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UTMSU February meeting approves levy increase, upcoming renovations

Executives review upcoming initiatives, advocacy
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The UTMSU held its 10th meeting of the BOD on February 26. MARGAUX PARKER/THE VARSITY
The UTMSU held its 10th meeting of the BOD on February 26. MARGAUX PARKER/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) held its 10th Board of Directors meeting on February 26. 

The board approved a cost of living increase to the UTMSU levy fee, designated for academic societies, from the rate of $0.76 per session, per member, to $0.77. It also appointed two members, Crystal Cheng and Ayesha Dayala, to the hiring committee for a full-time staff position.

The board also approved a budget for new furniture of $8,000, and $20,000 to renovate and upgrade the student centre with new equipment.  

Upcoming initiatives 

Vice-President Equity Noha Farawi discussed the Food Centre, which reopened during February for pickup after being closed during the COVID-19 lockdown. “We’re not getting as [many] students as we normally did when we were in person, but it makes sense because there’s not that many people on campus,” said Farawi. 

Farawi said that the UTMSU will soon be renovating the Food Centre: “Right now, it’s not in the best condition. It’s quite old. So we’re hoping to renovate very soon.” 

The UTMSU is also looking to start its seed library. The University of Toronto’s Committee on the Environment and Climate Change and Sustainability awarded the UTMSU a grant to assist creating and further developing the seed library for the UTM community, which should give the community access to “indoor friendly seeds, gardening materials, rentable equipment, community garden plots, and educational workshops.” 

“We’re going to probably be distributing gardening kits and stuff through the Food Centre,” said Farawi.

Vice-President Internal Fahad Dayala discussed the UTMSU’s tax clinic, which will begin March 8 and continue through the first week of April, where “tax volunteers will be helping our students to file their taxes.” 

Advocacy 

Vice-President University Affairs Anushka Sokhi said that they have been busy planning upcoming academic advocacy events. These will involve sessions for frequently asked questions with the Office of the Registrar to discuss topics such as programs of study and accommodations for students, such as for those who have religious accommodations.

“We’re also going to be talking about time zone accommodations, which is a new accommodation that was created by the registrar in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sokhi. 

Sokhi shared how they have also been working on UTMSU departmental meetings, where they’ve been proposing different UTMSU initiatives, such as its embedded counselor program, class representative program, and discussions around academic integrity. Sokhi had also met with the Academic Society Advisory Committee to discuss campus society elections and audits. 

Vice-President External Lily Pan attended the Council on Student Services during reading week, where members voted on budget proposals for Hart House, Sport & Rec, and Student Life. “We voted against a fee increase for Hart House and voted for the fee deduction for [Sport] & Rec,” said Pan. 

The motion to increase the Student Life budget was passed along with the other motions, with the results expected during the university’s fourth cycle board meeting. Pan also noted that their team is planning for an International Women’s Day event on March 8, which will be open to UTM community members who self-identify as women. 

UTMSU President Mitra Yakubi shared that she attended the Canadian Federation of Students National Lobby week recently, where student leaders met with members of parliament to discuss a “just recovery for students.” According to Yakubi, they discussed topics such as involving students in decisions that affect them, as well as advocating for a moratorium on student loans. 

“What we’re asking for is the immediate introduction of a moratorium on student loans so folks can have some time to breathe and still find a place to work… A lot of folks don’t have a source of income right now because of the pandemic itself,” she said.