The state of the Scarborough student union

UTSC students share their views on the SCSU in light of a rocky election cycle

The state of the Scarborough student union

The 2018 elections of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) were marred in controversy. With the unofficial results now in, we reached out to UTSC students who wanted to share their opinions on everything that’s happened.

Confusion surrounding SCSU-related controversies leaves students at a loss

Coming to university, one of the things that fascinated me was the concept of a student council that had the ability to make a real difference. To the untrained freshman eye, the SCSU was ‘by students, for students’ and had the platform to influence decision-makers and advocate for my rights.

While these thoughts are valid in theory, recent events demonstrate this platform is not realistic in practice. Watching the controversy with this year’s SCSU elections unfold, the first thing that struck me was how unprofessional the whole situation is.

Allegations of misconduct in this year’s elections were first brought to attention on social media; they contained some very serious claims but no real detail as to what truly happened. To this day, most of us who don’t have the privilege of working in the SCSU office are still left in the dark with a frustrating pile of ambiguous statements.

After observing the protest at the all-candidates’ meeting and viewing the response from the official SCSU page, I have been forced to question how much of the battle is really for justice and how much is for personal gain. Do these people really care about me, or is the goal just to obtain another nice mark on an already impressive resumé?

While I do respect the amount of work and passion our current executive board displays daily, I can’t help but lose some respect for the union as a whole. As a campus that is not taken as seriously as it should be, we cannot present this kind of divided front. It is very easy for the powers that be to disregard student unions as childish, and I am afraid that this behaviour affirms those patronizing thoughts.

Deborah Ocholi is a third-year student at UTSC studying Neuroscience.

SCSU elections still primarily a popularity contest

Videos. Hashtags. Petitions. What began as two candidate disqualifications has mushroomed into a fierce backlash against the SCSU. However, this commotion is obscuring the fundamental causes of the student union’s downfall.

The foundation of this scandal is the student body’s woeful ignorance of the SCSU’s management. Unless you are a motivated individual with political aspirations or a desire to pad your resumé, you are probably unaware of the SCSU’s principles. What are the election rules? How is the budget determined? What values guide decision-making? This obliviousness stems from apathy on the union’s part in making its values widely accessible. To the layperson, the SCSU is a shadowy organization that can only be understood by those already inducted into its hierarchy. Lack of transparency facilitates the perception of corruption.

Furthermore, trust in the electoral process is eroded by focus on candidate popularity at the cost of policy. Walking through campus during election season guarantees being bombarded by brightly coloured posters or students canvassing votes. Slates are banking on the familiarity of their candidates’ faces as the path to triumph. And unfortunately, their methods seem to be working. While most students can identify candidates by face, they might find it harder to discuss any of their policies, and candidates rely heavily on this.

It falls on the SCSU to organize debates or town halls, where students can determine the feasibility of a candidate’s policies and decide who represents their interests. Yes, a candidate forum was held, but it was poorly advertised and even more poorly attended. Right now, friends vote for friends.

Meanwhile, a glance at the candidates’ proposals reveal wildly unrealistic suggestions, most of which are unlikely to be implemented. One wonders from what bottomless pockets would funding for bubble tea and a permanent ice rink be procured.

To the SCSU: don’t underestimate your student body’s intelligence. Give them the opportunity to engage in democracy. Until the electoral process is reformed, the SCSU will continue to be perceived as a nepotistic organization that does not embody the voices of the students it represents.

Maria Raveendran is a third-year student at UTSC studying Human Biology and Psychology.

Being a candidate means following the rules

I was an executive of the SCSU for two years, and during that time I saw the advantages and resources an incumbent has at their disposal.

Using office space to plan for the election and recruit other candidates, using the station of their power to sway the election by wearing SCSU paraphernalia during campaigning, and intentionally misleading the student population regarding the Elections Procedures Code (EPC) are just a few examples of how the EPC was violated this year by incumbent executive Deena Hassan.

