Services Are Political

We offer many services to help make your university experience a more accessible, enjoyable one. We want you to know that we understand that our services are temporary measures to help deal with larger problems with the post-secondary education system and other public services. For this reason, we make sure that when we offer a service, we are also coordinating campaigns and advocacy efforts to address the root of the problem.

For example, we provide a discounted student TTC Metropass while advocating for more affordable transit fees. We provide a grant for student parents while advocating for affordable childcare. We provide a book bursary and a food bank while advocating for affordable education and an increase to the minimum wage.

If you have an idea for a service we should be offering, or a problem we should be tackling, let us know! We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can so that you can get the most out of your membership in the University of Toronto Students’ Union.


Campaign Victories

Over the years, we have managed to secure several victories through the services that we offer. Below are some examples:

Student Commons

Since the 1960s, students at the University of Toronto have decried the lack of student-run activity space on campus. While most universities have a student centre, the University of Toronto downtown campus lacks this critical space. Weprovides a number of services to clubs to try to make up for this lack of cohesive space on campus. Students at the University of Toronto finally convinced the university that it was time to do something about this lack of space in 2007 and have finished negotiating an operating agreement in 2013.

Student Metropass

After years of providing a bulk-purchased discounted Metropass to students, the University of Toronto Students’ Union, with the help of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and other students’ unions in the Greater Toronto Area, convinced the Toronto Transit Commission to introduce a discounted Metropass for post-secondary students, available at every TTC subway station. Students save more with this discounted pass than they ever have!

Free tax filing for students through Ufile.ca

We provide free tax clinics to students in the spring. Working with students across the country and with the help of the Canadian Federation of Students, we were able to secure free tax filing for students each year, through ufile.ca.

Childcare at Mississauga Campus

We provide grants to student parents, but for years, there was no childcare space at the Mississauga campus. The University of Toronto Student’s Union hired staff and set up a child minding space at the UTM Student Centre to meet this need while lobbying the university administration to make sure that a permanent, university-run childcare space was created. In 2008, the University of Toronto finally announced they would open up this space.


Lobbying 101

The UTSU has a strong student voice: we represent 50,000 incredibly intelligent, creative, diverse, and amazing students and we don’t like to let the government forget that.

Our approach to lobbying is simple:

  • We run awareness campaigns to students can get the facts quickly and easily;
  • We educate our members and ourselves on important provincial and federal issues;
  • We prepare for action or research a lobby document to present to representatives;
  • We ensure that students from marginalized groups are prioritized the entire way

In order to achieve our goals, we need to make sure that we clearly articulate what we want to decision-makers, show solid statistics, thoroughly research how any changes could affect our lives, and show them that our membership supports our goals through mobilization.

Most campaigns that we have won have had a strong element of membership mobilization. Throwback to the mid to late 1900s, students at U of T have never shied away from action – rallies, protests, sit-ins, teach-ins have gotten us what we have today. From a national protests in 2007 resulting in a system of grants, to provincial protests in 2003 resulting in a tuition fee freeze, to a sit-in at the President’s office resulting in undergraduate students being permitted to use Robarts library in the 1970s, membership mobilization is a crucial piece of our approach.

On a policy level, we work with some of the top 15 undergraduate research universities in the country on a project called ADVOCAN, which is an open group that we can opt-in and out of without penalty. This group consists of researching and preparing lobby documents to present to key decision-makers on increasing undergraduate research funding, enforcing their commitment to indigenous student access and funding, and tackling youth unemployment. For more information on ADVOCAN, contact president@utsu.ca.

Click here to find out more about our victories.


Commitment to Equity

We are committed to operating in a manner that is inclusive and equitable for all participants and to operate in an anti-oppression framework. It is our belief that we need to tackle issues of oppression and discrimination head-on in order to change these issues on our campus and in our society. There are significant systemic inequalities in our society that affect the way students from different classes, social backgrounds, races, genders, abilities and other social identifiers access post-secondary education. We are committed to working towards eliminating systemic barriers in our society.

We recognize that our members are not just students, but commuters, parents, workers and members of different communities who are affected by more than just education policy. We know that our members’ ability to access education is affected by social policy that is connected to their lives in all sorts of ways. We are committed to ensuring political representation for our membership to improve their lives. For this reason, equity is at the core of all that we do.


Students Decide: Open & Democratic Decision-Making

We are committed to a representative and direct democratic structure, where each member has the opportunity to submit ideas, consider, and vote for the initiatives and priorities they would like the UTSU to work on.

