Last Tuesday, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held a street festival, featuring campus clubs and organizations in an effort to inform students of the many club options available at U of T, as well as promote school spirit.
“The Street Fest also serves as an example for the entire community of U of T of what pedestrianizing St. George Street could look like,” says UTSU president Munib Sajjad. “St. George Street could, in future, be a communal space where campus groups can host events.”
At the street festival, over 100 student groups from various clubs, course unions, and service groups participated in an attempt to solicit new members for the upcoming year and highlight the wide variety of services they currently offer.
Caroline Leps, academic coordinator at the International Relations society says: “It was a successful event, with engaged U of T students of all years that were looking for opportunities to get involved, both within their areas of interests but also to broaden their horizons.”
UTSU executives hope pedestrianizing St. George Street will ultimately improve campus life. Brochures promoting UTSU’s initiative to pedestrianize St. George Street were handed out to students, encouraging support and garnering attention.
The initiative to pedestrianize St. George Street was first proposed by last year’s UTSU president Shaun Shepherd.
The UTSU Community Action Commission is spearheading the campaign. The commission plans to increase awareness and engagement among students this year.
“We have already begun lobbying the City of Toronto and the neighbouring residence associations to build greater support for the campaign,” says Sajjad.
The street fair worked to provide students with a model of the prospective campus landscape, but the presence of corporate sponsorship upset some students.
Angelo Gio Mateo, president of the U of T United Nations Society, which had a booth near the south of St. George Street, had qualms with the organization of the UTSU street festival. “It was not a very good atmosphere at the UTSU St. George Street Festival,” says Gio Mateo. “Many people commented about how big corporations all occupied the middle section.”
“We try to be very selective with our sponsorship. We focus as much as possible on local contributions,” says Sajjad. He went on to say that they exclude companies that are potentially problematic for students, such as credit card solicitors.
Corporate sponsors — including TD Bank, Shoppers Drug Mart, CIBC, Pizza Pizza and National Bank — were present.
Levi Cassidy, a fellow with Ask Big Questions, questioned the objective of the event. “If the aim of the fair was to create a space for companies to promote their products or services to students, with some club representation on the side, then sure, it was a resounding success. But, if the goal was something more along the lines of making the centre of campus into a fun, entertaining place where students could get excited about starting their year at U of T, then I think the fair fell short,” he states.
Disclosure: Angelo Gio Mateo sits on the Board of Directors for Varsity Publications.