Throughout the 2022–2023 academic year, the University of Toronto Mississauga Student’s Union (UTMSU) worked for and with students to provide new and upgrade old student services including MiWay transportation, academic advocacy, housing support, and food insecurity.
Maëlis Barre — president of the UTMSU — told The Varsity that she and her team of candidates from the Inspire UTM slate achieved each of their campaign goals. Inspire UTM initially had 12 goals, which ranged from sexual violence to student housing, included in their election campaign.
Barre is finishing her second year as a UTMSU executive. As second-year financial economics specialist Gulfara (Gulfy) Bekbolatova prepares to step into Barre’s role for the 2023–2024 academic year, The Varsity debriefed Barre and her team’s past year as UTMSU executives.
“Lobby Mississauga MiWay” was one of the 12 promises listed on the slate’s platform. Barre told The Varsity that the UTMSU spoke with MiWay, Mississauga’s public transport agency, regarding complaints issued by students regarding bus frequency and space as UTM returned to full in-person activities in the fall.
To meet the promise of “[fighting] for better food options,” Barre said the UTMSU increased operation at the food centre by 600 per cent after dedicating $18,000 toward it in January 2022.
To follow through on expanding the student centre, she said that the UTMSU studied different options and lobbied for more university funding to offload some of the students’ burden of increasing the Student Centre levy fee.
Inspire UTM also promised to establish a First and Second-Year Transition Committee to assist students with the transition back to in-person learning. In a follow-up interview with Barre, she confirmed that they had begun internal work towards establishing the committee but never fully launched it due to lack of student interest.
Another one of Inspire UTM’s campaign items was to “Host a Consent Forum to shape a UTM-specific sexual violence campaign,” which the UTMSU held on March 30. The UTMSU also supported a Prevention, Empowerment, Advocacy Response for Survivors Project march against U of T’s acceptance of sexual violence policy review recommendations. Additionally, they organized a protest on November 30, 2022 that called for UTM professor Robert Reisz’s termination due to his violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy.
Two more of Inspire UTM’s campaign items were to “Challenge all systems of oppression” and “Ensure Fairness for International Students.” According to Barre, the UTMSU worked with Migrant Students United and the National Council of Canadian Muslims to support international and Muslim students.
Barre said the UTMSU also worked with Climate Justice UofT to brainstorm ways to lobby U of T for divestment, which was another of Inspire UTMSU’s campaign goals.
Additionally, Inspire UTM promised to “revamp” the Student Survival Guide, which Barre said they also followed through on. The UTMSU recently published its International Student Handbook. They also fulfilled their commitment to rework the “Know Your Rights” campaign by hosting various housing and academic advocacy workshops.
Student fees and funding
Regarding finances, one campaign item was to, “Continue the fight for a free and accessible post-secondary education for all.”
Barre said the UTMSU made headway in increasing scholarships and bursaries, but she declined to share the amount with The Varsity, saying it would be difficult to confirm. The UTMSU also held a banner drop in the William Davis Building in October 2022, drawing attention to their lobbying for lower and free tuition. The banner read “Students Demand Education For All.” Barre also spoke at the March Governing Council meeting regarding the university’s reliance on high international tuition fees.
UTMSU increased student fees based on inflation, as calculated using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 2022, the Canadian CPI increased by 6.8 per cent. The only two fees that were increased beyond this rate were the health care plan and the Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) to be used on MiWay buses because the UTMSU switched to a digital pass.