The Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) will be holding their second referendum in recent years to increase their union fees.
After a similar referendum in 2016 failed to pass, ASSU now hopes to raise the current fee from $9.50 to $11 per semester. The union also seeks to tie the dollar value of their levy to the Consumer Price Index, so that the levy will increase proportionally to inflation.
In a statement to The Varsity, ASSU President Haseeb Hassaan wrote that, from 2016 onward, the union has been forced to make numerous budget cuts in the face of rising costs. In particular, “awards/scholarships, bursaries, travel and course union funding have all been slashed,” said Hassaan. The goal of the upcoming referendum will be to return funding to the programs that have seen their budgets reduced.
ASSU provides 62 course unions with over $180,000 in funding, in addition to $36,000 in scholarships for students, and $21,000 in grants for undergraduate research.
Some of the services provided by ASSU include selling test packages, offering printing and faxing services, and working with the Dean’s Office to represent students’ concerns with faculty policies.
In the past, ASSU has also organized talks with prominent speakers, such as the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, run exam de-stressing sessions for students, and hosted an undergraduate research conference.
Some of the projects that ASSU currently has in the works include a new mentorship program for Arts & Science students, and “Moving on From,” a project that seeks to highlight the difficulties that students face at U of T.
Jennifer Wang, a second-year political science student, is skeptical of these proposed increases. In an interview with The Varsity, she said, “I feel like the ASSU has never been a really big part of my life. The time I’ve been at U of T, a year and a half now, I haven’t interacted with them at all. If it was something that was more integral in our student life then I would be totally fine paying more. But because I don’t really use their services, I feel like we shouldn’t be asked to pay more.”
In response to objections like these, Hassaan said that ASSU does play an integral role in the lives of students, even if they might not realize it.
“Every course union in the faculty gets their funding through us, which is to be used to run events, academic talks and more. Moreover, academic advocacy is a big part of who we are, things like Fall reading week was a proposal that was given to the Dean of Arts and Science by us at ASSU.”
“Some students may not see the day to day work we do to enrich their student lives but we do the best we can to make sure that students can have the best education they can with as little barriers as possible.”
The referendum will be taking place on February 13 and 14. Students will be able to vote online or in person at the Sidney Smith Commons.