During the 2022–2023 school year, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) successfully campaigned for the “Second Attempt for Credit” policy, pushed against sexual violence on campus, and organized events at UTSC. The union also opened 1265 Bistro and expanded the offerings at their food centre. However, the SCSU did not fulfill many of the promises its executives made during their campaigns.
Students elected Michael Sobowale as SCSU president for the 2022–2023 school year, though he resigned in January. As Amrith David prepares to take over as SCSU president, The Varsity reviewed the SCSU’s work over the past year.
SCSU president’s campaign promises
In an interview with The Varsity during last year’s campaign period, Sobowale committed to creating a post pandemic recovery plan. He promised to advocate for class attendance exemptions for international students.
Sobowale expressed wanting to start a Community Care Centre to help first-year students transition to university. In an email to The Varsity, SCSU Vice-President Operations Mathooshan Manoharan wrote that such a centre is “not yet able to be implemented in the SCSU” due to space constraints. He added that the SCSU is planning to renovate the Student Centre to create space for a Community Care Centre and expand its existing Equity Service Centres.
Sobowale also campaigned on supporting climate initiatives. The SCSU has continued to support the university-wide campaign to divest Victoria University, Trinity College, and the University of St. Michael’s College from fossil fuels this year. Additionally, Manoharan wrote that SCSU Vice-President External Thai Dillon Higashihara has been working to create an SCSU sustainability policy.
Sobowale also promised to advocate for reducing international student tuition. As part of their Fairness for International Students campaign, the SCSU advocated for U of T to provide “universal gateways for international students to access post-secondary education, according to their Winter General Meeting package. They also asked the university to reserve seats for international students on governing bodies and develop a commission investigating alleged predatory practices to recruit international students.
At its March 22 meeting, the Academic Affairs Committee recommended the “Second Attempt for Credit” policy, which will allow students to retake courses for credit without their first attempt affecting their GPA. The SCSU played an instrumental role in lobbying for this policy.
SCSU executives also expressed support for the campaign calling on U of T to fire UTM Professor Robert Reisz for violations of the university’s sexual harassment policy. SCSU executives attended multiple protests, discussed the university’s sexual harassment policy, and signed an open letter by the Prevention, Empowerment, Advocacy Response for Survivors (PEARS) Project calling for Reisz’s termination. SCSU executives spoke at a protest, organized by PEARS’ sister organization the Project Sexual Trauma & Assault Resource Team, that called on the university to terminate Reisz.
Near the beginning of the year, the SCSU struggled to engage students and failed to meet quorum at its fall Annual General Meeting, which prevented it from passing any motions. A lack of eligible candidates for the fall by-election left four BOD seats empty. In addition, only four per cent of eligible students voted in the elections for 2023–24 executive positions.
Manoharan wrote in an email to The Varsity that although a lack of student engagement has been an issue across the university, the SCSU is “excited for opportunities in the upcoming year to continue to grow membership engagement,” specifically through initiatives such as Frosh and the Undergraduate Research Symposium.
“We are so inspired by the resiliency of students at UTSC, and will continue to work to support students in navigating their campus and studies,” wrote Manoharan.
With files from Alyanna Denise Chua.