At the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 29, 2023, students passed motions for the union to explore increased funding for campus clubs and officially adopt a “pro-Palestine stance” that will affect all clubs and services the UTMSU funds.
Approximately 100 students engaged in the two-hour AGM, which is held so all UTM students can propose and vote on important changes to the union.
Increased funding for campus clubs
Students passed a motion proposed by UTMSU Executive Director Felipe Jiyudim Nagata for the union to explore options for increasing the funding the UTMSU allocates to support clubs — including starting funds it provides to new clubs — and report back to membership.
During the meeting, students discussed restructuring the union’s funding considerations for new and recognized clubs, including funding criteria tied to membership size, event participation, and potential awards.
Students also passed a motion from Talha Çelik, Executive Director of the UTM Cobra Muay Thai Club, for the UTMSU to provide “endorsement and support” to the club’s efforts at cultural exchange with European universities.
The UTM Cobra Muay Thai Club is part of the International Traditional Taekwondo Association Federation, and has partnered with a European Union (EU) project meant to establish “deep institutional transnational cooperation in martial arts studies alongside European Universities.” Cobra Muay Thai hopes to share resources with the UTMSU, promoting internships and creating job opportunities on campus through funding it receives from the EU in grants tied to the initiative.
In a January 7 message to The Varsity, Nagata said that the executive team had not yet met with the UTM Cobra Muay Thai Club to discuss what support it would need and clarified that the UTMSU would not be providing financial support to the club.
UTMSU passes motion affirming support for Palestine
Students also passed a motion to affirm the union’s support for the Palestinian people and “their ongoing struggle against the occupation of Gaza.”
The motion called for the UTMSU to stand in solidarity with the call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. Additionally, the motion tasked the union’s Divest Now campaign — which has previously advocated for fossil fuel divestment — with advocating for the divestment from weaponry manufacturers and other corporations that are funding the Israeli military’s attacks in Gaza.
It also called on the UTMSU to continue lobbying the university administration to improve accommodations for students affected by the violence in Gaza and Israel. The motion committed the UTMSU to create a comprehensive resource booklet — including contacts for legal counsel, information on individual rights, and guidance on engaging in peaceful protests — for students seeking to engage in “organized… Palestinian liberation and the end of the occupation of Gaza.”
Although the Israeli government maintains it has not occupied Gaza since 2005, other organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the International Criminal Court, still classify its presence in Gaza as occupation because of its control of Gaza’s borders, airspace, waters, the supply of infrastructure, and some government functions.
Students added amendments to modify the language of the motion during a discussion and debate period. Among other changes, attendees broadened the wording to express support for all Palestinians and not just those in Gaza.
One student also proposed an amendment to have the union adopt “an official pro-Palestine stance that extends to all clubs and services funded by the UTMSU,” arguing that the UTMSU can make a bigger impact on its pro-Palestinian advocacy by influencing the smaller organizations under its domain. The student who proposed the motion did not clarify whether they intended the motion to impact whether the UTMSU would recognize or fund clubs.
During a discussion on the motion, Nagata clarified that the union can’t mandate that clubs take certain stances but can withhold funding or recognition from clubs. He asked the student who proposed the motion for more clarification on what they intended it to do, and the student said that they “intentionally” left the motion “a little bit vague.”
Students passed the motion with the amendment.
Updates on UTMSU campaigns
During the meeting, the UTMSU executives also highlighted the union’s upcoming Lobby Week, which will take place from January 21–27. During this week, the UTMSU aims to bring multiple campaigns it’s currently running into the spotlight with renewed lobbying: Education For All, which calls for free tuition for all students and specifically focuses on lowering international student tuition; Consent is Mandatory, which calls on the university to increase staff training and transparency around sexual assault and harassment; and Housing Advocacy, which calls for the city to increase affordable housing.
Students will have the opportunity to engage in collaborative efforts to compose documents supporting a campaign of their choosing. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to meet with administrators to present their recommendations for the university and lobby them on specific initiatives.
Financial audit reports
John (Yongxin) Liang, the UTMSU’s vice-president internal, went over the UTMSU and Blind Duck Pub’s financial audits from the 2022–2023 fiscal year.
The UTMSU notably increased the amount of funding it provided for clubs post-COVID because more clubs have started as in-person activities have increased.
The union’s decision to increase wages and benefits for the Blind Duck’s employees, from $192,000 to $334,000, was propelled by the Ontario government’s increase in minimum wage and an expansion in the pub’s staff. Liang said the Blind Duck operated in a deficit this year mostly because of its low food prices. The pub also lost money in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years.
The UTMSU’s orientation expenses for the past year amounted to $292,000, a surge from the previous year’s cost of $60,000. Liang attributed this substantial increase to the return of in-person activities and the orientation concert, which required the union to pay performing artists.The assembly passed the audit report for the 2022–2023 school year and appointed auditors for the 2023–2024 school year.