The Governing Council approved a policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations last June that will mandate student unions to operate in an open, accessible, and democratic manner.
According to U of T News, the finalized policy was the outcome of “more than two years of consultations.”
The draft policy was made available to students as a way of seeking inputs and feedbacks last February, prior to the proposal at the Governing Council meeting.
From a 2013 report by Professor Misak, published by UTMSU, the idea of creating a student-focused appeal board was first put forward at a student summit in 2013-2014, which aimed to bring undergraduate student representatives together to discuss issues concerning the students.
The summit was discontinued due to the withdrawal of various student societies, which resulted in the delay of further policy consideration.
The policy was met with opposition from several student unions, including UTMSU, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, and the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union.Nour Alideeb, UTMSU’s president, denied being involved during the policy consultation, and sent a letter to the University Affairs Board in June, saying that it is “unfortunate” that the administration proceeds with a policy without their consultation.
Alideeb added that UTMSU will proceed to “legal remedy” in case the policy is further implemented.
No legal action has been taken yet.
UTMSU has not responded to The Medium’s request for further details as of press time.
No going back on the policy
Althea Blackburn-Evans, the director of news and media relations at U of T, verified that the time period for feedback has ended, and that there are no negotiations being made regarding the policy now.
Blackburn-Evans also addressed some potential “benefits” of the new policy, through which students are to be given more power by having their complaints investigated and resolved by a board, the majority of which is made up of fellow students.
Subsequent to the policy
Subsequent to the policy’s approval is the establishment of the university Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies or a Student Societies Complaint and Resolution Council.
The CRCSS is composed of four student representatives from the UTSU, APUS, SCSU, and UTGSU, and one non-student selected by the University Affairs Board.
The CRCSS aims to resolve conflicts between the students, student unions, and organizations in an open-to-the-public manner.
“The CRCSS […] will now decide whether student societies are failing to do that. Before the policy, the decision was made by university staff. The CRCSS is a major improvement,” said UTSU’s president, Jasmine Wong Denike, who issued a claim of endorsement on the policy back in June.
“Is the policy good for student societies? That doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s good for the members of student societies. The policy makes it harder for student societies to get away with anti-democratic behaviour, and that’s a good thing,” Denike explained.
Blackburn-Evans also relayed the significance of students finding a way to settle conflicts with their societies in private settings.
“It’s always our preference for societies to address complaints themselves,” she said.
According to Blackburn-Evans, the CRCSS is not yet established. A chair will be appointed by the University Affairs Board by early January.
The Office of the Vice-President and Provost will also be requesting student societies to select their representatives to join the CRCSS. This process would be completed around October or November of this academic year.