On November 23, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) held its 2021 annual general meeting (AGM). These meetings are held annually to go over executive reports on the past year’s achievements and financial audits from the UTMSU and the Blind Duck Pub.
Once it was confirmed that the meeting had reached quorum, the AGM was called to order. It began with the approval of the 2020 AGM’s minutes. Corey Scott was approved as speaker for the meeting. Scott said he has taken a number of chairing opportunities at the UTMSU before.
President Mitra Yakubi gave the president’s address, which was a reflection on the past year. “Throughout [the COVID-19 pandemic], the UTMSU has continued to host interactive online and in-person events, new and improved saving services and crucial advocacy to address the difficulties of being a [postsecondary student],” she said. “Together, we made so many positive changes on this campus and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”
Yakubi said that the UTMSU is excited to continue advocating for UTM students and to overcome obstacles “to make students’ lives better.”
Financial audit reports
Wei Lai, the UTMSU’s vice-president internal, went over the UTMSU and Blind Duck Pub’s financial audits from the 2020–2021 fiscal year. The Blind Duck received government assistance in the form of a subsidy to balance out the 83 per cent drop in gross profit it saw from $229,851 in 2020 to $39,392 in 2021. Other factors pointed out in the financial statements were the alcohol money management fee — the Blind Duck is the only alcohol distribution service on campus — and an increase in the student levy.
According to the UTMSU audit, the union’s total assets increased by $2 million, which Lai explained was due to two factors. The first is the health and dental plan, as the plan accrued interest over the summer. The second reason was the lower Student Center expenses. The Student Center had fewer activities last year, so it did not spend as much on maintenance and student social events.
The info booth also dropped as an expenditure as it was not open. The UTMSU didn’t offer as many discounted tickets for students to movies and other events as they usually do, due to the pandemic, and the photocopy expenditure also dropped due to the UTMSU’s shift to an online format.
Lai said that many clubs did not pick up their funding cheques, which allowed clubs fees to decrease by 73 per cent from $73,130 to $19,494.
The UTMSU gave out almost $30,000 worth of gift cards to help bump up student engagement over the pandemic. Moreover, the Duck Stop, UTM’s convenience store, was only open for one and a half months over the entire fiscal year. Many of the commodities expired and they could not be sold at a later date.
Attendees voted to pass the two financial audit reports.
In their executive reports, the UTMSU executives gave updates on a number of the union’s campaigns and initiatives.
Yakubi talked about the “My Mental Health Matters” campaign, a larger campaign that the union has been working on. To continue with this campaign and celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, programming started on November 24 and featured panels, game nights, a destressor scavenger hunt, and zumba throughout the week. Yakubi also talked about the Safe Return to Campus campaign, saying that its goal is “to ensure that that return is gradual, and it is one that doesn’t leave anybody behind.”
Yakubi highlighted the UTMSU’s email zap where students have sent over 2,000 emails to U of T administration. The UTMSU also met with the principal and dean “to discuss students’ [concerns] regarding the general return back to campus.” Yakubi also went over all the services provided by the UTMSU, including the Blind Duck, the Duck Stop, the Health and Dental Plan, and the Peer Mental Health Support program.
Yakubi mentioned that the UTMSU purchased new patio furniture as part of the Student Center renovations for the Blind Duck. The Health and Dental Plan increased vision coverage and issued refunds for students outside of Canada. Yakubi added that the Peer Support Centre is open for students to use during the winter semester.
Maëlis Barre, vice-president external, discussed the UTMSU’s campaign that advocates for fairness for international students. Barre said these students “deserve free and accessible education” and “don’t deserve to be treated like cash cows by our institutions.”
Ryan Tomlinson, the UTMSU’s vice-president equity, brought up the United for Equity campaign, where the UTMSU “aims to challenge all forms of discrimination and oppression on our campus, as well as in our communities and in student organizing spaces as well.” The UTMSU created an equity handbook “to support and educate students on equity topics.” The handbook also contains numerous equity resources at UTM and beyond.
The UTMSU also introduced closed spaces where students can express their thoughts and experiences about being marginalized by institutions and societies, and provided ways to address these issues. The UTMSU has held three of these closed spaces so far. It has also hosted a seminar series titled Learning and Unlearning Sustainability, with different guest speakers. Tomlinson talked about Queer Orientation, which included three different events, including Mocktails and Tye-Dye and an LGBTQ+ townhall. He highlighted Indigenous History Month and Pride Month, both of which included multiple events. He also talked about the $100,000 worth of bursaries that the UTMSU distributed to students, and the food center where students can access alternative healthy food and hygiene projects.
Tarwah Afrah, the UTMSU’s vice-president campus life, went over this past year’s orientation, which was called CYBER21 and had both online and in-person events. Afrah also talked about Sauga Fest, which gave campus groups the opportunity to set up tables and do recruiting — something that hadn’t been possible since the beginning of the pandemic.
Merica Joy Carlos, vice-president university affairs, talked about Academic Advocacy Week, which was celebrated with an in-person barbeque event called “Oh My Grill” and other exam destressors.
Lai discussed the Job Readiness Support program, which gives students the opportunity to network and work on job skills like resume and cover letter writing and mock interviews. The program also offers a new service where students can get professional headshots taken, along with free tax billing services. Yakubi ended the reports by highlighting the Textbook Exchange program where students can exchange textbooks that they don’t need anymore for textbooks that they do need, the Health and Wellness program, and a gym rental service that will be available in January.