The first meeting of 2019 for the UTM Campus Council opened with a warm welcome for Rose Patten, the newly-elected Chancellor of U of T. This meeting would be the first time that a chancellor has come to sit in a Campus Council meeting without a formal event. Chancellor Patten expressed her delight in the growth of the UTM student body as well as the expansion in graduate programs and new special studies on campus.
The chair informed the committee that voting for Campus Council elections begins February 4th. The meeting began with Professor Andrew Peterson providing an overview of Extra-Departmental Units (EDUs). EDUs are organizations working to facilitate a shared goal around an interdisciplinary focus. The Centre for Medical Chemistry and Institute for Child Development, Health, and Policy are proposed EDUs.
On behalf of the UTMSU, VP External Atif Abdullah gave a presentation on the UTMSU and their student services, campaigns and overall work. He highlighted three pillars for the union: Campaigns, services and events. Examples of the work done under these pillars includes the Fight the Fees campaign, the GTA-Wide U-Pass campaigns, the MiWay U-Pass and printing services, as well as orientation week and academic advocacy week.
Abdullah stated that the UTMSU is working to expand the MiWay U-Pass campaign and has met with local officials to work towards achieving a Brampton expansion. He stated that the UTMSU has “had multiple meetings with Mayor Bonnie Crombie. We have upcoming meetings with a few council-members of the city of Brampton to talk about how we are expanding our program […] to envelope cities like Brampton and Oakville.”
In terms of services, Abdullah highlighted that “any service provided by the UTMSU is never looking to make profit: the goal of every service the UTMSU provides is to break even and make sure it’s as accessible to students as possible.” He highlighted the Food Centre food bank service located in the main floor of the Davis building. Abdullah stated that the Food Centre serves over 100 students a month.
In terms of academic societies and clubs funding, Abdullah said that the UTMSU funded approximately 140 clubs and societies this year, with the academic societies being co-funded by the Office of the Dean of Academics.
In terms of the UTMSU’s achievements, Abdullah highlighted the Course Retake Policy, converting the Blind Duck Pub food containers to biodegradable products, and hosting the first UTM pride-flag dropping ceremony.
“There is a lot more to come. There is a lot more that we’re continuing to work on and continuously advocating for,” said Abdullah.
Abdullah also noted a “problem at hand” in regard to the recent announcement made by the Ontario government on cuts to post-secondary institutions and students. Abdullah stated that the autonomy and operations of students’ unions are at stake because of the proposed opt-out changes. He went onto say that the UTMSU is one of the biggest employers on campus. He stated that their employees may take a hit financially if the union faces cuts to bursaries, the food centre, and funding for clubs and societies. Abdullah highlighted that the Students’ Union can be a safety net for students. The U-Pass initiative, Free Breakfast Wednesdays, and the Health and Dental Insurance plan are all handled under the UTMSU.
When the council was asked how it could assist the Students’ Union in its fight against the tuition changes, Principal Krull stated that the “[University of Toronto] is in front of the politicians downtown to really make the case for universities overall and the University of Toronto.” In terms of dealing with rising costs Krull made sure to point out that “our intention is not to take this out on the international students.”
Krull stated that “the government is doing what it believes is the right thing from the standpoint of stability and finances, and one has to respect that. As a citizen of this province, we will try to work with the government to make that work, but in the process, find a compromise that really does satisfy our particular community also.”
In the Report of the Vice President and the Principal, Krull began by highlighting “how significant the activities, the dedication, [and] the enthusiasm” of the current UTMSU team have been. In terms of the group working on the Arts, Culture and Technology building, there is a planning committee in place. Krull also again noted that the university bought a series of buildings by the entrance of Mississauga road for faculty and staff housing.
Krull stated that taking on more international students can serve as a small buffer to this kind of financial trouble. In an attempt to give the university breathing space, the university can reduce faculty hiring rates, the amount of money put into capital (i.e. opening the ACT building, faculty-staff housing and other types of investments). Krull highlighted that the university is trying to spread this cut and prevent it from hitting the academic budget as much as possible.
The 2019-20 Operating plans for the campus and student service facilities discussed in the last Campus Affairs meeting were approved. This means that parking, hospitality, and residence prices are all set to increase by next year.
The next meeting will take place March 5, 2019 at 4:10 p.m. in DV3130.