Last Friday, representatives from various U of T student societies met to discuss the recommendations of the Student Societies Summit.
On April 14, the faculty chairs of the Student Societies Summit submitted their report to provost Cheryl Regehr. Along with seven other recommendations, the summit advocated increased involvement of Governing Council and university administration in overseeing student societies.
Though not invited to send members to the initial summit talks, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) chaired Friday’s meeting.
Walied Khogali, University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) executive director, expressed concern at the meeting that the findings of the summit posed a threat to the autonomy of student societies, citing recommendations that Governing Council create a process to restructure societies, and the ability of the provost to withhold fees based on a society’s compliance with allegedly undefined principles.
Dylan Chauvin-Smith, an executive on the Arts and Science Student Union (ASSU), also raised concerns over the development of the report. “The only solutions that were being brought up for us to consider were vague and undefined. We didn’t even see a draft of the document,” he said.
Teresa Nguyen, president of the University of Toronto Engineering Society (EngSoc), added that continued internal dialogue would extend the timeline of end results, even if it helps resolve conflicts.
“Proposing to resolve the points of constitutional contention amongst our own student governing bodies is the avenue the Engineering Society has taken for the past decade — a duration more than twice the length of the standard EngSoc membership. Having more internal discussions will certainly extend this duration,” she said.
Rowan DeBues, president of Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC), maintained that there were some positive elements to the report.
Some campus organizations have formally rejected all of the report’s recommendations, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and the UTMSU. The student societies who were in attendance at the meeting have yet to determine next steps.
The Student Societies Summit was a year-long initiative by university administration to facilitate discussion among campus organizations on existing concerns such as fee diversion and democratic governance of student societies. Twenty societies participated in the discussions, including representatives from all college councils.