Hassan was disqualified from the election twice this year. The demerit point system exists to ensure no candidate is able to win the election through unfair advantages like the ones I outlined above.

Inherently, incumbents have an immense advantage in rerunning — let’s not hand them the election by letting them violate the rules unpunished. Ignorance of bylaws and policies is no excuse. As a part of the board of directors, it is the duty of executives to not only understand but to also execute all bylaws and policies of the union.

In turn, it is the duty of the board, its committee, and the general student body to ensure that we hold the executives accountable. Do your due diligence and fact-check the campaign statements made by the candidates who were elected. Don’t just listen to the people who had a stake in the result.

Yasmin Rajabi is a fourth-year student at UTSC studying Public Policy & City Studies. She served as the SCSU’s Vice-President Operations in 2016–2017 and the SCSU’s Vice-President External in 2015–2016.

Limiting election-related conversation is a limit on free speech

The controversial events leading up to the SCSU elections this year have slowly come to light and have left many, including me, horrified at how deep the SCSU’s dishonesty runs. This year, one slate in particular, Rise Up UTSC, came under fire in the SCSU’s unjustified war for maintaining control over the council’s elected representatives.

I feel the members of Rise Up UTSC have a lot to offer in terms of concrete change, especially compared to the other slate. While Rise Up UTSC recommended the expansion of the existing Food Centre and academic workshops to equip students with employable skills, president-elect Nicole Brayiannis of the UTSC Voice slate spent too much of her time promoting opening a bubble tea place, even though a food place on campus already sells it. However, over the course of the week after the protest, Rise Up UTSC members warned supporters to keep their language neutral while voicing their opinions for fear of receiving demerit points. They were required to draft a cookie-cutter promotional message and have it pre-approved by the CRO before disseminating it to their supporters.

Even more troubling is that a recent ruling by the CRO resulted in students who were not connected to any of the candidates being limited in how they could express their opinions about the slate. Anyone who was outspoken about their support for Rise Up UTSC was a potential target for this restriction. I was personally asked by a member of Rise Up UTSC to amend my own opinions, which were posted as a Facebook status update, for fear of having the slate receive demerit points, even though they didn’t explicitly target any other group. And even with disclaimers that the opinions being expressed were not in any way encouraged by the candidates of Rise Up UTSC, the candidates on the slate were still penalized with demerit points for these posts.

We’re just beginning to find out the ways in which students’ free speech can be stifled at Scarborough, and it’s all the more ironic coming from a union allegedly committed to social justice and equity. Can the SCSU reconcile with this injustice? I’m not certain. What I do know is that I don’t pay the SCSU roughly $40 per semester for bubble tea.

Shiza Shaikh is a third-year student at UTSC studying Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

Transparency and accessibility were in low supply this election period

From controversial allegations to poorly constructed statements, conflicts and miscommunication are not atypical of the SCSU elections process. While student politics are often manipulated to some degree, the lack of oversight, transparency, and the complete disregard for process this year is ridiculous.
It’s hardly inconceivable that slates are planned by outgoing teams. Why is it that we so often have repeat executives while other candidates are quickly voted down, have spoiled ballots, or are disqualified?
Aside from that, let’s talk about the fact that the Elections Candidate Forum was designated with a “TBA” for the date and time on all posters, and then the Facebook event was created the evening before the event was actually scheduled — and cross-promoted on the same day as another large-scale event. If more time to advertise had been needed, there was ample opportunity to shift the dates, especially given the current controversy and the hiring of the new CRO.
You would think that a student union would take pride in being able to share democracy with its members. Instead, it is common to find UTSC generally unaware of the details of the elections — or apathetic, as some would have us believe. Events such as the Elections Candidate Forum, whose purpose is to promote accountability and transparency in the elections process, often wind up doing the opposite. I have yet to see an adequately advertised SCSU election period or Annual General Meeting (AGM) in over four years of being a student at UTSC. A motion about adequate elections advertising was passed at this year’s AGM, but it was not enough to prompt the SCSU to reconsider how it carries out its promotions.

