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UTSU September board meeting: Fall by-election, upcoming events

Former vice-president, public & university affairs explains resignation
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The UTSU building. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY
The UTSU building. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its fifth Board of Directors meeting on September 26. 

The board heard discussions on the upcoming fall by-elections, which will include electing a new vice-president, public & university affairs (VP PUA), as well as planning for upcoming events and vaccination pop-ups. 

Vacancies and appointments

Directors heard updates on the upcoming UTSU fall by-elections, which will be open for voting from October 16–18. In the by-elections, students will elect the next VP PUA, following the resignation of the former VP PUA Catherine Lai. 

Lai explained her decision to resign at the meeting, saying that health issues had led to her resignation. “When I took office five months ago, I pictured myself saying farewell here eight months down the line and maybe [in] 2022, and so it really, really, really saddens me to be having to do this year just as a school year started,” said Lai. The board voted to accept her resignation during the meeting. 

Alexa Ballis, the UTSU president, revealed that the final selection of members for the First Year Council was made in the morning of the meeting, and that candidates would be informed of the results that evening. Currently, all colleges and first entry programs are represented on the council, which Ballis highlighted as being “really exciting.”

UTSU open letter

Sterling Mancuso, the UTSU law director, brought up a recent open letter from the UTSU calling for greater accessibility during the fall semester. They shared that the law society had criticised the portion of the letter suggesting that the university adopt an accommodation system that is similar to the accommodation system used at the Faculty of Law.

“It was pointed out to me that [the letter] sort of implies that we endorse the accommodation system of the law faculty or that we think it’s well done, and people reached out to me say that they don’t think that the accommodation system works well for students at the law faculty, in that it has problems,” said Mancuso. 

They said that this criticism “is something that [they] should have been more attentive to,” but noted that not much can be done at this point, considering that the letter has already been published. They added that program-specific student governance organizations should be consulted in the future if the UTSU chooses to endorse something within their programs. 

Inclusivity for commuters

During the meeting’s question period, Halit Erdogan, a commuter student, brought to light concerns from commuter students about their ability to attend online programming — including online tutorials or lectures. “With the return of the in-person classes, commuter students have expressed that they [have been] facing difficulties in finding commuter-friendly spaces where they can attend online events,” they said.

Ballis responded that the UTSU will be opening the Student Commons on October 4, and that the second and fifth floors of the Commons will be open specifically for commuter students. Ballis shared that while not all available services will be made ready by October 4, the lunch and study areas of the building will be open.

Upcoming events for students

Reva Aggarwal, vice-president equity, shared information about the broad range of student events coming up in October. 

The UTSU will promote its calendar of events, including sign-up links, on its social media. Highlights in October include the Jewish Student Alliance’s holocaust survivor talk from 6:00–7:00 pm on October 7, a youth policy forum about the Rohingya refugee crisis on October 23, and an event for the Syrian Refugee Program held on the same day.

Over the next few weeks, students can also expect to see vaccination clinic pop-ups on campus, which the UTSU is setting up in coordination with Rexall.

The UTSU will hold their Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 8 from 5:00–9:00 pm. Vice-President Operations Fiona Reuter described the AGM as “probably the most important legal event that we host every year.”