On November 24, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) held its Annual General Meeting, allowing all UTM students to propose and vote on important changes to the union.
After Division 2 Director Niguel Walker presented an amendment allowing the vice-president equity to appoint a chair if they were unable to make a bursary committee meeting, students approved all of the executive committee’s proposed changes to the UTMSU’s bylaws. These amendments include provisions allowing executives to pass the responsibility of chairing a meeting to another representative, removing mentions of the UTSU from the bylaws, and allowing BOD members to resign over the summer months.
Students also approved the audited financial statements for the Blind Duck Pub and the UTMSU, which the UTMSU’s Board of Directors (BOD) reviewed during its November meeting.
During the meeting, the UTMSU also highlighted its upcoming Lobby Week, which will take place from January 30, 2023 to February 3, 2023. During this week, the UTMSU aims to highlight three of its main campaigns: Academic Advocacy, Education For All, and Food Security Now.
Academic Advocacy campaign
As part of its Academic Advocacy campaign, the UTMSU calls on the university to allow students accused of an academic offense to review evidence from their case at least four weeks prior to Departmental, Decennial, and Tribunal hearings. The UTMSU also wants U of T to set a time limit for resolving academic misconduct cases, capping Departmental and Decennial cases at two months and Tribunal meetings at six months. This time limit would allow students to continue their studies without hearings stalling their ability to take courses or graduate.
Currently, departments are authorized to handle matters of academic integrity for assignments worth 10 per cent or less of a course’s final grade. The UTMSU also wants to increase that threshold from 10 per cent to 25 per cent. “As UTM students, we know half of our assignments are [less than] ten per cent. It’s usually more than that,” Suraqa Noor, vice president university affairs, said in an interview with The Varsity.
Noor also explained the need to reinforce instructors’ duties outlined in Section C. I.(A) of the Code of Behavior on Academic Matters, which requires that instructors inform a student immediately after discovery of an academic offence.
Finally, the UTMSU is lobbying U of T to extend the credit/no credit deadline to the day students receive their final grades.
Food Security Now campaign
Regan Roopnarine, vice president equity, presented the recommendations from the Food Security Now campaign.
The UTMSU hopes to increase the diversity of food options on campus by pushing food services to provide better vegetarian, vegan, halal, kosher, and gluten-free options, as well as train staff on how to make and serve foods that accommodate these diets. For example, Roopnarine said that food services should train staff to not use a knife previously used on regular meat to cut halal meat.
The UTMSU also wants to expand students’ avenues to provide feedback and extend food service hours to accommodate students who don’t always eat at typical meal times.
Finally, the UTMSU wants the UTM administration to partner with the UTM Food Centre “to promote local waste reduction and improve food security on campus.”
Education For All Campaign
As for the Education For All Campaign, the UTMSU wants to lobby the provincial government on the “reduction and gradual elimination of tuition fees for all students” and support efforts lobbying both the Provincial and Federal Governments to work toward transitioning student loans to student grants.
During his presentation of the lobbying goals, Alistair Kirk, vice president external, highlighted the need for alternative modes of education. “We want the university to provide an online option… for undergraduate classes,” said Kirk. “Professors have gotten accustomed to using video sharing platforms and video conferencing calls and also have already recorded lectures, so we think that they already have the resources to pursue such a goal.”
Finally, the UTMSU hopes to increase nonacademic scholarships for students and eliminate the tuition fee increase for out-of-province students.