The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its first meeting of the year on January 30. Some executives gave updates regarding their work and the board discussed the reopening of the university beginning on February 7. 

The reopening of the university 

Attendees discussed the university’s response last term to the sudden surge in COVID-19 infections that was driven by the Omicron variant, including exam cancellations and plans to return to in person learning. 

Vice-President Public and University Affairs Omar Gharbiyeh talked about what the union has heard from students about the return to in-person learning. His team received insightful feedback from students through town hall meetings and surveys, and brought them to the university through an open letter. He also said that he planned on having more town hall meetings in the future to collect students’ opinions. 

According to Gharbiyeh, the union is “making great progress on issues like student mental health, the push for more digital mental health resources, student financial aid, student employment, and more benefits for students with disabilities.”

Student engagement updates

Vice-President Student Life Maria Lin noted that the UTSU event Frost Week was “pretty well received,” considering that it was conducted online. She further noted that the most well-received event the UTSU hosted was the Clubs Fair. Considering this, she hopes to hold a service group night, where students can learn more about service groups on campus. Moving forward, she plans to brainstorm more innovative ways to host engaging online activities, though she hopes to return to in-person activities as soon as possible. 

The Student Commons is scheduled to reopen on February 7 to provide students with a space on campus to eat and study. 

The union is also working on launching a Discord server that acts as a space for the union’s engagement with clubs, called the Virtual Student Commons, to increase visibility of the union’s activities.

Attendees also voted unanimously to strike an ad hoc governance pathways committee for the Student Commons Management Committee (SCMC). The committee will be tasked with examining the Student Commons Agreement to determine governance pathways. It will also be responsible for making decisions regarding maintenance issues and daily operations of the Student Commons, and for clarifying the roles of the SCMC, the union, and UTSU board members.