2015: campus news in review
The early part of 2015 was defined by the CUPE 3902 Teaching Assistants’ strike. The university argued that TAs were already given a generous $42 per hour wage for a few hours of weekly work, while the TAs argued that much of their actual work was uncompensated, and that they were often put below the poverty line because of simultaneously paying tuition while dealing with the shortcomings of their funding package.
Union representatives won some student support through hosting town halls, working with student unions, and helping to found the general assembly-based Students’ First Movement. Ultimately, the TAs settled for arbitration, which may set the stage for another strike three years down the line.
Right on the heels of the strike came the UTSU elections, which were won by the non-incumbent Brighter U of T slate. This sparked conversations about the UTSU’s 12-year membership and electoral support of the Canadian Federation of Students.
A small drop fees rally was held in April as the U of T Governing Council once again raised tuition fees by three per cent for domestic Arts & Science students, five per cent for most professional programs, nine per cent for international A&S students, and 10 per cent for international students studying engineering.
The start of the school year brought a slew of legal challenges. Controversy over an emerging U of T Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement brewed as a push by UTSU VP Equity Sania Khan to create a UTSU BDS committee, which was voted down 17-7 by the UTSU Board of Directors over the summer. There was then a legal threat by Aidan Fishman, who brought in lawyers to make the case that the UTSU could not take a position that he felt was discriminatory against Jewish students. The UTSU, for their part, filed lawsuits against three former executives, outraged that $247,000 was allegedly paid out to the UTSU’s outgoing executive director for a combination of overtime, banked vacation days, and severance. On the bright side, on its third try and after two AGMs, the executive passed a new structure for its board of directors.
The UTSU and Arts & Science Student Union (ASSU) collaborated this fall on a successful referendum to negotiate for a fall reading week, a demand won earlier this year on the Mississauga campus. ASSU has taken the lead in hosting various social justice-related events throughout the year (including a Chapel Hill Vigil and a panel on free education), but has also developed a campier side, hosting pop-star themed office hours like the Swiftian “Shake off the Semester.”
Activists on campuses continue to push various causes. Following a series of threats made as
comments on a blogTO post, protesters welcomed the start of U of T’s year with a feminist-solidarity demonstration, while in November a Black on Campus rally was held both to show solidarity with anti-racist demonstrators at Missouri State University and to criticize anti-blackness at U of T, such as the funding-freeze to the Transitional Year Program, a lack of support for African and Caribbean Studies programs, and an investment in the American for-profit prison industry.comments powered by Disqus