While it is nice to see the campus on the alert during the aftermath of the SCSU elections controversies this year, it’s more about timing than anything. It’s a shame that more students aren’t aware of what has been going on, but it’s more of a shame that the SCSU doesn’t seem to care either.

Katie Konstantopoulos is a sixth-year student at UTSC studying Sociology.

Scandals at other student unions reveal the importance of solving SCSU problems now

The controversies surrounding the SCSU are concerning, and given the even more serious scandals at other student unions in Canada, we should take care that they don’t escalate further. Before coming to UTSC, I studied for two years at the University of Ottawa. The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), on a yearly basis, manages to make headlines for its clownery and corruption. The SFUO mismanaged its way to bankruptcy, all before increasing executive pay by 18 per cent.

Allegations of unfair disqualifications may be new to the SCSU, but they are commonplace at uOttawa. Reform-minded candidates are routinely pushed out, especially when the power of incumbent slates is threatened. In 2011, a winning Board of Administration member was disqualified after the election, and the SFUO appointed the second place finisher to take his place. In 2015, the President of the SFUO, who won on a reform platform, resigned. To the surprise of no one, the candidate was replaced by the VP Communications, who belonged to the previous year’s incumbent slate.

Another student union where mismanagement has been prevalent is the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU). Recent allegations made by executives describing a “boys club” environment and unpleasant working conditions have led one executive to resign outright. The VP Operations has also criticized the working environment, saying he and other executives were not consulted on important campaigns and initiatives.

While the SCSU does not compare to the SFUO or the RSU, the recent occurrences do represent a troubling trend. When student politics becomes an industry, and when there is little to no turnover in executive elections, the quality of representation decreases, while scandal and incompetence increase. Examples from uOttawa and Ryerson should present a warning to UTSC students and student leaders. Low levels of turnover and incompetence in both executive and staff members have serious consequences that must be mitigated before they reach the levels of other schools.

Andre Roy is a third-year student at UTSC studying City Studies.

 

SCSU AGM tackles food equity, gender-inclusive washrooms

Promotion of AGM called into question, motion passed to improve student awareness of future meetings

SCSU AGM tackles food equity, gender-inclusive washrooms

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) hosted their Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 15. The meeting served as a platform to discuss the audited financial reports from the 2016–2017 academic year and motions presented by members. These motions included the promotion of future AGMs, support of the UTSC Food Equity campaign, and implementation of gender-inclusive washrooms in the Student Centre.

The meeting was called to order after quorum was reached.

SCSU President Sitharsana Srithas made the first motion to receive the 2016–2017 audited financial statements, provided with a review from an auditor from firm Yale and Partners LLP.

The floor opened to discussion, and many questioned the discontinued operation of KFC Express and Hero Burger in the Student Centre, concerned about the loss of student job opportunities that resulted when these companies were sold to private owners. Srithas addressed these worries by noting that the SCSU has tried to create more jobs for students in other divisions on campus, such as Rex’s Den.

After the audited financial statements were approved, with all voting in favour with the exception of two abstentions, the meeting unanimously voted in favor of appointing Yale and Partners LLP as external auditors for the 2017–2018 fiscal year.

The SCSU executives then presented their personal portfolios and all the work done by each member in the past year. After the executive report was presented, the floor was opened to discussion. Following a conversation on the purpose of the food bank and the progress of the Fight the Fees campaign, the report was approved.

The meeting then proceeded to the first agenda item: the motion to investigate the implementation of gender-inclusive washrooms in the Student Centre, which was moved by SCSU Vice-President Equity Nana Frimpong. According to Frimpong, the idea of the washrooms would be to have fully private single-stalled washrooms, which would only be brought into effect after consultation with trans and non-binary students.

Srithas said that not every Student Centre washroom would be made gender-inclusive, but there would be a gender-inclusive washroom on at least one floor so those not comfortable with the idea could still choose a gendered washroom. After the discussion, the floor was opened to voting, and the motion passed.

