Academic & Student Rights

Def. rights, such as civil, constitutional, contractual and consumer rights, which regulate student rights and freedoms and allow students to make use of their educational investment.

Students have a right to accessing their education free from discrimination or oppression by professors and faculty. According to U of T’s mission, they are committed to “Continuing to welcome, and serve the needs of, qualified students, both full- and part-time, from Metropolitan Toronto and the Province of Ontario and elsewhere.”

We need a safe, open-minded, non-discriminatory learning environment in order to access our education’s full potential at the university, but the rising cost of textbooks, exam deferral fees, and more make it more difficult for students reach graduation. On top of rising tuition costs, shouldn’t the university be doing more to ensure that its students can start and complete their education in a timely manner?

The Academic & Student Rights Commission (ASR) is chaired by the VP University Affairs and focuses on ensuring that students are aware of their rights, that the university respects them, and that all students have a safe and equitable learning environment conducive to their education.

If you’re interested in:

  • Mental Health
  • University Governance
  • Student Rights
  • Academic Appeals

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


Fall Reading Week

Many of us experience extreme levels of stress due to financial concerns, pressure to succeed, and familial and other commitments, but have difficulty accessing support services available to them. The strain on Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is evidenced by long wait times that some students have cited as a reason they opted not to use this service.

Although CAPS is an essential service, it is imperative that the University takes a more proactive approach to addressing mental health concerns. Research demonstrates the importance of an extended break from a stressful environment, in allowing time to decompress and regroup. Many universities across Canada have recently implemented a fall reading week or are considering the idea, as one aspect of plans to create a healthier learning environment for students. Most recently, Brock University introduced a fall reading week, a recommendation that stemmed from research undertaken to develop a mental health strategy.

Our peers at the University of Toronto Scarborough also experience the benefits of a fall reading week.

We need to bring a fall reading week to campus in our efforts to address mental health on campus proactively.

To join the campaign, contact vpequity@utsu.ca.


Mental Health

Mental health will not be brushed under the rug at U of T. It’s time that we speak openly and comfortably about it on campus. So many students are affected by mental health and it’s important to be aware of how this impacts their education and their ability to come to school in the first place. With the changes that were made to Health & Wellness by the University, now more than ever we need to come together to show them that this isn’t enough.

Students want to talk about mental health.

The UTSU’s Health & Dental Plan currently covers up to $100 per psychological session, but why isn’t the University trying to do more? We’re committed to putting pressure on UofT to cover the cost of psychological visits, and improve the Health & Wellness system so students can visit, free of stigma or fear of being kicked out of the university due to their mental health.

For the first time ever, we have a Mental Wellness Commissioner and Commission committed to advancing the needs of students in regards to their mental health, creating a safe environment to discuss mental health, and to run events that are conducive to everyone’s mental health on campus.

Let’s #PopTheStigma of mental health. Contact mentalhealth@utsu.ca or vpua@utsu.ca for more details.


Transitional Year Program

For four decades, the Transitional Year Program  has offered successful applicants a chance to gain entry into the University of Toronto Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Science. It is intended for students from communities under-represented within post-secondary institutions who may not have the formal qualifications for university admission. These include people from indigenous, African and African-Diasporic communities, South-Asian, East-Asian, LGBTTQ, working-class and migrant communities; sole-support parents and anyone else who has experienced significant systemic barriers in accessing university.

The approach of the Transitional Year Program has provided students of various backgrounds a higher level of education. The Transitional Year Program has a tradition of 43 years of successfully assisting people to attend and complete an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto St. George Campus.

Recently, the University administration has been trying to financially starve the program out of existence. Their stated position is that the program fails to turn a profit and therefore represents a financial burden. The University has also refused to replace staff that have retired or whose contracts have terminated and reallocated the space where the program is housed.

Without immediate action and support, the program will soon be unable to fulfill its primary objective: to offer potentially life-changing opportunities to those most vulnerable and disenfranchised members of our society.

We support the existence of the Transitional Year Program and the efforts of its students and faculty to keep the program afloat.

Please sign the petition.

For more information, visit the Transitional Year Program Preservation Alliance.

You can also contact vpua@utsu.ca for more information.


