Controversy over student voice

Student union executives questioned the procedures of the Elections Committee of the Governing Council on the planning of a decision-making body at UTM, alleging that the new structure and consultation process fails to adequately represent students.

Professor William Gough, chair of the Elections Committee, presented options for seat allocation on Governing Council, the highest decision-making body at U of T, and on the UTM and UTSC Campus Councils, the proposed decision-making bodies at the satellite campuses, at a consultation session at UTM last week.

The tri-campus Coalition on Governance, comprising representatives from the student, faculty, and labour unions, advocated increased student and teaching staff representation on both the Governing Council and the Campus Councils and more opportunities for consultation with students and faculty.

Representatives from the UTM Students’ Union, the U of T Students’ Union, and the U of T Faculty Association stated that the Elections Committee had not afforded them enough notice about the consultation session. An email had been sent out on October 25, just over two weeks before the session on November 8.

“I’m hesitant to even pick an option, because we clearly have not had enough time or notice for this discussion,” said Munib Sajjad, UTSU’s VP university affairs and academics.

Gough replied that, since the changes will not take effect until 2014, there will be ample time for further consultation.

The UTM Campus Council will replace the current Erindale College Council and restructure governance to grant UTM greater autonomy in local decision-making. ECC includes 75 positions for elected student representatives and reserves seats specifically for UTMSU executives.

In the new structure, four out of 26 council member seats will be allocated to students, none of which are reserved for UTMSU executives—an aspect UTMSU takes issue with, according to executives.

Student union executives can still run for student positions, but Andrew Ursel, UTMSU’s VP university affairs and academics, said the lack of guaranteed seats could result in undesired competition between students and UTMSU executives.

The Coalition proposed ex-officio non-voting seats to include UTMSU executives in governance. Deep Saini, the vice-president of U of T and principal of UTM, disagreed with this proposal, saying that the roles of student union executives and student governors have different purposes. Campus Council meetings will be open and student union representatives will be able to attend and relay information to students, according to Saini.

“Campus Council is a decision-making body. It is not a forum for advocacy,” Saini said. “Representation is important—but the representation to bring the perspective from different estates, not to represent the position of an estate.”

ECC, which comprises administration, librarians, faculty, and students, makes recommendations on academic planning and financial matters to the UTM principal. The UTM Campus Council will report directly to the Executive Council on matters to be sent for approval from Governing Council, giving UTM direct decision-making authority in U of T governance.

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