Summit a breach of autonomy

Dear Editor,

I would like to clarify a few things from your editorial last week (“Don’t give us gobbledygook”, Feb 24, 2014).

Firstly, UTMSU has put in both time and effort to make the students on our campus aware of what’s happening at the student societies summit. There are nearly 13,000 students on our campus and reaching out to the vast majority is often a challenge considering the various different campaigns UTMSU runs year round.

The reasons that might seem “nonsensical” to you will make perfect sense when one carefully goes through the content of the entire letter. The letter not only summarizes the reasons but also gives a detailed explanation of why we believe so. Since the beginning of the summit meetings, the environment has been one that is very controlled and hinders active participation and discussion. I don’t understand why the U of T administration is taking a lead on this summit when the outcome of this summit is in no way enforceable upon an autonomous organization such as UTSU. If student societies have concerns, they should raise it with UTSU directly rather that approaching the administration for help. UTSU is membership-driven. If there are concerns by its members, it will definitely look into those concerns.

The summit is a breach of autonomy on many levels. The administration is trying to influence the workings of an independent organization such as UTSU by hosting this summit. Why aren’t levy-collecting groups a part of this summit? Do they not have a direct stake in what is being discussed behind these closed doors?

The issue to me seems that student societies (that, by the way, duplicate what UTSU does) just want to redirect membership fees from UTSU to themselves. Well, if you are that determined to redirect and collecting fees to fund similar services already being provided by UTSU, why don’t you run your own referendum to do so?

UTMSU’s relationship with UTSU was endorsed by our joint membership at the annual general membership meetings of both UTMSU and UTSU and is re-emphasized in our union’s by-laws—By-law XV.  Students at UTM appreciate the cooperative relationship we have with our sister students’ union that has saved UTM students’ money and provided students with access to services such as the health and dental plan. You wrote that the university requires anyone who receives student money to be financially transparent. Well, keeping that logic in mind, students at UTM also pay tuition fees to the university. Does that mean that if students put forth a request to view Chartwells’ contract with the university, the university would provide them with the original and “unblackened” version of it? UTMSU had made this request repeatedly for many years and has been denied. Does this mean that the University of Toronto is not financially transparent? If so, we hope that you will focus your future editorials on why students need a strong central students’ union that will hold the university accountable and ensure more transparency.

Raymond Noronha


UTM Students’ Union

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