Governing Council candidates appeared at a public town hall at Hart House on Tuesday, a day into the election. In attendance were full-time undergraduate hopefuls Andrew Agnew-Iler, Maximilian Cadmus, Anthony Darcovich, Zayne Dattu, Albert Delitala, Vik Handa, and Margaret Min Hee Kim; full-time undergrad incumbent Grant Gonzales; part-time undergrad candidate Joeita Gupta; graduate student (humanities and social sciences) Paul York; administrative staff candidate Diane Crocker.
A major topic was President Naylor’s Towards 2030 plan, consisting of a shorter framework document voted in last October and a more detailed synthesis, whose recommendations have not been voted on. Controversial sections of Towards 2030 include “self-regulation” of fees and a plan to gradually decrease the overall undergrad population in favour of more grad students. The plan also encourages more corporate-funded research.
All governor hopefuls said they would work to protect students from the economic downturn by avoiding fee increases. Candidates disagreed, however, on how to maintain the complex balance between tuition, government, and corporate funding. Cadmus said he wanted to find a balance between all three sources to ensure access for “at-risk” students. Gupta disagreed: “I think education is a right and that we need to push for newer models at the university that don’t rely on corporate funding […or] increasing tuition fees.”
“I will advocate not to increase tuition, but realistically, I can’t promise that,” said Darcovich. “What I would do on Governing Council is really lobby for alternative methods.”
“If tuition were to be raised to $15,000 that would be ridiculous, I would oppose that and I speak as an OSAP-receiving student,” said Gonzales, the incumbent who had voted for the Towards 2030 framework.
Several candidates spoke about sustainability and a need to make U of T more environmentally friendly. “Environmental sustainability has to be addressed as a part of this [Towards 2030] framework,” Kim said.
“Universities can be instruments of social change for the good, not evil,” said York, an environmental activist who has made this issue central to his campaign. He emphasized the many steps needed, including changing curricula, retrofitting buildings, and dropping investments in corporations like Imperial Oil.
Out of 50 governors, only eight are students—a point that came up throughout the debate. “If we change this, we could start to address all the other issues all the other candidates have raised,” said Agnew-Iler, who was particularly incensed. “And how I plan on doing this, is by mobilizing all the students, regardless of political orientation.”
Accessibility was also a big issue, with Kim, Darcovich, Handa, Delitala, and Zayne vowing to make themselves available to their constituents through email, Facebook, and in-person meetings.
Also present was Semra Eylul Sevi, a GC candidate last year and one of the Fight Fees 14 who staged a sit-in at Simcoe Hall in March. Sevi ran on a platform of eliminating tuition fees and changing investment policies, but this year she’s encouraging fellow students to boycott the election.
“It’s meaningless because student representatives have tokenistic seats, so they can’t make any meaningful change. I think that students should de-legitimize the whole system and not vote for Governing Council,” said Sevi. She now wants to stay out of student politics and continue working from the grassroots.