UTM students feel ignored and underrepresented in UTSU elections

Students less inclined to vote in because needs not considered by different slates

The historically low voter turnout for the UTSU elections can be partially attributed to unengaged UTM students who feel that some of the St. George slates don’t consider their campus.

Although UTSU acts on behalf of all full-time undergraduate students on the St. George and UTM campuses, only a fraction of students choose to vote — last year, only 3,358 ballots were cast by approximately 45,000 students.

UTSU’s executive director Amir Bashir said that it’s difficult to determine which faculties are more likely to participate in the elections. However, he said that the number of cast ballots is “dependent on the amount of engagement from candidates.”

Agreeing with Bashir’s observations, some UTM students explained that they are less inclined to vote because some candidates do not campaign on the Mississauga campus.

“I think that students just don’t know who these individuals are who are running. All they see are posters around the campus with faces,” said fourth-year UTM student Kamille Champagnie. “The UTSU candidates are hardly seen around the UTM campus engaging with students.”

“Maybe if there [were more candidates present] on campus engaging with students, letting them know who they are, and what they will be doing, the voter turnout would be higher,” she suggested.

Second-year UTM student Tayo Sofela agreed that the lack of information presented to the Mississauga campus discourages students from voting. He also said that some slates neglect UTM in their platforms, which further deters students.

“In my opinion, the students at UTM are not given priority during campaigning. The candidates don’t seem to focus on UTM and don’t create their platforms based on the needs and wants of UTM students,” he said.

Sofela admitted that out of all the parties, he was only aware of Team Unity’s campaign. He appreciates the slate’s promise to work with UTMSU and address issues affecting UTM students.

Some students also said that they would like to see candidates engage in initiatives that are inclusive of the UTM campus.

Fourth-year UTM student Andrew Ochran said StudentsFirst’s campaign proposal of a St. George campus bar excludes Mississauga students.

“While the campus bar may sound like a good idea, most people from the Mississauga Campus don’t go downtown due to the distance  — so I’m not sure how effective it will be [in connecting students],” Ochran said.

Champagnie agreed. “There are many other things that can [be used] to connect students. But considering that it will be mostly St. George students using this service, the majority of the funds should come from the students of St. George campus.”

 

Instead of a bar, Champagnie suggested the candidates explore opportunities to connect the campuses and join the student bodies.

“There are three U of T campuses and yet it feels like three completely different schools. [UTSU] should look at ways to improve campus unity,” she added.

In addition to collaboration with UTMSU and efforts to unify the campuses, UTM students said they hope candidates will consider better support systems for graduating students in search of employment and career guidance.

Trinity revises election campaign rules

New rules allow verbal, social media, and email campaigning

Trinity revises election campaign rules

Trinity College has revised its long-standing electoral policy of no campaigning and now permits the use of limited campaigning strategies in future student elections.

The amendment comes after a Trinity College meeting held on  February 2  that discussed the merits of maintaining Trinity’s traditional election rules — the last major amendment happened in March 1993 — over modernizing its campaigning policies to align it with the university’s other constituent and federated colleges.

Under the new by-laws adopted February 16, verbal campaigning and free social media and email use, which were previously prohibited, are now permitted over a 14-day campaign period until election time.

Candidates, however, are still banned from distributing campaign posters or literature, spending any money on resources “not publicly available to all candidates,” and receiving monetary benefits from any third parties during the course of the campaign.

Evan Hutchison, a fifth-year Trinity student, is against the changes.

“Elected office is not a reward and not a prize in a popularity contest. Tradition is our identity,” he said during the meeting.

Hutchison said that without campaigning, candidates were obliged to run on their own merits and experience, but it now opens up the possibility of qualifications being “exaggerated or distorted.”

“It was my concern that rather than using a campaign to communicate effectively about issues, it would cause the campaign to be a popularity contest where the only criteria for selecting a candidate was their ability to mobilize their friends,” he explained in an interview with The Varsity.

Samuel Greene, who lost last year and is running for student head again this year, proposed the new rule changes according to last year’s DRO Jonathan Scott.

“The rules that prohibited campaigning were unjust because they limited our free speech … If the best turnout for an election is 10 per cent, there is something wrong with that,” said Greene during the February 2 meeting.

He could not be reached for comment.

Last year, four allegations of misconduct were raised against the current student head, James Park, claiming that he solicited votes on election day, eventually winning by 30 votes over his main opponent.

Under previous rules, canvassing votes and using non-verbal media and “any other action deemed in contravention of electoral rules by the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) and Deputy Returning Officer (DRO)” were prohibited.

Park said that because the allegations against him were raised anonymously and could not be adjudicated properly, the situation “devolved into a game of ‘he said, she said.’”

Scott agreed, saying that it became hard to enforce the rules because evidence against the student was raised anonymously to the CRO.

According to Park, both the CRO and DRO resigned after the election because the allegations could not be proven against him and the CRO’s decision that Park infringed campaigning rules was overturned.

Park said that because CROs and DROs were the only ones allowed to advertise the campaign, a candidate who privately or publically announced even the date of the campaign would have broken the rules.

The rule changes, according to him, will lead to more equity in future elections.

“I think this will lead to a leveling of the playing field, as now candidates who are lesser known will have the opportunity to get more exposure,” he said.

Scott said that with Trinity’s close-knit community, talk of the next appointed student heads would usually begin in December. He said that, with the changes, he does not envision major differences in how Trinity’s traditional methods of campaigning would continue.

“What will happen now is people will be able to rally their vote on election day, which they couldn’t have done before, so that’s probably a fair compromise,”  he said.