The final two motions were both moved and motivated by Katie Konstantopoulos, a student and volunteer at the food centre. While Konstantopoulos has never held an SCSU executive position, she has sat on the union’s board of directors and has frequently proposed amendments to the SCSU.

The first of Konstantopoulos’ motions addressed the lack of promotion surrounding this year’s AGM. She said that students around campus did not know of the event, and some of those who were aware of it did not know when or where it was being held.

The motion, which passed, stipulated that the SCSU would be expected to take measures to ensure that AGM promotion reached a wider berth of students in the future, including by looking into innovative forms of promotion like targeted, paid Facebook advertisements.

The third and final motion on the floor, the Motion for the Support of UTSC Food Equity and the Food Equity Campaign, resulted in an extensive discussion as students expressed enthusiasm for adding amendments to the motion.

Students proposed looking into the feasibility of developing gardens on campus as well as potentially providing cooking classes to increase food literacy.

The motion’s goal was to address the wide range of students at UTSC who cannot afford the school meal plan but do not have the time in their schedule to cook for themselves, as well as to address the 40 per cent increase in food bank usage in Scarborough reported by the Daily Bread.

Konstantopoulos created the UTSC Food Equity campaign in September following her initial involvement at the food centre, and she proposed the motion to get the SCSU involved because of the union’s platform and ability to address a larger range of students through their membership.

Konstantopoulos is pleased with the outcome of the meeting after both of her motions passed. The priority for her is to ensure that no students will “face food security alone.”

SCSU report makes recommendations on academic, accessibility rights of students

Report part of academic advocacy campaign led by VP Academics & University Affairs Christina Arayata

SCSU report makes recommendations on academic, accessibility rights of students

Self-declared sick notes, a maximum cap on late penalties, and an extension of the credit-no credit option to the last day of classes are among the recommendations made in a report published by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) to make students aware of their academic and accessibility rights.

This report, titled “Creating an Accessible Campus: Guidelines and Recommendations for the University of Toronto Scarborough – 2017,” is part of an ongoing academic advocacy campaign being led by the SCSU’s Vice-President Academics and University Affairs, Christina Arayata.

The proposal of self-declared sick notes comes in response to the high cost of getting medical documentation, as well as to free up resources from the Health and Wellness Centre used to verify students’ illnesses.

“This is just a recommendation towards the University, it is through meetings and consultation with the administration where we would be able to come up with a pilot/system that would ensure academic integrity is not affected,” wrote Arayata. “Flexible academic policies are already in effect in other institutions like Simon Fraser University or Queens.”

There is also a proposal calling for a maximum five per cent cap on late penalties. According to the report, 68 per cent of students at the Scarborough campus rely on OSAP, requiring them to find part-time jobs, and excessive late penalties — some of which reach 25 per cent per day — force them to choose between assignments and going to work.

The report also suggests extending the credit-no credit deadline to the last day of classes, a process currently in place at UTM. The SCSU believes that doing this would eliminate inaccurate choices made by students predicting their grades two weeks before receiving them. Doing this, according to the report, “has the potential to lessen the load on petitions surrounding this particular area,” which would save resources.

With regard to accessibility concerns, the report includes a proposal of the development of a mandatory policy against the banning of laptops in lectures, as removing laptops “is also mandating the ways in which students can/are supposed to learn in the classroom.”

The report also calls for the university to include the Student Bill of Rights in course syllabi and on Blackboard and ACORN. The inclusion of the bill, which stipulates the right to receive a syllabus in the first week of class, would prevent documented cases where students did not receive a syllabus in the first week of class or received parts of it as the semester progressed.

The report has been presented to the university’s administration, and the SCSU is now “working with the Administration to get these items into actionable items.”

Liza Arnason, Assistant Dean of Student Life, Community Outreach and International Experience at UTSC, said that although conversations are underway, significant progress toward the implementation of the recommendations will not be made until the winter semester.

