Despite the fact that the Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU) represents approximately 23,000 full-time undergraduate students I have found that not many students (myself included) actually know all that much about ASSU or how it functions as a part of the U of T community. To remedy this I sat down with ASSU President Katharine Ball and asked a couple questions about the union and its operations. I transcribed the interview for your enjoyment, with my questions in bold and Katharine’s response following subsequently.
I would like to thank Katharine (pictured above) for graciously sitting down with me for the interview.
Matteo: What is ASSU’s function among student life at the university and what does it offer students?
Katharine: The Arts & Science Students’ Union acts as an umbrella organization for the plethora of course unions based out of the Faculty of Arts & Science and we also act to represent the student body at large. Our central executive responsibilities involve student outreach, assisting in the creation of university policy, meeting with the Dean, and just generally being in the know about university affairs and how what’s happening at the U of T affects students!
We assist in creation of the Academic Handbook for Professors which outlines the policies your professors must abide by when teaching and marking your work. We’re of the mind that if students are expected to read the Academic Calender, Professors should be expected to read the Handbook so to ensure everyone receives a fair educational experience.
We also take part in discussions at the university that involve the restructuring of courses and programs – arguing against changes that we feel negatively affect students (or arguing against proposals that never sought the consultation of students to begin with).
We also introduced the proposal for the creation of the Undergraduate Research Fund – which we fund in tandem with the Faculty of Arts & Science.
What motivated you to get involved with student life/ASSU?
If you had told me in first year that I would be anyone of any significance I would have laughed….
What really got me involved in student life was the Academic Planning discussions had at the university back in 2009 – specifically those involving the implementation of Flat Fees by the university. The passion I saw on behalf of those students arguing against the Flat Fees proposal inspired me to get involved in some way. I didn’t understand why the majority of students seemed apathetic to the issue – which had real and direct effects on undergraduate student fees – so I decided to do my part in raising awareness. A friend of mine was an ASSU Executive and I decided to run in my 2nd year for a position on the Union as I figured it would provide me an outlet to better express my feelings on student issues. I won the election, became an ASSU Executive, and I haven’t looked back.
On the note of getting involved in student life – how can students get involved with the Arts & Science Students Union?
The best way to get involved, in my opinion, is through the course unions. The course unions offer a great way for students to meet new people – students and professors alike – and it really is a great community to get involved with. It is a terrific way to combine your academics with your social life here at the university.
Another great way of getting involved is through the Universal Minds project. This project puts U of T undergraduate students with local high school students who are in need of tutoring but perhaps cannot afford the expenses involved in hiring a private tutor. It’s a great way for students to do some good in the community, and ASSU covers all public transit costs. Students involved with the project will receive a certificate from the Dean and participation in the project looks great for those aspiring to attend teacher’s college (just saying)!
With regards to ASSU itself, we are always looking for volunteers – always could use a spare set of hands. Feel free to send us an email or drop by our office if you’re looking to get involved!
Thank you for the insightful interview Katharine! Where can students learn more about ASSU?
You’re quite welcome!
Students can learn more about ASSU at our website (assu.ca) and we also maintain an active Twitter account (assu_uoft). Students are also encouraged to come by our office located in Sidney Smith Hall (100 St. George Street), Room 1068. Our office hours are: Mon, Tues, Fri 10-5, and Wed, Thur 10-6.