Dear members of the University of Toronto Students’ Union,

 

Congratulations on getting accepted to the University of Toronto. Over the next four or more years, you will have the opportunity to be a part of the incredible community that exists at this university.  Ahead of you are late nights, long commutes, parties, and lots of studying, stress and coffee, coffee, coffee. I am excited to welcome you to what I hope will be important years of learning both inside and outside of the classroom.

 

In your time here, I hope that your instructors, your classmates and your Students’ Union will challenge you to grow, to think critically, to not accept what is presented to you at face value and to imagine beyond what we think we know today. I hope that you are up to this challenge.

 

I want to also welcome you to what is both an exciting and difficult time to be studying in college or university.

 

Each generation of students before us has faced and overcome social and political challenges. They responded to the challenges of their time by working together.


Our generation is one of student debt and a crisis of access. Our government representatives lack the political will to invest in education, social services, and our future, but continue to invest in prisons and war. Our institutions lack the courage to challenge the privatisation of our schools and to ensure that education is affordable to the middle and lower classes, but continue to increase tuition fees. The reality for students is that our tuition fees are high and getting higher; finding a job is hard and getting harder; and the idea of getting paid for the work we do is being eroded. At the same time, we are told that in order to survive, to get a job, and to advance ourselves, we must get a university degree. Our social and economic well-being depends on it.


Unfortunately, many of us are held back from this opportunity. With the lowest per-capita funding in the country and with the national student debt surpassing $16 billion, we must ask ourselves: is our education system the most affordable it can be? With disproportionately higher incarceration and lower educational attainment rates for Black and Aboriginal youth fueling the school-to-prison pipeline, we must ask: is our education system accessible to all?

 

Despite these issues, I remain optimistic that by working together, students can challenge the grave realities that face us. Our community is diverse and it is strong. The University of Toronto Students’ Union represents 46,000 members—each of whom has the power to make change at this university and in our society. My executive team and I remain committed to supporting each of you in this endeavour.

 

I look forward to meeting you this year. Together, we can challenge the inequities that divide our communities and build a better and brighter future for us all, starting with our education system.

 

Here’s to our successes ahead.

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