her right mind would ever want to support this?

Most disturbingly, the Drop Fees campaign is not upfront about these facts.

The campaign does propose to support these programs by making OSAP available to professional, graduate and part time students.

That would be a noble goal, if OSAP hadn’t already done so long ago.

OSAP is already available to these groups, who seem marginalized by the rest of the campaign.

Professional and technical students, along with Ontario’s taxpayers, are the ones who stand to lose based on the list of Drop Fees recommendations.

This whole endeavour could be far more constructive if the campaign presented the government with a solid plan of action that spoke, not just for a few student groups, but for everyone.