In the 2023–2024 term, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) instituted a rideshare program, became a homeowner, approved a policy manual for its Student Senate, and announced plans to create a pedestrian scramble at the St. George and Hoskins intersection and a café in the Student Commons.

As Shehab Mansour prepares to take office as the union’s 2024–2025 president, The Varsity is here to break down the UTSU’s accomplishments under President Elizabeth Shechtman’s leadership. 

Shechtman’s tenure

In an interview with The Varsity before the 2023–2024 UTSU elections, Shechtman said her campaign focused on growing the Student Aid Program — which provides bursaries to students in need of financial support — as well as expanding mental health resources provided by the UTSU. She also hoped to continue the UTSU’s work to add a café and mutual aid library to the Student Commons.

During its December Board of Directors (BOD) meeting, UTSU executives discussed plans to expand the union’s Student Aid Program. To solve the program’s lack of funding, Vice President (VP) Operations and Finance Samir Mechel proposed raising the program’s levy by two dollars per student — which students approved through a referendum in the spring 2024 elections.

At a September BOD meeting, the UTSU discussed a policy submission asking the federal government to establish a four-year Post-Secondary Mental Health Infrastructure Fund. During its February BOD meeting, VP, Public and University Affairs (PUA) Aidan Thompson announced that the UTSU had requested that the federal government allocate 500 million dollars towards funding student mental health support. 

In terms of expanding the Student Commons, the UTSU created its Little Library in April 2023, allowing students to donate and borrow textbooks to alleviate the costs of course materials. In a March BOD meeting, the UTSU board approved plans to allocate $600,000 toward constructing a café in the Student Commons, with construction scheduled to finish by September. 

For the upcoming academic year, Shechtman was elected as the UTSU’s VP finance and operations. In a statement to The Varsity, she wrote that she hopes to “build upon the legacy established during my presidency by maintaining existing projects and introducing new initiatives.”

In the 2024–2025 school year, Shechtman plans to launch an online platform for the Little Library, collaborate with REES — a trauma-informed organization that connects online incident reporting to resources and support — and introduce a platform for student clubs to streamline the club registration process.

Controversies and conundrums 

After downsizing the BOD and adding a Student Senate to its bylaws during its 2022 Annual General Meeting, the UTSU received criticism from U of T’s Engineering Society (EngSoc). Members of EngSoc publicly condemned the UTSU for violating a 2015 agreement that guaranteed engineering students at least three elected representatives on the BOD — seats that the UTSU removed after the board downsized.

At the UTSU’s 2023 AGM, the executives attempted to abolish the Student Senate, promising that they would replace it with another student advisory group. A group of students, mostly in engineering, spoke out against the motion to strike the Senate. Ultimately, the motion failed.

During the 2023 AGM and the UTSU candidates’ debate, members of the student body also criticized the UTSU’s Instagram statement responding to the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza, with recently-elected VP PUA Avreet Jagdev calling the statement “two-sided.” In response, Mechel wrote to The Varsity that the union did not feel it could sufficiently explain the context for the violence in an Instagram post.