The Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU) welcomed two new executive members at the first meeting of its council this year. Stephanie Lim and Alex Verman beat out two other hopefuls to claim the vacant spots at the October fifth elections.
Stephanie Lim is a third-year student in the peace, conflict and justice studies program, and contemporary asian studies program. She became interested in an executive position after a positive experience at the ASSU Coffee Houses last year.
Lim told The Varsity that she would like to address problems of overpopulation and of understaffing at the St George campus, which she believes are the most pressing problems that students face today. Lim also wants to engage first-year students over often intimidating government structures. “First-year disengagement is particularly present at a large urban school like [UTSG],” she said.
According to Lim, the ASSU’s goals for the coming academic year are to foster relationships with course unions, advocate for a Fall Reading Week, and increasing the accessibility of ASSU services.
Alex Verman, a fourth-year political science student, believes that students are generally unaware of the services available to them and when they are being taken advantage of. Verman highlighted a “general problem of isolation,” at UTSG. After writing for The Varsity for years, Verman became interested in the ASSU during the teaching assistant strike last year, remarking that the ASSU answered student emails, kept long office hours for students, and advocated for the students while supporting the protesters.
In his first week on the job, Verman noted that the ASSU is more approachable than he expected. The organization focuses on the ground level in order to get things done for the students it serves. “I’m looking forward to actually to doing the work, I’m nervous but excited for the new experiences,” explained Verman. He draws from his own experiences in that it took him four years to learn what he wanted to do and in what capacity, which he commented is part of the problem of UTSG.
In Verman’s opinion, the ASSU aims to deal with over-enrollment and to improve services to better suit the large population of Arts & Science students on campus. The syllabi, Verman claims, must be front and centre so that every student is aware of drop dates and assignments. Free events will be offered to students throughout the year in order to increase student awareness about the services the ASSU offers.
The ASSU serves around 23,000 full-time undergraduate students and comprises over 60 course unions. As a union, it offers support for academic grievances, houses a part test library, advocates for policy and program changes, and holds regular educational and social events.
Alex Verman is a contributor to The Varsity.