The University of Toronto Mississauga Student’s Union (UTMSU) voted at November 16’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) to take steps towards exploring an expansion of the Student Centre on campus and making changes to the UTMSU’s bylaws that have been two years in the making.
Built in 1999, the existing building was created to accommodate UTM’s population of 6,000 students. However, UTM’s student population today is over 14,000.
“What this motion is asking for is just to start the preliminary conversations with other student groups,” explained UTMSU President Nour Alideeb, at the meeting. “We would have consolation stations to really get feedback from them about what they want to see in their student centre. After which, we would compile a report and then we would have initial conversations with the administration about moving towards a student centre expansion.”
Alideeb noted that students feel “suffocated” in the current Student Centre. Alideeb presented a video on the topic where student leaders from a variety of clubs advocated for an expansion. The Student Centre has four bookable rooms that clubs can use for meetings; clubs often have to book spaces in other buildings on campus, which can include booking fees.
Students present at the AGM questioned the cost of such an undertaking. The 1999 centre was built using funds generated primarily from students, with some money coming from community partners.
In 2014, a proposal to levy funds to expand the centre was brought to a referendum vote. In the 2014 initiative, students would have contributed $2 million in funds for an expansion. The university agreed at that time to match student contributions if the levy referendum passed. The 2014 vote failed by a close margin.
Alideeb said that she hopes to have another referendum within two years in order to move forward on the expansion.
Following a show of support at the AGM, the UTMSU will be reopening discussions on how to expand the existing space. The expansion would require multiple consultation sessions in order to proceed. Additionally, the university would have “some say” in how the centre would or could expand.
The Varsity could not obtain comments from the university by press time about how they might assist with funding for the project.
In addition to discussions on the proposed Student Centre expansion, the AGM also saw approval of bylaw changes that would change how the UTMSU ministries would operate.
Currently, the UTMSU has nine ministries where students can express their concerns and get involved in campaigns. The motion presented at the AGM would amalgamate the nine existing ministries and their functions into three commissions: Campaigns & Advocacy, Student Services, and Student Life.
Alideeb noted that a major aim of the change is to increase student involvement with the commissions, as having fewer meetings to attend allows for higher turn out.
In comparison, the University of Toronto Students’ Union operates five commissions while the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union has three.
The meeting also saw the review of the audited financial statements. Vice-President Internal Jackie Zhao stated that The Blind Duck campus pub operated at a small surplus for the 2016 year, due to additional revenue from outside catering taken on by the pub and more efficient services.
The 2015–2016 audited financial statements for the UTMSU showed a deficit of $23,202. Zhao stated that the ministries’ expenses were much higher this year than in previous years due to more events such as Free Breakfast Wednesdays, which serves on average 350–400 people per year.
In addition, the boiler at the Student Centre broke, which contributed to increased maintenance costs for the building. There was no deficit for orientation last year, which Zhao attributed to “excellent promotion and very good budgeting.”
Further spending went towards increased wages for employees and extended hours of operation in the Student Centre.