During the 2023–2024 academic term, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) undertook various initiatives, including enhancing public transit services, lobbying for its campaigns like Education for All, and implementing a Safe and Inclusive Academic Space.

As Joelle Salsa prepares to lead the UTMSU as 2024–2025 UTMSU president, The Varsity’s here to examine the union’s activities over the past year.

Student fees

On October 17, the UTM Campus Council approved two new UTMSU levies, both amounting to five dollars per session for full-time students and $2.50 per session fee for part-time students. 

One levy supports a student sustainability group UTM Regenesis, while the other supports Housing Our University Students Equitably Canada — an organization focused on building affordable student housing. The union had originally determined that the referenda for the levies didn’t pass because more students abstained from voting than had voted in favour, but it later requested the increase after consulting legal counsel over the summer. 

The UTMSU Board of Directors also passed a motion in January raising overall membership fees, U-Pass fees, health and dental fees, and other charges for students. This year, full-time students will see a $34.85 increase, while part-time students will face a $32.63 rise per session. Fees were adjusted based on the Ontario Consumer Price Index (CPI) from December 2022 and December 2023, with the student society membership fee increase reflecting the CPI from December 2021 to December 2022.


UTMSU executives announced their decision to apply for funding from the Capacity Building Fund to expand their food bank’s programming. Vice President (VP) Equity Ruth Alemayehu stated that the union aimed to use the funds to purchase additional appliances like microwaves or stoves. 

VP External Okikioladuni (Kiki) Ayoola launched the Transit Advisory Committee, which advises the City of Mississauga on enhancing public transit services. The UTMSU executives further discussed their campaigns during Lobby Week, including Education For All, Consent is Mandatory, and Housing Advocacy, aimed at promoting free tuition, improving sexual assault and harassment policies, and increasing affordable housing, respectively.

In a 2023 interview with The Varsity, before she was elected as UTMSU President, Gulfy Bekbolatova said she would prioritize the UTMSU’s Education for All campaign, which emphasizes education as a fundamental human right. She also said she intended to advocate for more non-academic scholarships and awards, expand bursaries to support financially disadvantaged students, and increase the availability of co-op opportunities and paid experiences. 

The Varsity found no evidence of progress toward these goals, and Bekbolatova did not respond to a request for comment.

Major controversies

In November, the UTMSU conducted a referendum asking students to approve a levy for a Student Centre expansion. The majority of students voted against the expansion fee. TransparentUTMSU, a group of anonymous student volunteers, criticized the UTMSU for a perceived lack of organization during the referendum.

The UTMSU also faced backlash for its statement expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza amid the conflict with Israel. The statement, released shortly after militant group Hamas initially attacked Israel, sparked mixed reactions within the campus community. While some praised the UTMSU for taking a stance on a global issue, others criticized it for not explicitly addressing Israeli casualties and for the statement’s wording advocating for Palestinian’s “right to resist an apartheid regime.”

In response to the UTMSU’s statement, UTM Principal and VP Alexandra Gillespie released a statement expressing concerns that the union expressed a “position that does not represent the views of its full membership.” Soon after, UTM students organized a walkout calling for a ceasefire and an end to the dehumanization of Palestinians. 

At the 2023 UTMSU Annual General Meeting, students passed a motion for the union to affirm its support for the Palestinian people and their ongoing struggle against the occupation of Gaza by officially taking a “pro-Palestine stance.” One student proposed an amendment to extend the pro-Palestine stance to all UTMSU-funded clubs and services. The motion passed with the amendment. The UTMSU has not yet clarified how this will specifically affect club funding.