Questions regarding levy-collecting student media organizations at UTM have been raised after one of the candidates running for an executive position on the University of Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) suggested removing the levy that The Varsity and CIUT collect from UTM students.
UTM students contribute $1.97 per semester to The Varsity and $0.50 per semester to CIUT, a radio station that broadcasts on 89.5 FM and is also known as U of T Community Radio.
During Wednesday’s all-candidates’ debate, Christina Khokhar, the candidate for Vice-President University Affairs and Academics with the UTM First slate, suggested removing these charges to create more scholarships at UTM.
“We’re paying for two things in our tuition that I’m sure you don’t know about,” said Khokhar. “We’re paying for U of T Varsity Publications and U of T Community Radio, both of which aren’t printed here. We don’t have the opportunity to write for them, so why are we paying for it? In total, just opting out of these two things, we would have $33,000 to go into scholarships and bursaries.”
The Varsity is circulated at all three campuses weekly, and it is comprised of contributors from all three campuses. CIUT is an FM radio station that is available at both UTM and UTSG.
U of T Media Relations Director Althea Blackburn-Evans noted that the university and individual campuses could not decide to remove a levy on their own.
“If a student wanted to have a fee waived, they would need to start with the student society themselves, so for example, if UTM students want to stop paying the fees for The Varsity… they need to approach The Varsity, which in and of itself is an autonomous student society, and the first step would be to raise any concerns they might have [regarding] the level of service with that student society first,” she explained.
Blackburn-Evans explained that “the student societies are autonomous organizations… changes in the fees are done according to the society’s own constitution and their bylaws.”
In an interview with The Varsity after the debate, Khokhar clarified her comments further.
“I’ve been talking to students all around campus and they say that they don’t read The Varsity because we have The Medium, which reports things that are relevant to UTM, and also covers on the back page the stuff that’s happening at the St. George campus and in Toronto,” said Khokhar.
She went on to claim that students “feel that The Medium is adequate enough, so we don’t want to have any extra charges for our students. Just as I imagine that at St. George, they don’t want to have stuff that they’re not necessarily using… But I think that it should stay with the St. George campus, because that’s what relevant to it, because we have The Medium.”
The opposing slate — Fresh UTM — defended the levy in an email to The Varsity, writing: “Fresh UTM believes that the purpose of The Varsity is to be a platform for students to discuss relevant issues. Our lives are political so it is important to be in the loop with on and off campus matters that affect our communities. It is also a wonderful platform for students to share their own opinions, writing, photography and stir up conversation.”
This is not the first time The Varsity’s levy has been targeted at UTM. In 2013, a group of UTM students circulated a petition to divert The Varsity’s levy towards The Medium.
The Varsity reached out to CIUT for comment but did not receive a response as of press time.