Tory tackles transit, housing at UTSC town hall

Mixed housing, Scarborough subway extension main talking points

Tory tackles transit, housing at UTSC town hall

Transit and housing were the main topics of discussion at a student town hall held at UTSC’s Meeting Place, which featured Mayor John Tory. The forum was organized to discuss a collective vision for Scarborough and to discuss the major issues that affect the UTSC community, including transit, housing, and policing.

The event, titled “Vision for Scarborough,” was organized by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) in collaboration with the Centennial College Student Association, Inc (CCSAI) and the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization.

During the town hall, Tory campaigned for the Scarborough Bloor-Danforth subway extension, explaining his belief that it will stimulate investments and create jobs in Scarborough. “If you said if I thought it was kind of any strange notion that we would have a subway that has been extended to the east before,” Tory said, “No I don’t.”

Tory has faced widespread criticism over the choice to build a one-stop subway that is estimated to cost north of $3.35 billion. Critics have argued that the same amount of money could go toward a series of LRT lines that would serve more residents in Scarborough and beyond.

Tory believes that transit is the key to converting Scarborough into a job hub. He stated that the main reason investors may not find Scarborough attractive for establishing their business is its poor accessibility via transportation. He said the solution is the construction of “higher-order transportation.”

The mayor also said that safety barriers for subways are not part of any immediate transit plans in the city, as the billion dollars needed to install these barriers is currently being put “into building new transit and improving transit.”

When asked about affordable housing for students, Tory emphasized finding a way to step “up the pace” on mixed developments, including monetary subsidies to incentivize developers to build and operate affordable housing. He also spoke of shelter subsidies, where students would be able to find an apartment of their choosing and receive monetary support from the city.

Ravneet Kaur, President of the CCSAI, also expressed satisfaction with Tory’s proposals but “wanted to know more about the subway system.” Sitharsana Srithas, President of the SCSU, told The Varsity that she was satisfied with Tory’s answers in the town hall but felt that “there was still a lot of work to be done in terms of investing in Scarborough.”

Scarborough Campus Students’ Union campaigns for Academic Advocacy

Demands include right to refuse using Turnitin, self-declared sick notes

Scarborough Campus Students’ Union campaigns for Academic Advocacy

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) at UTSC has launched a new petition, the Academic Advocacy petition, intended to fight for the academic rights of students and to make education more accessible. SCSU Vice-President Academics and University Affairs Christina Arayata explained the rights the SCSU is currently campaigning for in their Academic Advocacy campaign include the right to refuse to use Turnitin and self-declared sick notes.

Arayata said the main objective of the campaign is to make students more aware of their rights and to help them take more control over their education. Arayata has been working on the campaign’s foundations since summer.

Recently, the SCSU put up large banners in the Market Place, UTSC’s communal cafeteria-style area, containing several petition highlights.

The right to refuse Turnitin

According to Arayata, many students are not aware that they have the right to refuse to submit their assignments through Turnitin, an online academic plagiarism checker. This right is mentioned in the university’s Conditions of Use of Turnitin.

A student can refuse to use the service as long as they inform their professor in the early days of class, preferably the first day, and the professor will have to find another way to check assignments for that student.

Arayata thinks that, though professors do mention this in syllabi, students miss it because of the heavy jargon; the SCSU wants more accessible language in syllabi that describe student rights.

Self-declared sick notes

Getting sick notes from doctors can be a lengthy and an expensive process, said Arayata. She added that the Health and Wellness Centre is already facing backups with appointments, which concerns students because they lose marks each day work is late.

The SCSU prefers if every student were able to use one self-declared sick note per semester for every course by going to the registrar and filling out a form. The university would need to create a system to facilitate this.

The SCSU is also campaigning for the right to privacy of grades, removing the laptop ban in some lectures, a credit-no credit extension until the final day of the study break, and a five per cent cap on late penalties.

“Even if this may not affect you now, it might affect you sometime in the future,” concluded Arayata.

