UTM students voted to cut funding to the library and redirect it to their campus pub in a referendum held earlier this week. Initiated by the Erindale College Student Union (ECSU), the referendum changed parts of the student union’s constitution, and changed the name of ECSU to the University of Toronto at Mississauga Student Union (UTMSU).
The main program abolished is the Student Library Enhancement Fund (SLEF) that was created by ECSU in 1986. The union is betting that administration will step up and maintain funding for their library. It’s a gamble that has sparked controversy on campus.
“SLEF was originally introduced when the library was in dire need of funding,” said UTMSU president Ryan Carroll.
SLEF has meant funding of more than $45,000 annually for the library and has been used to establish the new novelty section of the library, enhance library services such as funding for computers, and create five student jobs, two of which are dedicated to international students and residence students.
“The ten-dollar incidental fee will be redirected,” said Carroll. “Six-fifty of it will go to the pub, but this will be an opt-out-able fee, and the remaining $3.50 will go back to students, which means an overall reduction in incidental fees that students pay each year.” Carroll argued that since there are no capital projects slated for the library for the next thirty years, students would not have see any benefits from SLEF.
According to UTM’s student paper, The Medium, some students think UTMSU is putting partying before studying. Others point out that the pub is not used by many students anyway.
But according to Carroll, the ‘yes’ vote does not mean an end to the library services that SLEF has established.
“We believe that the administration will have no choice but to step up to the plate and maintain the programs that we are currently funding, for a number of reasons, one of which is the fact that the quality of our library is taken into consideration by Maclean’s when they rank our university, which is important to the administration,” said Carroll. He also pointed out that UTM is the only campus whose library is not entirely supported by the administration.
“St. George has the best library in Canada and it is entirely supported by administration,” said Shawn Abrahim, UTMSU’s VP of Finance.
“We seek to put an end to the trend of administration coming to students whenever they need funding,” said Carroll, who pointed out that this referendum reflects a broader ideological shift being made by UTMSU.
Many voters also expressed concern that UTMSU failed to create adequate awareness about the implications of this potential amendment to the constitution.
“UTMSU didn’t give me a clear understanding of the issue,” said Shannon Sidock, a third-year philosophy student. “I voted ‘yes’ because I believe that UTMSU looks out for the interests of students, but they needed to have more information about what the changes could imply.”