Water is a Human Right

In 2011, the University of Toronto decided to end the sale of bottled water on campus, in response to a campaign led by our Sustainability Commission and Public Water Initiative. We were successful in bringing to light the many issues inherent in the bottled water industry and forcing the University to take action. To read more about this, check out our victories page.

Bottled water companies spend millions of dollars propagating the myth that tap water is less healthy and less pure, facilitating the sale of bottled water at prices with an extremely high profit margin. But our tap water is typically much healthier, safer and more sustainable than bottled water. The vast majority of Canadians have access to water that is subject to strict regulation and strenuous testing that far surpasses the standard that bottled water companies are held to.  Traces of arsenic, mercury and bromides have been found in bottled water, and leached chemicals from plastic bottles present an additional potential health risk. The bottled water industry also has adverse environmental effects, due to significant greenhouse gas emissions produced in the manufacture of plastic and transportation of raw and finished products. Improper disposal of water bottles also create a substantial problem for our communities, with 44 per cent of plastic bottles ending up in landfill in Ontario in 2009.

We also recognize that there are many indigenous communities that do not have access to safe drinking water. Expensive bottled water is not a long-term solution to inadequate or non-existent drinking water systems in indigenous communities. Everyone requires access to safe, drinkable water. We call upon governments to fund the development of safe, affordable community-controlled water systems that deliver this human right to all.

We also advocate for improved infrastructure and increased access to public water on campus, through the instalment of more water fountains and water refill stations. We also work to promote sustainable water usage, encouraging students, staff and faculty to monitor and reduce their water consumption. Campus residences are a particular focus of outreach.

For resources produced by the Canadian Federation of Students on the corporatization of water and the health and environmental risks posed by the bottled water industry, please go tobackthetap.ca. To get involved with this campaign, contact sustainability@utsu.ca.


Sustainable Food

We advocate for more affordable, sustainable and varied food options in campus cafeterias. We raise awareness of sustainable food practices such as vegetarianism and veganism as well as promote locally grown foods, organic foods, and cruelty-free foods. Throughout the year, we host vegan barbecues and other events to educate students about the health and environmental ramifications of their food choices.

The Sustainability Commission also maintains our Garden, through which fruits and vegetables are produced annually to be donated to our Food & Clothing Bank. We support increased food sovereignty through the establishment of communal gardens on campus and in our communities.

To get involved in the Sustainability Commission, or to volunteer in our garden, please contactsustainability@utsu.ca.


Fossil Fuel Divestment

The Canadian government and many others around the world recognize global warming of 2˚C as the threshold at which climate change will become dangerous. Decades of scientific research clearly demonstrate a correlation between carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere and the Earth’s rapidly increasing surface temperature. Fossil fuel burning produces the majority of carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activity. Currently, global fossil fuel reserves contain 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide; about five times what can be safely emitted into the atmosphere.

Students, staff and faculty at the University of Toronto have become involved in a global campaign for public institutions to divest from fossil fuels. We have endorsed a campaign led by Toronto 350, which calls upon the University of Toronto to do the following:

  1. Make an immediate statement of principle expressing the school’s intention to divest its direct holdings of stock in the 200 fossil-fuel companies from around the world with the largest reserves;
  2. Immediately stop making new investments in the industry;

iii. Sell its direct holdings in the 200 companies over five years;

  1. Sell its stock in Royal Dutch Shell within one year.

Toronto 350 has created a detailed brief entitled “The Fossil Fuel Industry and the Case for Divestment”, to be submitted to Governing Council.

For more information, to endorse the brief or to sign the related petition, please go totoronto350.org. To get involved in the campaign, contact sustainability@utsu.ca.


United for Equity

Challenging all forms of discrimination and oppression is an important part of the work that we do. We provide a space to organize to combat issues like ableism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, colonialism, anti-Semitism, classism and other forms of oppression both on campus and within greater society. We want to create safer spaces on campus and in our communities, creating a more equitable society.

For more information, contact vpequity@utsu.ca.


U4Consent

The U4Consent campaign began with the intention of bringing consent culture to U of T. It’s important that students are discussing consent culture in many different forms. While students are at University, 1 in 5 women will experience sexual violence on campus due to a lack of unwavering, sober consent. This needs to stop, and it stops not just with bystander intervention, not just with a sexual violence policy, but with a change in the way we treat one another and respect consent.

