Cheryl Regehr, University of Toronto vice-president and provost, has released her response to the Report on the University of Toronto Student Societies Summit.
The Administrative Response to the Report on the Student Societies Summit is divided into four sections: background on the types of student organizations at U of T, the central principles that govern them, identification of the major themes in the summit report, and Regehr’s responses.
“We intend that the policy planning initiatives recommended in the Summit Report be undertaken as soon as possible,” Regehr said.
The summit report, sent to Regehr in April 2014, includes recommendations such as the establishment of a university-wide Student Societies Appeals Board with the power to issue binding directives to student societies, as well as the creation of guidelines by the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students for the conduct of elections. The summit report also recommends that each student society appoint an arms-length chief returning officer approved by the university.
In her response, Regehr references “Towards 2030,” a U of T planning initiative.
In an interview with The Varsity, Regehr said that, as Towards 2030 anticipates increased differentiation between the three campuses, individual campus student unions are a potential solution.
“[A]s we look ahead, it may very well make sense for the three campuses to each have their own broad-based, representative student unions,” Regehr said.
Regehr’s response addresses fee diversion, saying that creating alternative solutions that would allow students to amend issues of democratic practice would be better than a situation in which fee diversion is the only option.
“[T]he present situation – where fee withholding is ‘the only tool in the box’ – is not sufficiently nuanced to respond to the complexities of many cases. It also does not provide sufficient incentive for students to work out their own problems in a democratic fashion,” reads Regehr’s response.
“[Fee retention] is a drastic penalty given the significant benefits that societies provide their members,” Regehr told The Varsity, adding that she believes the university needs additional tools to address these problems.
Moving forward, Regehr intends to concentrate on drafting policy and procedures aimed at establishing tools and standards for the open, accessible, and democratic operation of student societies. Regehr also said she plans to conduct further analysis and incorporate input from students and governors, and to consult with various groups that did not participate in the Student Societies Summit, including the Graduate Students’ Union, the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union.
“My office will consider the feedback and specific suggestions of students as reflected in the Report, but will also be open to suggestions and new information should stakeholders wish to submit it,” Regehr said in her response.
Regehr emphasized that student ideas and initiatives will be considered, referencing those she has already received from the St. George Round Table.
“[D]oubtless others will have views as well,” Regehr said in her response.
Full story in print on Monday.