The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) met virtually on March 20 for a Board of Directors (BOD) meeting, followed by a General Assembly meeting.
Board of Directors
The main items on the meeting agenda included motions to approve increases to levy fees. The union collects these fees from students to help fund services such as Bikechain, the Toronto Sexual Education Centre, membership in the Canadian Federation of Students — both the national and Ontario branches — and the UTGSU Health and Dental plans.
UTGSU President Lwanga Musisi explained that the BOD must first approve levy fees, which the BOD would then send to U of T governing bodies for their approval.
The largest proposed fee increases included those for the UTGSU Health Plan — by 16.85 per cent — and the UTGSU Dental Plan — by 10.91 per cent. Some BOD members discussed whether the BOD should approve increases in fees without direct approval from the students.
Musisi explained that the UTGSU saw a significant increase in the number of claims made for mental health care from September 2022 to January 2023. This increased usage follows the BOD’s decision last year for the UTGSU plan to cover 100 per cent of mental health care costs, for up to $750 in total per student. Musisi added that the fee increase was needed to continue providing the same amount of coverage to students.
Vice-President Finance Neelofar Ahmed expressed reservations about the motion to increase fees to the Health and Dental plans, noting that the document outlining the proposed increases was circulated last-minute. She also expressed concerns that the UTGSU had not provided a full picture of how much money was going to the insurance companies from the claims, nor had the union fully explored alternative coverage options besides the option to raise the levy fee collected from graduate students.
Danielle Karakas, vice-president academics and funding for the School of Graduate Studies divisions 3 and 4, added that the union was not against revisiting the terms of the Health and Dental Plans, but based on the usage amount, the plans appeared to be something the general membership would be invested in maintaining.
After the discussion was exhausted, the motion to approve the fee changes was carried out. Karakas then motioned to extend the meeting from 7:00–7:30 pm so the union could have longer to discuss an in-camera item, but the motion ultimately failed. The union still moved the meeting to an in-camera discussion, whereby non-voting members of the UTGSU were removed.
After the BOD meeting, the members reconvened for the General Assembly meetings with course union representatives present. The meeting began with reports from UTGSU standing committees. UTGSU general member Lynne Alexandrova shared that at the March 13 BOD meeting, the BOD had appointed general members to several standing committees, but was still short on a few committees to meet quorum.
Neha Anwar, a graduate student in the Master of Public Policy Program at the Munk School, gauged the Assembly’s thoughts about advocating for a new fee structure for the shuttle bus that travels between the UTM and UTSG campuses.
Anwar explained that for UTSG students to take the shuttle from UTSG to UTM, each ticket is $7, whereas the shuttle service is included as part of tuition fees for UTM students. She also explained that many students live in Mississauga and commute to UTSG, so it may be beneficial for there to be an option to include the shuttle service as part of their tuition.
Anwar said she would keep the members updated on their advocacy efforts at the next meeting.
After a few more event announcements, including an announcement from the Chief Returning Officer about the candidacy nominations for the upcoming UTGSU elections, the meeting adjourned at 8:04 pm.
With files from Lexey Burns.