UTSC’s 18-hour network shutdown explained

Broken cable connecting campus to St. George reason behind outage

A cut fiber optics cable is to blame for the 18-hour shutdown of University of Toronto Scarborough’s internal network on February 24. The outage spanned from 2 am Friday morning to 8 pm that evening.

I was unable to answer emails and [check the voicemail], which is a large part of my job. Students were very unhappy with us at the SCSU for not being able to book them [for meetings] earlier, or at all.

The cable links the UTSC network to the St. George Campus network downtown. With St. George as the primary internet service provider (ISP), both UTSC and UTM’s networks must go through St. George to have access to their internet. The severing of the cable broke that connection, causing the outage.

The network outage only impacted those working on the UTSC network at the school. Though it was reading week, and many students were unaffected, those students who were on campus found the outage an irritation.

Gillian Worton-Scott, Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s (SCSU) administrative assistant, worked the day of the outage and said that the outage affected her job.

“I was unable to answer emails and [check the voicemail], which is a large part of my job,” Worton-Scott said. “Students were very unhappy with us at the SCSU for not being able to book them [for meetings] earlier, or at all.”

Zoran Piljevic, director of IT at UTSC, said that the university has been aware of the risk of outages for some time. According to him, a new initiative called Network Access Redundancy Project, which will prevent further shutdowns, is already in motion.

“It’s unfortunate that we had this cut before we had the chance to implement [it],” Piljevic said. “This was a very visible reminder of why this is important.”

The Network Access Redundancy Project plans to wire a direct cable from UTSC’s instructional centre to nearby Centennial College to establish a backup network. If the primary connection between UTSC and St. George is interrupted, the network traffic will flow through the secondary connection with Centennial until the primary connection is restored.

Piljevic said the secondary connection is currently expected to be established between the end of spring and the beginning of summer this year.

Presidential candidates speak

compiled by Sarah Taguiam, photography by Bernarda Gospic

Presidential candidates speak

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Ontario undergrads say “no” to three-year degrees

With files from the Toronto Star.

A survey conducted by Higher Education Strategy Associates has found that most Ontario university students prefer a four-year bachelor degree over a three-year one.

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities is currently considering changing the length of degree programs the three years, and offering more year-round and online options.

Over 850 students participated in the survey, and 64 per cent stated that they find the four-year degree to be more valuable.  Students say they prefer the pace set by four-year degrees  despite the financial advantages of three-year programs.

Mount Royal University ex-student union president charged with bank robbery

With files from the Calgary Herald, Global News, Metro News and the CBC.

Mount Royal University’s former student union president Meghan Darcy Melnyk was arrested Wednesday for the robbery of a Calgary Servus Credit Union.

Police located her SUV by helicopter and took her into custody shortly after she left the bank. Authorities said that she was charged with outstanding arrest warrants for fraud, forgery, and breaching her probation.

Last January, Melnyk resigned as Mount Royal Student Association’s president following a periodic review that revealed some “anomalies.”

“We don’t know the cause of her actions … but we hope that she finds the support and the help that she needs,” said former colleague Michelle Dennis, the student union’s VP External.

Government quietly axes student job centres

With files from the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail.

The federal government confirmed Wednesday that student job centres across Canada will be shut down, in an attempt to save an annual $ 6.5 million.

Human resources minister Diane Finley explained that more resources will be added to the website www.youth.gc.ca to help students find jobs. Critics are concerned that youth unemployment, already double the national average at 14.5 per cent, will worsen because of the decision.

The centres have been a resource for students in search of summer employment, providing access to jobs at over 100 locations.

Nonetheless, an online student job bank, with access to 135,000 employers nation-wide, can be accessed through the website.

Get in the game

MONICA SLOVAK fills us in on her experiences playing intramural soccer at U of T

Words of wisdom passed down to myself and my fellow Frosh during our first week at St. Mike’s that I have never forgotten: “Do at least one thing to get involved on campus, and it will greatly improve your experience here at the University of Toronto.”

Fast-forward three years and that still stands as one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. Although I’ve made a point to get involved with various activities on campus, nothing has made a greater impact than my participation on both intramural and tri-campus soccer teams.

I have been a member of the SMC Women’s Intramural soccer team since first year. Over the past three years, we’ve won multiple Intramural Championships (both indoor and outdoor) under direction of coach Marc Trepanier. This year has been another successful one for SMC women’s soccer; we won the Division 2 outdoor championship, and as we near the end of our indoor season, we hope to add a Division 1 title to that haul.

We qualified for playoffs, finishing second in our pool, and just last week we won our quarterfinal game over UTM 4–0. On Thursday, we play the grads in the semifinal. They finished first in their pool and will provide tough competition, so it should be an interesting game.

In second year, I joined the women’s tri-campus soccer program I’ve played the past two indoor seasons with the St. George Blue team. Though there are just four teams in the league it’s very competitive. In both of my years on the team I’ve had the chance to work with coach Laura Machado, a member of the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team. She’s passed down her experience and knowledge as an intercollegiate athelete to our team and everyone enjoys playing for her.

Our main obstacle this season has been scoring goals; though the team has moved the ball well, our inability to score has left us going into our final season game still fighting for a playoff position. That game is next Saturday against first-place UTM, and we need a win to guarantee a spot in the playoffs.

Through playing on both these teams, I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of individuals across campus. Everyone has a passion for the game that gives you common ground right away. In these final weeks of both the intramural and tri-campus seasons, I know I speak for all my teammates when I say that we are excited and ready for any and all competition coming our way.