They may be small, but they sure give the administration a headache. On Wednesday, February 13 a room of 100 students, faculty, and alumni associated with University of Toronto’s Transitional Year Programme (TYP) spoke out against the cuts to the program proposed by the Office of the Vice-Provost. The TYP community explained how the program gave them opportunities otherwise unthinkable to pursue post-secondary education at one of the best universities in Canada.

TYP opens up a path to post-secondary education for people who did not finish high school or could not enter university because of financial problems, family issues, or other circumstances beyond the student’s control. The program especially targets marginalized communities, such as African-Canadians, Native Canadians, LGBTQ students, members of the working class, persons with disabilities, and single parents or children of single parents.

The eight-month program provides each of its sixty students with an academic advisor, access to counselling, and financial aid. Just as importantly, the physical and social space that TYP inhabits provides a welcoming community, described by a few in the audience as a family that is free of discrimination and marginalization that students may face elsewhere on campus.

The town hall was called by the TYP and UTSU to address a move by administration to amalgamate TYP into the Faculty of Arts and Science. David Newman, Director of the Office of the Vice-Provost, read a message from Vice-Provost Jill Matus that said: “The Provost’s office has committed a substantial addition to the TYP budget if they became formally unified with the faculty that they are, in practice, part of. With such an administrative move TYP students would also have direct access to excellent registrar and support services provided by Woodsworth College.”

However, TYP alumni Ahmed Ahmed replied, “The model that we have was developed because of the conflict that existed within an undergraduate college when we were part of Arts and Science, and we don’t feel that society or the university has changed enough for it to be safe for TYP to be within an undergraduate college.”

The other issue addressed was a major cut to TYP funding in the guise of faculty. As Professor of Mathematics and current Director of TYP Francis Ahia explained, TYP used to have a ten member staff who worked full time and provided assistance to students all day; however, four have retired and two of the remaining positions have been downgraded to part-time. Ahmed put the cut in perspective: “This school has a billion dollar endowment, we see there are shovels in the ground every day when you walk around here. Money ain’t scarce. But the will to support us is.”

Around seventy-five per cent of TYP students go on to graduate, higher than the percentage for the university as a whole. In its forty-two years of existence TYP students have become teachers, social workers, school board members, community organizers, lawyers, nurses, and even a member of parliament.

Karen Braithwaite, co-founder of TYP, affirmed the programme as a victory for equity, saying “TYP is a chapter in the history of change, access, and diversity here at the University of Toronto. We were here two years before Hart House allowed women in its doors.”

The discussion after the speakers reflected the same commitment to access and equity, the same importance of the program, and the same anger at the administration. People spoke of the difficulties they faced in life, such as being a visible minority from a working-class background or going through foster care, which without TYP would have made post-secondary education impossible. They repeated the need to maintain full staff, stay independent from Arts and Science, and provide real respect for the programme and its members.

Ahmed summed up the forty-two years of TYP and the feeling in the room: “What has changed? I say nothing! Not when it comes to those of us at the very margins. Not much changes for us. We always have to fight for what little scraps we get.”

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Participants claim success rate dependant on full staff and faculty autonomy
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