Five colleges and faculties are purchasing their own frosh kits this year instead of ordering customary ones from UTSU. Caused by unresolved complaints, the move threatens to worsen the rift between the union and some colleges and faculties during the coming academic year.
Non-UTSU kits will be distributed to 3,500 first-year students from Innis, St. Michael’s, Trinity and University colleges and the engineering faculty; while 4,000 students from Victoria and New college, the physical education and music faculties and UTM will receive the standard UTSU kits.
Woodsworth, a large college that often has separate services, has made separate arrangements for its 800 frosh.
Organized by Trinity orientation co-chair Sachin Kumar, the new kits cost $6.27 whereas UTSU ones cost $5.93. Both include a laundry bag, water bottle, travel mug and blue t-shirt, but while Kumar’s shirts sport the U of T trademark, UTSU’s logo is printed on theirs.
Asked whether she knows what provoked the change, UTSU President Danielle Sandhu admitted she only has “some ideas.”
“We haven’t gotten a consistent answer [and] there is no issue that has been shared with us that would reflect why divisions wouldn’t purchase the kits.”
Kumar insisted he and other orientation leaders have made their reasons clear in monthly meetings. One reason being cited is politically motivated material found in previous UTSU frosh kits.
“Incoming students want to be proud of their school [and] happy that they’re here [but] the first thing they see [are] … posters bashing [U of T President] David Naylor. We just didn’t find that it was conducive to a university-type spirit,” explained Danni Chu, University College’s orientation co-chair.
Other items that have reportedly elicited negative feedback from students were flyers promoting Israeli Apartheid Week.
Chu also cited complaints from previous freshmen that the frosh kits did not promote a unified U of T spirit.
“A lot of the stuff that was put in the UTSU kits … were UTSU things versus U of T things, which we also felt didn’t promote as much school spirit as it did UTSU’s spirit, and that’s not really what we wanted from frosh week,” said Chu.
To display a sense of unity, Kumar proposed getting new shirts with the U of T logo printed on them.
“I thought it’ll be really cool if we can all throw on U of T shirts and have a massive parade but UTSU immediately shut the idea down,” he stated.
But UTSU is alarmed that not all students will have access to relevant campus information.
“Wearing a U of T shirt during frosh is not really that important because what’s more important is having access to the information,” said Sandhu, noting that only UTSU kits include a full list of campus clubs and organizations.
“Unfortunately those who are not receiving our kits would have to go through different places and do lots of their own research to get involved,” she added.
Kumar said that he did the best he can to gather the information of all the student groups.
“I made a conscious effort to contact as many clubs that I know from the different colleges [and faculties]. Whether I have included every single club that exists, probably not realistically, but I offered it out there through as much media I can think of.”
Sandhu thinks that the issue surrounding the kits might be influenced by the conflict between UTSU and some colleges in previous years.
“It seems that information and experiences from the past are passed down to current leaders and [it] may be affecting some of the decisions. What happened in previous years shouldn’t affect what’s happening in the current year,” stressed Sandhu, who called for all student groups to work together.
Kumar hopes that the situation will not aggravate the relationship between the union and the other colleges.
“We have our issues with UTSU but this shouldn’t be a big deal and they should be able to respect that,” he said.
“I did what I did for the students and at the end of the day I’m happy to wear my [U of T] shirt with 3,500 of them.”
With files from Natalie Sequeira