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UTSU January Board of Directors meeting: Student Commons, executive reports

Discussion of benefits, tuition, equity events
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The UTSU is working to ensure that the new members are properly acclimated to the UTSU. SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY
The UTSU is working to ensure that the new members are properly acclimated to the UTSU. SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its ninth Board of Directors meeting of the 2020–2021 academic year on January 31. The board discussed the current status of the Student Commons, and the executives presented their reports. 

The reports highlighted updates about health and dental benefits, the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP), tuition, and equity events. 

Student Commons

During a presentation on People & Culture at the UTSU, which focused on the development of the commons and its benefit to UTSU staff and members, UTSU General Manager Suzanne Belleau noted that the Student Commons hopes to open soon, 14 years after the project’s approval. The project has faced repeated delays due to the difficulty of renovating the old building, such as dealing with asbestos.

People & Culture is the UTSU’s newly established framework, which will develop the union’s goals around serving students and meet organizational goals with a focus on equity. It will also facilitate internal and external cooperation.

UTSU Vice-President Operations Dermot O’Halloran confirmed that any retail opportunities in the Student Commons would be staffed by students. He noted that concrete plans will have to wait until construction is further along.

Belleau added that there is a plan to hire “at least” 15 additional students as staff over the next 18 months.

Executive report highlights

During the presentation of his report, O’Halloran highlighted that the UTSU and the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) are in favour of implementing a credit system through Studentcare, which is the broker for student benefits for the two unions. 

A credit system would allow students to be reimbursed for health and dental claims without needing a Canadian bank account. If this system were implemented, international students would be able to access health care and dental services.

However, during a meeting with the Office of the Vice-Provost Students (OVPS) and the other student unions, discussions on implementing a credit system were shut down.

Regarding the UMLAP, UTSU President Muntaka Ahmed wrote that the Office of the Ombudsperson needed to take an “unbiased approach to their communication and stances regarding ongoing issues at the university.” The policy, which has met considerable student opposition in the past, allows the university to put a student on mandated leave without academic penalty if the university believes the student is a risk to themselves or others. 

Vice-President Public & University Affairs Tyler Riches wrote that according to the OVPS, the university is still “finalizing its consultation process for the UMLAP,” which will be occurring beginning this year as part of the three-year review. 

Ahmed wrote in her report that the university’s response to demands for a tuition decrease since classes moved online has been “largely the same as it had been over the last few months.”

Alexandra McLean, Vice-President Equity, highlighted a number of events that are being planned for February as part of the UTSU’s annual eXpression Against Oppression program.