Originally I had written a long, angry rant. Obviously, that isnt the letter Im submitting to you now. As of Friday night, I had decided against submitting any letter at all because, as cliché as this may sound, I feel like Im back in high school.
Person A says that person B said this. Then person C calls me to insist that person B meant something else. Then person C tells person D something completely contrary to what person C told me, and, thankfully, person D relays the info in my direction. Really? Is any of that necessary? I understand UTMSU has to respond in the safest political manner that will protect their executives, but if they had just been honest with me, I would never have submitted this letter.
With that said, Ill start from the beginning. Ive been writing for The Medium since September, and I must say that it has been one of the most rewarding experiences Ive chosen to engage in since I began university. Ive attended various events that I otherwise may have not known about; Ive met interesting people that I otherwise may not have encountered, and Ive learned about and taken interest in topics that I otherwise may not have looked into. As a result, Ive taken an interest in UTMSU. You know, that union on campus thats always asking for people to come out and get involved? Yeah, them.
From reading The Varsity and UTMSU minutes online, I learned about the Canadian Federation of Students. I became interested and started doing research on the institution. Lucky for me, this falls under the department of the VP external Henry Ssali, who I see every Monday and Wednesday in lecture. Thus, it wasnt difficult for me to find him and ask a few questions. Upon enquiry, Henry told me that any student could attend a CFS meeting as long as theyre informed and have been active in the UTM community. It just so happens that theres a meeting coming up January 21 through to the 24. Thinking that I fit the criteria, I asked if I would be able to attend. You know, participate, get involved, all that good stuff UTMSU preaches. Henry told me that Id be able to go. Sadly, he seems to be one of the few executives who dont believe there are two different types of students: school leaders versus everyone else.
I booked the whole weekend off of work, something I very rarely do. While researching CFS, I came across their registration policies. They offer a $75-discount to participants who fall into constituency groups that include aboriginal, racialised, disabled, international, queer, transgendered, mature and part-time students. Basically, if youre white, your student union pays more for you to go.
Apparently, this is not a problem for many of the UTMSU executives. Students pay membership fees to the union through tuition costs, yet the executives consider themselves so privileged as to exclude students of a certain race. While this is wrong of CFS, it disheartens me to realize that our very own student union not only accepts these policies, but takes advantage of them as well.
Im not one to take things on hearsay and Im unresolved as to the actions Ill take against the allegations; however, let me make one thing clear. I dont respond well to underhanded manipulation, nor to being underestimated. Calling me to tell me about the dozens of other people who would better benefit from attending CFS wont deter me. I took the initiative, asked and was told that there was space; where were these dozens of other interested student leaders when registration was going on? Im extremely disappointed in the way that UTMSU has handled the matter and I intend to make it known.
When Henry announced the names of the participants, the first excuse as to why I shouldnt attend was because Im affiliated with The Medium. If they had bothered to ask, they would have known that I was attending as a student and have no obligation to report to The Medium. My editor didnt know I was supposed to attend CFS until after word of the allegations spread. When this excuse was shot down, one of the VPs tried to claim that it wasnt worth all the money to send me. Take from that what you will.
First, I think that the VP who was accused of discrimination should have been the one to contact me. I received a phone call from her the day after mentioning this to the president, but unfortunately I was at work and missed it. I phoned her back during my break and never got a response. Good on me to vote her in last year.
Second, it is rude to tell me that, while I can attend if I want to, there isnt much point or use in me doing so. Its also irresponsible to say that I should let them know of my decision as soon as possible, and then tell other people that theres no way Im going and that Ive been deregistered.
I thus find myself disturbed by the artifice of some of the UTMSU executives. I wasted a lot of my time and have yet to receive an apology.
In its constitution, one of UTMSUs purposes is to recognize the legitimacy of student representation and the validity of students rights; and whose role in society is clearly recognized and appreciated. Id appreciate it if one of the student leaders could remind them of this integral facet.
Id like to get involved and learn through experience. Im not so sure its worth the trouble.