The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) is the largest students’ union at U of T. With 50,000 members, the UTSU represents all full-time and professional faculty students at the UTSG and UTM campuses. The union’s mandate is three-fold: to advocate on behalf of students, to enhance the student experience, and to provide cost-saving services.
The UTSU has been criticized in the recent past for its electoral policy. There has also been debate over the efficiency of the union’s spending as well as the stances that it takes on complex and controversial issues. Some students believe that it is not the UTSU’s place to take positions on issues of global conflict and foreign policy.
The UTSU is a member of both the national and provincial branches of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), the largest student organization in Canada. Founded in 1981, the CFS styles itself as the collective voice of Canadian students and works to improve the quality and accessibility of higher education.
The UTSU’s membership in the CFS has received negative attention ever since it joined in 2003. In 2013, a number of U of T student societies held referenda to divert fees from the UTSU to their respective student councils, naming ties to the CFS as one of the reasons for doing so.
At U of T, the CFS’ role in local campus politics is a concern for some students, as well as the parent organization’s record on democratic integrity.
In the most recent UTSU elections, executives from other CFS-affiliated unions were seen campaigning on behalf of the CFS-backed slate, an issue that has persisted for years.
While not against the rules of either election, students have expressed displeasure that executives from other campuses are telling students on their campus how to vote, as well as the possible advantage it may give one slate over another. The current UTSU executive does not have prior affiliations with the CFS; however, the UTSU will maintain CFS membership unless a decertification process is successfully implemented.