A (very) brief civics lesson in U of T governance
FEB 14, 2013 | BY YUKON DAMOV
Hushed as they were by a cacophony of three young men (one in a hard hat, another in corduroys and a cashmere sweater, the third with his clerical collar undone, revealing a tuft of chest-hair) yelling at their foes stationed in the UTSU mansion perched atop the knoll on Hart House Circle, it should be noted that we’re in the midst of Governing Council (GC) elections, which end Friday, February 22.
It’s a quiet kind of power at GC, given minimal media attention (our bad), but serious sway.
Governing Council consists of 50 members: 18 are appointed by the Province and 30 are elected. Eight students are elected (four full-time undergrads, two part-time undergrads, two graduate students).
Governing Council is the final authority on affairs of business, student life, and academics.
In the past couple years, student voter turnout has hovered around 8 per cent, even lower than the roughly 15 per cent turnout at UTSU elections.
Increasing voter turnout might not necessarily improve student accountability, as students only serve one-year terms. There is an argument to be had that student governors seek the position only to pad their resumes. When a part-time student governor, who is not running for re-election, fails to attend any of the Governor Council or committee meetings they sit on, it lends credence to such a claim.
But there are student governors deeply committed to improving the university, and their engagement with the issues, as well as their attendance records, rebuts such cynicism.
The next governors will need to deal with ancillary fees--things like membership at Hart House and lab materials. Seven U of T fees have recently found to be in violation of provincial guidelines and the school’s own policy.
Dan DiCenzo, a full-time undergraduate candidate, has marked the examination of these fees as a major plank of his platform. “They keep going up and many students don’t know why,” he said. “Many students don’t even know they have a say on these fees. I want to inform my constituency of all ancillary fee increases to ensure that their ideas are heard and expressed to the respective boards and committees.”
A variety of issues are being targeted by student candidates.
Aidan Fishman, seeking re-election, will continue to fight U of T’s tendency to give low grades. “I’ll … work with other Governors and with the Administration to make sure that already low average grades at U of T don’t continue to fall, and hopefully restore them to a fair level that no longer disadvantages our students when applying to post-graduate institutions nor drives away promising high school students.”
Reforming the composition of Governing Council is another issue for student candidates.
Ellen Chen, also running for the full-time undergraduate position, is eager to see GC reform, especially by finally allowing international students to run for Governing Council.
Alexandra Harris, running for one of the graduate student seats, will also advocate for international student representation, “however, I am not entirely sure how best to change this, as it’s currently an Ontario legislative requirement that GC members be citizens.”
Adrian De Lion, another full-time undergrad candidate, also wants GC reform: “UTSC, UTM, and the Faculty of Arts and Science are guaranteed two spots on the full-time student governor constituency. This is completely unfair, considering the amount of academic and capital growth happening at the satellite campuses.”
There’s time left, go vote!
- Subtitle: Or, oh, by the way, Governing Council elections