The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 23. The SCSU was not able to pass any motions, as the meeting did not reach quorum.
During the meeting, SCSU executives reported that they have successfully lobbied for the course retake policy and transit grant. They also commented on the issue of sexual violence at U of T and outlined the services, events, and advocacy activities they have planned for the rest of the academic year.
The SCSU’s AGM failed to meet its required quorum of 500 members. Only 175 members — including proxies — were present at the meeting and so members were not able to vote on any motions presented on the agenda.
The SCSU will push its AGM motions to the Winter General Meeting next term. SCSU executives only presented their executive reports at the AGM.
Vice-President External Thai Dillon Higashihara confirmed that, “As of now, there is no move to change our bylaws or change quorum.”
Alyssia Fernandes, vice-president campus life, added that this was the first in-person AGM since COVID-19 started. “So, we’re hoping that winter will be more successful in terms of numbers.”
The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) recently rewrote their bylaws, removing the ability to have proxies and dropping their required quorum to 50 members.
Lobby successes: course retake policy and transit grant
After months of lobbying the UTSC administration, the SCSU will be able to present the course retake policy for approval at a UTSC Academic Affairs Committee meeting in February. SCSU Vice-President Academics Amrith David said that the Office of the Vice-Principal Academic and Dean had informed the SCSU that the deans will endorse the policy.
The course retake policy — also known as the “second attempt for credit” policy — will allow UTSC students to retake courses, and have their highest grade from the course reflected on their GPAs. Students will only be able to retake a maximum of two credits’ worth of courses throughout their academic careers.
Currently, UTSC’s policy states that a student’s retake attempt will not impact a student’s GPA, nor will it count toward degree requirements. David said that UTSC students can expect the course retake policy to take effect by the fall term of the 2023–2024 academic year.
Vice-President Equity Yumna Abdelhameed also said that the SCSU has “accomplished” its transit grant. This grant aims to help members who are experiencing transit-based financial stress and will allow applicants to receive up to $500 “depending on their needs,” according to Abdelhameed. She hopes to implement this grant by the winter term.
U of T’s Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence
Higashihara said that the latest revisions to U of T’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment are “lackluster” and “questionable” in terms of language.
Earlier this month, Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh presented amendments to the policy at various governance meetings. These amendments include stronger language for the nontolerance for reprisals against anyone who reports sexual violence and increased clarity in nonadjudicative processes.
Higashihara said that the policy fails to be survivor-centric. He called for further revisions such as replacing the terms “complainant” with “survivor,” and “respondent” with “assailant.” The Prevention, Empowerment, Advocacy, Response, for Survivors (PEARS) Project — a student-led, trauma-informed initiative that supports survivors of sexual violence at U of T — also raised similar concerns about the policy at earlier stages of the policy review.
The SCSU has signed a recent open letter by the PEARS Project, which calls for the termination of Robert Reisz — a UTM professor who violated U of T’s sexual harassment policy, but continues to teach and supervise students.
The open letter also condemned the U of T administration’s inaction after an external investigation, which concluded in January, found that Reisz violated the university’s sexual harrassment policy and did not respect supervisory boundaries. Other allegations that the investigator factually substantiated were incidents that his former students Yara Haridy and Bryan Gee, who filed the complaint, perceived as racial microaggressions.
Higashihara said that the SCSU promoted the PEARS Project’s open letter on their social media channels, and urged AGM attendees to sign the open letter as well.
Upcoming services, events, and advocacy activities
The SCSU executives also presented reports about their services, events, and advocacy activities for the rest of the academic year.
Abdelhameed announced that the SCSU has finally opened the Racialized Students Collective (RSC) room at the Student Centre. “It’s very much like a living room for racialized folks to be comfortable on campus,” said Afshana Miah — the RSC coordinator and a fourth-year global development studies and psychology major — in an interview with The Varsity. The space will feature books and board games, among other amenities.
“[This] is meant to be a safe space for people to hang out, do work, and commune with each other,” Miah added. Abdelhameed said that the SCSU is looking for volunteers to keep the space open.
The SCSU will also host Speak Out week from November 28 to December 2. Abdelhameed said that the week-long event aims to spotlight equity issues, and is a chance for students to “speak out against oppression and injustice.”
Events include International Day for Solidarity with Palestine, a cooking workshop, and a lecture titled “How Universities Cannot Respond to Global Crises.” The lecture will be given by Michelle Stack, an associate professor from the University of British Columbia’s Department of Educational Studies, whose research interests include educational equity and knowledge translation.
The SCSU continues to lobby for Ramadan accommodations. “Students should not be choosing between their faith and their academics,” said David. “We hope to get students extra time during exams to make sure that they can observe prayer as well as do well on their exams.”
David said that the SCSU has been advocating for the revised credit/no credit (CR/NCR) policy for “so many years.” If passed, the policy will allow UTSC students to CR/NCRtheir courses after they receive their final grades.
Lastly, the SCSU is still working to implement the union’s sexual violence survivor grant. Abdelhameed anticipates that the SCSU will simply need to “have more conversations” about the grant with UTSC administrators. She hopes for the grant to be implemented in the 2023–2024 academic year.