UTSU Platform 2013-2014

I think it’s good for students to be able to keep me accountable to what I said I would do while I was running for election, so I’ve posted my platform here.  I may add periodic updates and comments on different items, and add things that I’ve done that aren’t on the platform.

If you have questions about anything here, feel free to email me at b.coleman@utsu.ca

Platform

Achievable fees reduction

– Prioritize increasing OSAP deferrals and reduction of private debt over flat-out tuition drops
– Lobby the Provincial government to act on the high cost of living for UofT Students
– Organize class talks so that students can identify and take action on illegal ancillary fees
– Start an online reporting system for illegal or questionable ancillary fees

Colleges and the UTSU

– Support open and fair membership referenda
– Advocate against the use of legal action to keep colleges in the UTSU—campaign cleanly instead.
– Make sure that students are well-informed of the consequences of leaving the UTSU
– Start a board report to collect reports from board members about what is going on in their constituencies
– Set up meetings once a month between the UTSU executive and College Council heads to help foster a better working relationship
– Organize more health and dental plan opt-out and information days at colleges

Student Census

– Work to have a statistically accurate census of UofT students to answer crucial questions about cost of living, quality of education, quality of campus life, and effectiveness of UTSU services.
– Publish the findings of the census, and use the information to inform the delivery of UTSU campaigns and services.
– Use number of added Facebook followers, participation rates, and number of email signups to evaluate the effectiveness of UTSU promotional events such as UTSU’s got you, so that the UTSU can better promote itself to students.

Quality of Education

– Create an action list of the worst UofT courses
– Work with course unions to help foster study groups
– Work to have more course unions use UTSU funding to increase their social profile on campus
– As Arts and Science Director, I promise to report back on ASSU council meetings and the activities of course unions, to increase UTSU-ASSU collaboration

Equity

– Work with clubs and course unions to increase the number of collaboration events, especially among groups with non-overlapping memberships, so that students are exposed to a greater variety of perspectives
– Work with course unions to advocate for course content that reflects the diversity of students at UofT
– Work to advocate for better mental health support at UofT and foster the creation of peer support groups as well as general mental health awareness
– Continue to support, with the highest commitment, the excellent equity initiatives the UTSU already does—advocating for prayer and meditation space on campus, food choices that reflect a variety of dietary needs, XAO weeks, and campaigns against heterosexism, racism, genderism, sexism, ableism, etc.
– Continue to support the TYP program so that TYP students can take the funding they deserve from the University
– Work with college councils to integrate effective equity education into orientation

Environment

– Continue to work to increase networking between UofT environmental groups
– Support environmentally conscious food delivery on campus
– Work to promote openly accessible green space on campus
– Work with course unions and the sustainability office to promote green courses that use less paper

UTM

– Figure out a way for UTM students to wait inside hart house for their buses, not out in the weather. (For instance, a screen with the bus schedule that shows an announcement when the bus arrives.)

Non-Platform Goals

Elections Reform

– Improve students’ confidence in UTSU elections by implementing changes to improve financial accessibility, improve how rulings are handled, and safeguard the implementation of online voting.

View my post on elections reform here

Notes on the Student Census

I had two primary motivations behind the idea of having a student census.  First, to make sure that the UTSU was getting feedback from students on its services and events, so that we could more effectively improve both.  Second, to find out more about students’ cost of living, quality of education, and quality of campus life.

However, for this year, at least, I believe there are suitable alternatives that can be used to obtain similar information.

To get feedback on the UTSU, our VP Internal and Services, Cameron Wathey, has implemented a questionnaire on UTSU services and events, the results of which will be released to the board at a later date.  You can view the survey here member_survey and I’ve been told copies are available at the UTSU office and at our events.

To find out about students’ cost of living, there are several options:

An idea of what students pay for housing can be gained from data provided by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation on rent prices in Toronto neighborhoods.  Furthermore, the U of T housing facebook page and past kijiji postings can be used as an indicator of what price bracket students usually are in for rental prices.

For the cost of food, the UTSU has an ongoing survey about food on campus.  Furthermore, the City of Toronto has an index of food costs based on the Health Canada Nutritious Food Basket (HCNFB).  Crucially, the HCNFB is used when determining how much money to give OSAP students to pay for food, although in the OSAP calculation, the Ontario average cost for the HCNFB is used, meaning that students who live downtown don’t get nearly enough money from OSAP to buy groceries.

I hope this year to perform the Health Canada survey and produce a cost schedule for the nutritious food basket for the neighborhoods around U of T St. George where many students live.  This would include food vendors like Metro, the Bloor St. Market, and shops in Kensington, and could also serve as a guide for budgeting and finding the best places to buy food.  With this information, and the City of Toronto food cost schedule, hopefully we can convince the Ontario Government to give more food money to OSAP students.

I’d love to know who at U of T commutes, how far, and using which transit systems.  However, I don’t have time this year to take on the project of surveying commuter students.  If someone else wants to do this, please do, and then share the data.

For quality of education, U of T already solicits feedback on courses from students.  The numerical results are already available online.  Furthermore, I consolidated all of them into one file over the summer, which you can download here: Course Evaluations Clean Dataset  I hope that the written comments are made available in some form, as they were in the Anti-Calendar, when you could get a summary of what the most common written comments were.

For quality of campus life, the best resource to look at to understand what’s most commonly on the mind of U of T students is a report done by the U of T administration which summarizes the results of focus groups which dealt with campus life issues.  It was from this report, called “In their own words” that the U of T administration came up with the idea of having a co-curricular record, I believe.  The report is available here: http://www.viceprovoststudents.utoronto.ca/intheirownwords.htm

Overall, while I still believe it would be beneficial to have a student census, I think that for the time being, we can still find out enough about students and their needs to improve the UTSU and effectively advocate for change from the U of T administration and the provincial government.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s