Several international students were unhappy with the early adjournment of the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) last Wednesday.
A motion to support international students went unconsidered as a result of the adjournment. The motion was among the last items on the meeting’s Order of Business.
The motion was moved by Cameron Wathey, UTSU vice-president, internal and services.
The motion recognized that, while international students at the University of Toronto pay the highest tuition fees in Canada, they remain without representation on the Governing Council and do not have access to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).
Domestic tuition fees are regulated under the Ontario Tuition Framework, whereas international tuition fees are set at the university’s discretion.
If approved, the motion would have given the UTSU a mandate to support campaigns for the regulation of international student tuition fees, the extension of OHIP to international students, and representation on the university’s Governing Council.
Mary Githumbi, co-president and founder of the International Students Association (iNSA), was present at the AGM. She was disheartened that the motion did not get the chance to be read.
Githumbi said that her and other iNSA executives went to the AGM especially to support the motion.
“It was very, very frustrating,” Githumbi said, adding: “We waited for five hours and we waited patiently… and we didn’t get to vote on our motion.”
Githumbi said that the early adjournment was unfair. “If people wanted to leave, they could’ve left. But calling an early adjournment was completely disrespectful [to] the other motions that were meant to be discussed at the meeting,” she said.
Many people began to leave after the defeat of the motion to approve Bylaw V, which contained a contentious proposal to restructure the UTSU Board of Directors. Githumbi herself was in support of the bylaw amendment, as it would have given international students a designated representative on the board.
Currently, international students do not have any dedicated representative on the UTSU Board of Directors or Executive Committee, though they are allowed to run for any of the positions.
Last year, The Varsity reported that international students’ tuition fees could rise about 50 per cent over the next five years.
Githumbi noted that proof of adequate financial support is one of the requirements for a study permit in Canada. The unregulated fees, therefore, make it difficult for international students to plan ahead financially.
According to Githumbi, the motion will be brought forth to a future UTSU Board of Directors meeting.
But this is far from the platform that she had hoped to raise the issue. “U of T has good public relations in terms of getting international students to the university. But, when it comes to student representation in the university, it is very poor,” she said.