We have 7 general members’ meetings each month called commissions:

  • Academic & Student Rights
  • Campus Life Commission
  • Community Action Commission
  • International Students Commission
  • Mental Wellness Commission
  • Social Justice & Equity Commission*
  • Sustainability Commission

*The SJ&E Commission has 7 sub-commissions chaired by each of our General Equity Directors (GEDs)

You can come to any of these open meetings, suggest any item you would like to be added to the agenda, and you have a vote, just by being a member of the UTSU. At these commissions, there is a certain amount of money allocated to student-run initiatives. That means that if YOU have any ideas for a campaign, service, event, or more, we have money so you can make that happen! To find out more about commissions, contact president@utsu.ca.

To find out when the next commission meetings are happening, click here.


Community Action

Def. action undertaken by members of a community for that community’s own improvement

As UofT students, we all occupy a space of privilege in our access of higher education. It’s important that we’re aware of what we have, and how we can make it more accessible to others. Students who come from marginalized backgrounds and groups face a barrier that we need to destroy. That being said, we must organize and come together to break them down.

The Community Action Commission (CAC) is chaired by the VP External and focuses primarily on running campaigns surrounding access to education, transit, unpaid internships, and social justice. The Commission brings together students at UofT to fight for causes that benefit all students, with a particular focus on marginalized groups.

If you’re interested in:

  • Transit
  • Tuition
  • Youth Unemployment
  • Government Advocacy
  • Student-led campaigns

Contact vpexternal@utsu.ca or president@utsu.ca to find out how to get involved and when the next CAC meeting is near you!


Grants not Loans

The tax credit and education savings schemes currently operated by the federal government allow for personal income tax savings on education-related costs and a higher rate of return on education-related savings, respectively. The total cost of the programs will exceed $2.5 billion this year, making them by far the federal government’s most expensive direct spending on post-secondary education measure.

Despite their large price tag, the education tax credit and savings programs are very poor instruments to improve access to post-secondary education and relieve student debt. All students qualify for tax credits, regardless of financial need, which ultimately benefits those with the lowest amount of debt and those from high-income backgrounds. Savings schemes have largely benefitted those from high-income backgrounds, as individuals from low-income families often do not have the funds necessary to invest in the first place.

If this $2.5 billion were instead used for up-front grants, it would turn every dollar loaned by the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) into a non-repayable grant. The CSLP expects to lend approximately $2.3 billion during the 2012-13 academic year. If the amount of money the federal government spent on savings schemes and education-related tax credits each year had been simply shifted to the Canada Student Grants Program, student debt owed to the federal government could be greatly reduced.


Transit for U of T

Rising transit fees are a huge concern for students, on top of mounting loads of coursework and readings, and the majority of us commute to campus. We are united in a coalition with students’ unions across the Greater Toronto Area to fight for more student discounts and accessible transit.

For too many consecutive years, Toronto City Council has proposed Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) cuts and increased TTC fares. Students in other cities as close as Mississauga have Universal Passes (U-PASS) – a significantly reduced student bus pass that lasts all year. University of Toronto Mississauga students pay less than $100 per semester for this pass, and that cost is comparable to other college and university jurisdictions across Canada.

With the introduction of PRESTO as the main method of payment on TTC and GO transit services, the UTSU is determined to provide passes at the UTSU office, as well as a way to refill your cards, and more. We will never give up the fight for affordable and accessible transit for students.

To get involved in this campaign contact vpexternal@utsu.ca.


Tuition

This year, the province of Ontario announced “free tuition” for students’ whose household income is under $50,000, in addition to more bursaries and grants being made available in 2017.

The budget for average tuition for University is $6,160, but the average undergraduate tuition is currently $7,868.

What the government DIDN’T mention is the expiration of tuition increase caps in 2017.

Tuition increase caps dictate how much the University of Toronto can raise undergraduate tuition. Currently, the caps are:

Arts & Sciences Students: 3%

Professional Faculties: 5%

Overall: 3%

International Students: Unregulated

We need to act NOW in order to secure a freeze in increase caps to avoid seeing a further increase in our tuition. Students in Ontario WILL speak up about what they deserve. Get involved! E-mail president@utsu.ca for more details.


Unpaid Internships

It is estimated that across Canada each year, over 300,000 students and young workers are illegally classified as interns, trainees and non-employees.

Many internships and unpaid training programs create pools of free labour from which employers directly benefit and profit from, often to the detriment of students and young workers.

The Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA) exempts these students and young workers from its protections, and relies on a complaints-driven enforcement model that ignores the power imbalances between intern or trainee and employers.

We are fighting for the elimination of unpaid internships in Ontario and across Canada. We should be paid for our work! We are lobbying for:

  • Changes to the ESA that would prohibit all forms of unpaid labour
  • A proactive enforcement strategy that targets employers who exploit unpaid labour
  • Data collection that would trace the extent and effects of unpaid labour which targets students and youth

For more information, contact president@utsu.ca.