SCSU addresses “systemic barriers” in Week of Resistance

Panel discussion, community events focus on unity, solidarity

SCSU addresses “systemic barriers” in Week of Resistance

The Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU) began the new academic year with a Week of Resistance aimed at showcasing “resistance, unity, and solidarity against oppressive institutional structures and systemic barriers at UTSC.” The campaign ran from September 11–15.

According to SCSU President Sitharsana Srithas, the education system at UTSC uses “very white and colonialized literature.”

She cited the lack of Indigenous courses as an example, adding that “even in those Indigenous courses, it’s not Indigenous people who are teaching them.”

Srithas also described “systemic barriers” on campus that affect students, including the presence of only one major multi-faith space at U of T, which she said discourages students due to longer commute times.

The Week of Resistance included a panel discussion on “Decentering Whiteness in Academia.” The panel revolved around anti-Black racism, Indigenous education in Canadian universities, Islamophobia on campus, and lack of access to education. The panel consisted of Cheryl Thompson, a UTM professor, Kevin Edmonds, a U of T PhD candidate and instructor, and Coty Zachariah, the first Indigenous chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“What we hope to achieve from the ‘Week of Resistance’ is for people to really put aside their discomfort and start empathizing with the folks who are talking about a lot of problems that are happening, start listening to them, and start doing something about it,” said SCSU Vice-President External Kubra Zakir.

Zakir spoke further about “whiteness as a system, a structure that even exists in our racialized spaces.” Zakir added that the Week of Resistance is “not only about resisting our oppressive structures…, [but also] constantly organizing, constantly resisting, and constantly overcoming these barriers.”

The Week of Resistance also included “Solidarity Day: Social Justice Block Party,” which welcomed over 40 non-profit organizations. According to Srithas, the event was “An opportunity for not only on-campus clubs, but also off-campus clubs, like labour unions or other non-profit organizations, to come together with the purpose of social awareness and social justice.”

SCSU also collaborated with the UTSC African Students’ Association and the UTSC-Muslims Students Association to host a series of events. On Friday, September 15, they hosted a community Jummah prayer in the Student Centre to showcase acceptability and solidarity for Muslims. Their aim was to create a more sacred place for the students and lower overt Islamophobia on campus.

The Q&A session at the panel discussion touched on various themes and encouraged students to engage in discussions. According to Zakir, this was also one of the main aims of the week: “to get people thinking, to get people to ask uncomfortable questions.”

Toronto City Council moves forward with Scarborough transit plans

SCSU, UTSC admin supportive of decision

Toronto City Council moves forward with Scarborough transit plans

On July 13, Toronto City Council arrived at a verdict regarding recent transit proposals. It voted to move ahead with the one-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth line from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre, and the 17-stop Eglinton East Crosstown LRT to UTSC; it rejected the seven-stop LRT from Kennedy Station to Sheppard Avenue.

The Eglinton East LRT. VANESSA WANG/THE VARSITY

The Eglinton East LRT.
VANESSA WANG/THE VARSITY

This decision concludes debates concerning the finances and the practicality of the differing potential systems.

Recent estimates show that the City is short on funding to build the $3.1 billion one-stop subway and the $1.7 billion Eglinton East Crosstown LRT, which have both undergone rising anticipated construction costs.

Subway vs. LRT

A comparison of the one-stop subway and the seven-stop LRT plans. VANESSA WANG/THE VARSITY

A comparison of the one-stop subway and the seven-stop LRT plans.
VANESSA WANG/THE VARSITY

Several city councillors opposed Mayor John Tory’s subway-centric approach, instead opting for the seven-stop LRT plan.

Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow brought forward a motion to replace the one-stop subway with the seven-stop LRT plan. The cost estimates for this proposal were similar to those of the one-stop subway.

The seven-stop LRT had a funding commitment for $1.5 billion from the province in 2010. The initial project was replaced by former Mayor Rob Ford’s three-stop subway strategy; those plans were modified again this year by Mayor Tory’s one-stop subway proposal.

