Some divisional student leaders are voicing concerns about the UTSU’s arrangement with UTM. UTM students pay fees to the union, but UTSU then transfers some amount of those fees to the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU). UTM students are members of both UTSU and UTMSU. The UTSU by-laws, available on the union’s website, require that UTSU remit fees to the UTMSU “according to the signed contract.”
“I think it’s obvious that this agreement is pretty unfair,” said Rhys Smith, president of the Woodsworth College Students’ Association, “UTM students have the same voting rights in UTSU elections as St. George students do, despite having their fees returned to their local student society. I believe that this agreement should be terminated, or offered to other student [societies] as well who have expressed concerns about being adequately represented by the UTSU.”
Mauricio Curbelo, president of the Engineering Society (EngSoc), shared that opinion. “It is not appropriate that students whose fees are diverted to another organization have an equal say in the UTSU as students on the St. George campus whose fees actually fund the UTSU’s operations,” he said.
Curbelo argues that the arrangement between the UTSU and UTMSU is effectively fee diversion — the arrangement which EngSoc and the Trinity College Meeting (TCM) are seeking, and one of the key points that the ongoing Student Societies Summit is designed to address. EngSoc’s request for a similar arrangement to UTMSU’s during the 2010–2011 school year was rebuffed. Like Smith, Curbelo argues that the arrangement must be offered to other student societies or terminated.
Raymond Noronha, president of the UTMSU, takes issue with these arguments. “University of Toronto students registered at the UTM campus are members of both the University of Toronto Students’ Union and University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union,” he said, “As members of both organizations, students have rights prescribed in the constitutions of both organizations… I would like to encourage our friends from other student societies to respect the will of students that have decided to participate in the organizations they choose to affiliate with in a democratic manner.”
Noronha argues that there is no unfairness in an arrangement that “guarantees all members of any organization” equal rights in those organizations governance.
“Undergraduate students enrolled on the Mississauga campus such as myself are not second-class members of the UTSU,” says Munib Sajjad, president of the UTSU. “We pay into the UTSU to receive the services we do, just like any other student, and deserve democratic representation and the opportunity to become involved, as I have.” Sajjad was previously an executive on the UTMSU, before successfully making the shift to UTSU — last year as vice-president, university affairs, and this year as president.
Student leaders at the Student Societies Summit have also complained that few details of the contract are available to the public. Particularly, they wish to know what percentage of UTM students’ fees the UTSU remits. They allege that this represents a lack of transparency.
“Regarding the specifics of the contract, I don’t know and nobody else seems to know either,” said Ben Crase, co-head of Trinity College. He explains that faculty representatives and presidents at the summit last semester requested those details, but that Agnes So, UTSU’s vice-president, university affairs, and Yolen Bollo-Kamara, its vice-president, equity, have not provided those details for the past two meetings. So and Bollo-Kamara have represented the UTSU at the Student Societies summit.
“UTSU representatives at the Summit refuse to make the actual contract available, claiming that contracts are confidential and only the people who signed the contract can see it. Not even Board members of the UTSU have been allowed to see the contract,” says Curbelo. “Apparently the current executives haven’t seen it either, since Yolen and Agnes are unsure what percentage exactly of the UTM students’ UTSU fee is being returned to UTMSU.”
Crase agrees that So and Bollo-Kamara simply do not seem to know the details of the contract. He notes further that, though he is a member of the UTSU’s board, even he has not seen the contract.
Sajjad contends that these claims are inaccurate: “UTMSU collects a fee directly from UTM students, just like any other divisional students’ society as it is an amalgamation of the UTSU and the former ECSU [Erindale College Students’ Union]. Insofar as the utmsu is providing services to our members, utmsu is the UTSU.” Sajjad states further that “there is nothing remitted to utmsu for it’s [sic] own use.”
While a publicly available UTMSU budget for the 2011–2012 school year lists UTSU membership fees as a revenue source for the UTMSU separate from its own membership fees, the UTMSU’s 2013 Financial Statements do not.
These concerns will almost certainly be raised at the next Student Societies Summit meeting, which will be held Monday, February 10. There are two more summit meetings scheduled for this year, on February 22 and March 14, respectively.