The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTMSU) has had a whirlwind of a semester working around the Covid-19 pandemic and keeping up with its agenda. However, 2021 brings more exciting new opportunities for students at UTM as the UTMSU plans to host several events for academic, financial, and social support during the winter semester.

Mitra Yakubi, president of the UTMSU, spoke to The Medium about the union’s current plans and what to expect this winter semester from her team, Connect UTM.

As stated on the UTMSU website, the team is introducing new events in the coming months, providing UTM students with academic and financial support. In February, events like the ones organized for Black History Month, Tax clinic workshops, and the Environmental Justice and Law panel will be taking place. Moreover, the UTMSU will be looking to provide more academic support for students at UTM.

UTMSU’s first major initiative for academic support is its launch of the Know Your Academics Campaign.

“This campaign is to raise awareness about academic policies, academic integrity, services, and resources for students,” stated Yakubi. “The UTMSU held Academic Advocacy Week in collaboration with campus partners such as the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre (RGASC) and Downtown Legal Services (DLS).”

Another major initiative the UTMSU is planning to undertake this year is relaunching the United for Equity Campaign. Yakubi explained that “this campaign aims to challenge all forms of discrimination and oppression on our campuses, in our communities, and in our student organizing spaces.”

Yakubi went on to discuss UTMSU’s weekly educational workshops, titled “Learning and Unlearning Seminar Series.”

“As part of this campaign, we have an educational series every Friday where we share definitions of terms related to equity,” said Yakubi. “A few of the topics that were covered during these series [include] climate change, promoting Indigenous languages, racism in the healthcare system, and gender-based violence.”

One of the most recent events coming up this month is Black History Month. As stated in the union’s Annual General Meeting 2020 report, the events organized within Black History Month create an environment for Black community members to share their experiences. 

“Clubs like Caribbean Connection, Black Literature Club, the Black Students’ Association, and volunteers were able to attend and discuss pressing issues that Black students and the Black community deal with on a daily basis,” read the report.

Throughout the month of February, students will have the same experience where they will be able to participate in events such as paint night, cooking classes, an open mic “and participate in events that discussed a range of issues from Blackness and mental health to love, sex, and relationships.”

Following other major events, the UTMSU will hold a Tax Clinic Workshop, in collaboration with the Canadian Federation of Students. The workshop will offer free tax filing services from mid-March until the end of April. 

The UTMSU hires and trains more than 20 volunteers to help administer this service, which is available to every student, domestic or international. Due to the current circumstances of Covid-19, UTMSU will host the Tax Clinic on a virtual platform.

“Students will be able to book online appointments and will be assisted by our volunteers and staff,” explained the union.

The UTMSU will also hold a “Learning and Unlearning Sustainability” seminar event, called the “Environmental Justice and Law” panel. On February 10 at 5 p.m. UTM students are welcomed to join Dr, Nicole Laibeter and Dr. Andrea Olive to discuss local and global cases of environmental injustices, challenge Canada’s reputation, and environmental law.

As we enter the last few months of the school year, UTMSU President Mitra Yakubi and her team are ready to close their governance to a new executive team this March. Unlike the previous years, this year the campaign will take place solely across virtual platforms such as the UTMSU newsletter and social media.

For more information, students are encouraged to visit the UTMSU website for learn about new events and services.  

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