UTM is big. Before you start laughing, I want you to know that I’m serious. With 12,000 students, the Mississauga campus is comparable to Guelph and Brock. For a campus that originated as a college of U of T St. George, UTM’s rapid expansion over the past decade has positioned our school to take on greater autonomy and independence.
And that’s exactly what’s happening. Under the current governance structure, all matters at UTM are determined by the Governing Council, the highest decision-making body at U of T, at the downtown campus. The Erindale College Council, which comprises students, faculty, staff, and librarians, is a large advisory body that makes recommendations on matters such as academic planning and finances. With the coming introduction of the UTM Campus Council, elected members will vote on matters that will then go directly to Governing Council for approval.
Along with the drastic change, the UTM Students’ Union will find itself without guaraneed representation on the Campus Council. Currently, UTMSU executives have reserved seats on Erindale College Council. The rest of the 75 student representatives on ECC have to run for election each year. With only four positions available for student representatives in the new system—and it has yet to be determined how they will be allocated—UTMSU will lose the luxury of guaranteed seats at the discussion table.
UTMSU executives will still be able to run for student positions on the UTM Campus Council, but they claim the lack of guaranteed seats could result in competition between the union and unaffiliated students who want to participate in governance and represent the student voice.
But do UTMSU executives merit a position on the Campus Council? Why couldn’t another elected student represent the student voice just as effectively?
UTMSU proposed the inclusion of ex-officio non-voting seats for students in addition to the four voting representatives to allow union executives the opportunity to speak at Council meetings.
Then UTM’s principal, Deep Saini, made a solid argument: the role of a student union executive is very different from that of a student representative in governance. The Campus Council will not be a forum for advocacy of stakeholder interests; rather, it will be a formal authoritative body that will ultimately vote on matters that impact the infrastructure and direction of our campus.
UTMSU questioned the availability of these four student representative seats. Who better to represent us that our own student union, right?
I’d share the same concern if it weren’t for the example of one dedicated student last year. Aly Madhavji ran a solid race and achieved a position that few UTM students could ever have dreamed of achieving: he was elected as a student representative on the Governing Council. With fierce competition from and strong support for downtown students, it’s challenging to make it to the top of U of T governance as a UTM student.
In my experience with Aly, he was not only accessible, but also effective. He represented students with genuine concern and eloquence and cooperated with faculty and the administration to understand the bigger picture.
With that in mind, I’d throw my support behind an independent student candidate for Campus Council. I don’t think I’ll be around when the changes are implemented, but I hope UTMSU will continue in their intention to engage students and allow student governance representatives to do their jobs without interference from special interests.