U of T students push for bigger governance role

General Assembly created to challenge admin on accountability, funding and corporatization

Students, staff and faculty at the University of Toronto are taking a stand against an administration they believe puts corporate interests ahead of students’. The first ever U of T General Assembly was held on Jan. 19 to discuss how to breach the university’s governing processes and help to ensure their needs are met.

A Facebook press release stated the meeting’s aims:

“At the first ever U of T General Assembly, members of the university community will demand that the administration stand with students, workers, and faculty, rather than with corporations, private donors, and a provincial government that fails to adequately support higher education. Participants of the UTGA will map out an alternative direction for the University — one that ensures access and improved learning conditions for students, safe and dignified working conditions for workers, and the protection of academic freedom for all.”

Topics discussed ranged from the controversial proposed flat fees system to the development of the Munk School of Global Affairs, a relationship the group is calling to come to an end.

According to live tweets from the Varsity’s Dylan Robertson, several working groups were established to focus on key areas of concern, including economic accessibility and funding, governance and accountability, and the university’s move towards corporatization. Tweets also declared the room to be too crowded to hear the discussion at times.

The group plans to meet again the week following reading break in February.

It’s refreshing to see so much mobilization on a campus. Whether you side with the administration or the students and staff, you have to admire the tenacity of a group of people fighting for the type of education and university experience they want to receive. How often do students go about their academic lives, quietly cursing their administration or students’ union for an unpopular decision, without ever doing anything about it?

It reminds me of the student strikes that occur ever so often in Quebec, the last one in 2005 when almost 200,000 students boycotted their studies until $103 million in the provincial budget was shifted from student loans back to bursaries. It will be interesting to see if the University of Toronto’s general assembly can garner the same kind of clout with its administration, and how things will unfold over the next few months.

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