At the council meeting, Matlow committed to “providing transit to as many people as possible in Scarborough and across the city.” He believed the 7-stop LRT, coupled with the Eglinton East Crosstown would “provide more service to more people and use dollars more wisely.”

Matlow told reporters during the meeting that his proposed seven-stop LRT would give Scarborough residents easier access to “virtually every major institution” in the district, including Centennial College, the Civic Centre, and the UTSC.

Matlow’s seven-stop LRT motion was defeated with 16 votes in favour and 27 against.

Reaction from UTSC

Sitharsana Srithas, vice-president, external of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), called the vote in favor of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT a “massive victory for both Scarborough residents and UTSC students.”

“The Eglinton East LRT will be immensely valuable in connecting UTSC to the rest of the city. As a student, I can see this expansion allowing students to now have better access and more opportunities to take courses at the downtown campus,” Srithas said. “I hope the City stays committed to the Eglinton East LRT.”

Srithas also mentioned that in 2010, UTSC students voted in favour of a levy to contribute to the construction of the Toronto Pan Am Centre in the hopes of prompting rapid transit construction to UTSC.

Srithas continued, “As both a student representative and as a student of UTSC, I don’t want another cohorts of students to lose out on rapid transit in Scarborough because of the failure of the City to act on its promises.”

UTSC vice-president and principal Bruce Kidd also praised the decision. In a blog post, he wrote, “The decision this week by Toronto City Council to move ahead with the subway between Kennedy Station and Scarborough Town Centre and to extend the Eglinton LRT is great news. We at U of T Scarborough are very excited about the benefits this will bring to our campus, to the Scarborough community, and to Torontonians across the city.”

Kidd, in conjunction with four other Scarborough community leaders, penned an open letter ahead of the council meeting, urging councillors to move forward with the transit plans.

The future

Council also voted in favour of appointing third-party transit construction and cost-estimation experts to weigh in on the overall process.

Motions passed at the meeting included requests to consider additional transit projects, including extending the Sheppard Line to Scarborough, and the Bloor-Danforth Line to Sherway Gardens.

Governing Council approves Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations

Opponents of the policy stage sit-in outside Council Chambers

Governing Council approves Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations

Governing Council has voted to approve the Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations.

Executives from the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS), and the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) came to the June 23 Governing Council meeting, imploring governors to vote down the policy.

Conversely, student leaders representing the University of Toronto Students’ Union, the Engineering Society, the University College Literary & Athletic Society, the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council, and the New College Student Council also attended to show their support for the policy.

After the vote, the detractors of the policy held a sit-in outside the Governing Council chambers; loud chanting could be heard from within the chamber as Governing Council proceeded to the next items on the agenda.

The new policy would create the University Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies (CRCSS) made up of one student from a representative student society, three students from other student societies, and one chair with experience in conflict resolution to hear grievances against student societies. Additionally, the policy provides definitions to what it means for student societies to act in a matter that is “open, accessible, and democratic.”

Under current policies, the provost has the unilateral authority to withhold fees from a student society acting undemocratically. With the new policy, the CRCSS can discuss resolutions before recommending the withholding of fees.

This policy was the results of negotiations between the university and students’ societies that occurred during the Student Societies Summit from 2013 to 2014.

Opponents of the policy argued that the policy violates student union autonomy and students already have the opportunity to challenge their unions through courts.

“The introduction with the appeals board provides the provost with a false sense of legitimacy,” argued UTGSU academics and funding commissioner Brieanne Berry-Crossfield.

According to the policy, it “does not provide any additional power to the Provost.” Supporters of the policy have also ridiculed the idea of students pursing litigation against student unions over grievances and praised the policy for encouraging student societies to act transparently.

“Student societies willing to conduct themselves in an open, accessible, and democratic manner have nothing to fear,” said UTSU vice-president internal & services Mathias Memmel.

Disclosure: The Varsity is a levy-collecting student society and would be affected by the Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations

This story is developing, more to follow.