Let’s define consent: permission for something to happen, an agreement between parties.

What is NOT consent? NO. Please stop. I don’t like that. What are you doing? (Silence)

In Ontario, legislation requires that all publicly funded post-secondary campuses are required to have a sexual violence policy by 2017. The UTSU has been pushing the administration to have more student-led and survivor-focused consultations on this policy to address the critical perspectives that often go ignored in the creation of a policy. For feedback on what was discussed at our two sexual violence policy town halls, held on Sept. 19th and Oct. 3rd respectively, please contact svpolicy@utsu.ca.

For more information on the U4Consent campaign, please contact vpequity@utsu.ca.


Social Justice & Equity

Def. justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society

As part of a diverse student body, each of us have different experiences at U of T. It’s important to engage in equity from an intersectional lens. This includes understanding the way social categories are interconnected and apply to an individual or group. Also, we must prioritize the needs of marginalized students within our discussions and spaces.   

The Social Justice & Equity (SJ&E) Commission is chaired by the Vice- President Equity and contains seven sub-commissions to provide spaces for students to tackle specific issues pertaining to marginalized groups on campus, each being chaired by the General Equity Director (GED) appointed to represent that group of students:

  • Indigenous Sub-Commission
  • LGBQ Sub-Commission
  • Poverty Sub-Commission
  • Racialized Sub-Commission
  • Students with Disabilities Sub-Commission
  • Trans Sub-Commission
  • Women’s Sub-Commission

If you’re interested in:

  • Supporting initiatives by marginalized communities
  • Combating rape culture and engaging in consent culture
  • Challenging systemic barriers on and off campus

Contact vpequity@utsu.ca to find out how to get involved and when the next SJ&E meeting is near you!


Idle No More

The Idle No More movement has been pressuring the government to respect indigenous sovereignty and the treaty agreements. Canada’s history of violent colonization of indigenous people continues to this day, resulting in outstanding land claims, a lack funding for education and housing, as well as shameful situations which place money and resource development over the lives and health of indigenous people and communities.

Idle No More is calling upon Canada, its provinces and its territories to:

  1. Repeal provisions of Bill C-45 (including changes to the Indian Act and Navigable Waters Act, which infringe on environmental protections, Aboriginal and Treaty rights) and abandon all pending legislation that does the same.
  2. Deepen democracy in Canada through practices such as proportional representation and consultation on all legislation concerning collective rights and environmental protections, and include legislation that restricts corporate interests.
  3. In accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ principle of free, prior, and informed consent, respect the right of Indigenous peoples to say no to development on their territory.
  4. Cease its policy of extinguishment of Aboriginal Title and recognize and affirm Aboriginal Title and Rights, as set out in section 35 of Canada’s constitution, and recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
  5. Honour the spirit and intent of the historic Treaties. Officially repudiate the racist Doctrine of Discovery and the Doctrine of Terra Nullius, and abandon their use to justify the seizure of Indigenous Nations lands and wealth.
  6. Actively resist violence against women and hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and involve Indigenous women in the design, decision-making, process and implementation of this inquiry, as a step toward initiating a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan.

We are also working with students across the country in support of increased funding to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP), which funds status First Nations and Inuit students to attend post-secondary education.

At our 2012 Annual General Meeting attendees voted overwhelmingly to support the Idle No More movement.

For more information on Idle No More, visit www.idlenomore.ca. For more information on indigenous education, visit www.cfs-fcee.ca/the-issues/aboriginal-education


End The Blood Ban

This campaign aims to change the Canadian Blood Services ban on the donation of blood by men who have had sex with men (MSM) in the past five years. This policy is based on outdated science and stereotypes, but doesn’t take into account the use of protection in sexual activity, the various risk levels of different types of sexual interaction, or the donor’s relationship status into account, or substantial technological advancements in blood testing.

A significant portion of blood donations are collected during blood drives at the University of Toronto and other post-secondary campuses. For this reason, we must continue to challenge this policy that needlessly discriminates against a community that includes some of our members.

To get more involved in this campaign contact vpequity@utsu.ca.