By: Isaac Thornley, Kevin Hempstead
Of the 33 per cent voter turnout at the recent Trinity College referendum, 72 per cent voted in favour of diverting fees currently paid to the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) to the Trinity College Meeting, the college’s localized governing body. The proposed fee diversion, scheduled to go into effect in September 2013, must first be approved by the University Affairs Board (UAB) of Governing Council, the body “responsible for consideration of … matters that directly concern the quality of student and campus life,” according to the Governing Council website.
Despite gaining the support of only 24 per cent of Trinity College’s 1733 eligible voters, the numbers are still high compared to most campus political activity at U of T. Victoria College’s referendum on fee diversion managed a voter turnout of less than 12 per cent, while the recent UTSU elections turnout was around seven per cent.
The fees currently paid by Trinity students to the UTSU ($159.63 per session, per student) are planned to be directed to the TCM with a few minor adjustments. And the $7.28 membership fee for the Canadian Federation of Students, of which the UTSU is a local chapter, would no longer be charged to Trinity students.
In the coming weeks, Trinity will present the referendum results to the UAB, establish a “transition team” composed of student leaders to meet with various administrators to discuss the implementation of these proposals, and hash out the details of health and dental insurance coverage throughout the summer.
Many questions remain surrounding the likely outcomes of the referendum. In recent years the UAB has honoured the outcome of multiple student-run referenda dealing with the modification of fee payments, though ultimately respecting the ruling of the courts where they have been involved. Though the CFS has a reputation of pursuing legal action against those attempting to leave, the UTSU has yet to address questions of whether they intend to go to court should the UAB implement the proposals of the referendum.
Polls closed Wednesday at 8pm for the Engineering Society referendum to divert fees from the UTSU. Results show a gigantic 95 per cent yes vote with a 29 per cent turnout. . The referendum asked for a reallocation of the entire UTSU fee of $159.63—including the elimination of the $7.50 Canadian Federation of Students and $0.25 Orientation fee—to EngSOC.
This ability to divert fees has yet to be established, as they still need to be validated by the University Affairs Board. “The next step will be taking them to UAB,” explains EngSOC President Rishi Maharaj. “We will be looking to the Vice-Provost Students, who is the senior assessor of the UAB, to bring that motion forward in time for the fee changes to take effect for the Fall 2013 session.”
While the results of the University Affairs Board is yet to be determined, given the similar positive results both at Victoria College and Trinity, its acceptance or rejection will most likely face the same hurdles as the others.
EngSOC does face one added obstacle, however, that the other colleges do not. While Victoria and Trinity consist of a wide diaspora of student ranging in programmes, there remains the possibility that EngSOC—composed singularly of engineers—will fracture from the U of T community without a campus-wide advocacy group such as the UTSU.
EngSOC’s “Report on the Feasibility and Implications of Separation from the UTSU,” which details how EngSOC can provide for all of the UTSU’s services, does not mention how to maintain campus-wide connections. It even reassures the differences within engineers, simply stating that the “body most relevant to Engineering students is their own faculty.”
Yet EngSOC is confidence this can be overcome. “The SGRT already fills that gap,” comments VP Finance Pierre Harfouche. It would need some work, but if people are this committed to diverting fees from the UTSU, I fail to see why people could not be equally as committed to improving student services, life and advocacy together through a round-table.”
It is yet to be determined when the UAB will debate on the matter, or how any meeting would proceed.
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/news/defederate/.