A new amendment to the University of Toronto Act now allows international students to run for seats on Governing Council. This is the first amendment to the Act since 1978, and it eliminates the citizenship requirements for Governing Council positions. This change affects more than just students, as staff and faculty who did not meet the citizenship requirements are now able to sit on U of T’s highest governing body as well.
U of T does not have purview over the University of Toronto Act, since it is under the jurisdiction of the provincial government. The Act has been a long-time point of contention for many student groups at the university. As far back as 1986, the Governing Council had resolved that it would be a priority in the event that a request was made to open the act for consideration.
Yeliz Beygo is an international upper-year political science student who attempted to nominate herself as a candidate in last year’s Governing Council elections. Beygo stated that the aim of this was to “make the administration understand that international students were not okay with the Act.” Upon trying to submit her nomination at Simcoe Hall, Chief Returning Officer Anwar Kazini rejected it, due to Beygo’s international status. Beygo argued that this rule is unfair and does not make sense, also stating that citizenship-based discrimination is unconstitutional and against Canadian values.
Mary Githumbi, co-president of the International Students Association (iNSA) at U of T, added that the iNSA has had changing the Act as a top priority since its formation in April 2014. Now that the act has been amended, Githumbi states that the iNSA will support international students running for Governing Council through printed and online media, as well as advocate for the inclusion of international students and the formation of effective partnerships across campus. A key area of focus for the iNSA next year includes better mental healthcare resources for international students.