Adrian Huntelar was appointed Vice-President University Affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) at its Board of Directors meeting on November 25. The meeting also addressed the Landmark Project and reviewed executive reports.
Vice-President University Affairs
The Vice-President University Affairs position had been vacant since the resignation of Carina Zhang on September 3. The Board of Directors appointed Huntelar, previously one of seven General Equity Directors, to fill the vacancy.
Huntelar, a third-year Political Science and Peace, Conflict, and Justice Studies student, said that he has “a tangible plan of action” and “a track record of stabilizing turbulent positions” as well as making progress for students — characteristics he said were important for the position.
His blueprint for the rest of the academic year includes improving food security on campus.
“It’s way too hard to find healthy, affordable food that also accommodates dietary restrictions, and is also accessible to commuter students,” he said. “Forty per cent of students in Canada are food insecure; I think that’s unacceptable.”
With regard to dealing with the university administration as part of his portfolio, Huntelar emphasized his “strong working relationship” with the Vice-Provost Students and the Vice-Provost International Student Experience.
“On a number of issues, if the student community moves first and we do the work to improve the situation on campus, and then we challenge the administration to do the same, we’ll create a race to the top,” he said. “We do better, they do better, we do better, they do better. The result is a better campus for everybody.”
The deliberation process, which included a presentation and questioning period, was conducted in camera.
Huntelar’s appointment comes after last month’s failed motion to consolidate the posts of Vice-President University Affairs and Vice-President External into one Vice-President Advocacy position.
The consolidation was intended to cut salary expenses in view of the union’s structural deficit from the Student Commons project. At the UTSU’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), Anne Boucher, Vice-President External, argued that given the long hours she puts into her work, advocacy would be severely undercut by combining the two positions.
Huntelar himself argued in favour of keeping the position, saying that “frivolous” expenses like miscellaneous spending, transportation, and executive phone plans were the problem, not salaries.
Daman Singh, Vice-President Internal, said during the AGM discussion that students should not oppose the elimination of old positions just because “they want to run for it.” After this remark was met by audible objections, Singh apologized for the comment.
Donald Ainslie, Principal of University College (UC), also gave a presentation on the proposed Landmark Project. The project is a plan by administrators to pedestrianize and beautify four core areas of the St. George campus, including King’s College Circle, the Sir Daniel Wilson quadrangle at UC, the area around back campus, and Hart House Circle.
Although cars will have limited access to King’s College Circle, Ainslie emphasized that pedestrians will have priority. The project aims to raise $20 million, $2 million of which has already been gifted by the University of Toronto Alumni Association and the University of Toronto.
The board also discussed the reports from members of the executive. Boucher did not submit her report on time, so it will be taken up at the December meeting.
The executive reports generated a significant amount of review from the members. Kassandra Neranjan, Academic Director for Humanities, brought up the issue that, while some individual board directors did not agree with the university-mandated leave of absence policy, Memmel had called it a “positive development” in his report.
Another contentious report came from Chimwemwe Alao, Vice-President Equity, whose report addressed the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and U of T professor Jordan Peterson.
“A group of graduate students associated with the Women and Gender Studies Institute reached out to me in order to discuss ways that I can support their organizing against Jordan Peterson,” said Alao in his report. “They had expressed interest in getting the CFS and member locals to also publicly condemn Peterson and show solidarity in their organizing.”
Alao brought forward an emergency motion on behalf of the graduate students at the November 17 to November 20 CFS National General Meeting. It passed unanimously, calling on all CFS-member unions to publicly condemn Peterson.