So a few weeks ago, I decided to put my name in the running for an executive position on the Arts and Science Students’ Union (as Don Cherry would say, the pinkos in Sid Smith!). I was told there was going to be an election, and so I campaigned; I e-mailed course unions, I made flyers and I prepared a fancy smanchy speech.
To those of you who aren’t familiar with how ASSU works, course unions are elected directly by students. The course unions (55+) executives that make up ASSU then vote for the ASSU executive in a closed council meeting. So this past Tuesday, I walked into that council meeting expecting an election. It turns out, two people had to drop out for personal reasons – so I was acclaimed to the position. Which means, I got it. Now, I won’t tell you about ASSU and how awesome we are (look out for Matteo’s post on ASSU later today). But I want to encourage you to get involved at an organizational level at U of T.
At U of T, we students love to complain – and I am a guilty party when it comes to this. And you know, there are reasonable grievances behind some of these complaints. However, we can’t expect things to get better unless we students play a role in progressing U of T forward. If you have interest in making the U of T experience better for students, then I encourage you to get involved – and there are multiple outlets of doing this.
1) Run for a union – This can either be the central union on campus – the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), or ASSU. Both work with the administration and push for more financial accessibility, respect for students’ academic rights and small things that will boost the experience of students. That being said, the UTSU focuses its efforts on things that will affect the university broadly, while ASSU deals more with issues in the Faculty of ArtsSci. If running for executive is too daunting for you, consider joining a UTSU committee or a course union within ASSU. Both provide smaller frameworks to work within, but make no mistake their work is still important.
2) Run for Faculty Councils/Governing Council – If you have an interest in shaping the policies of the Faculty of Arts and Science, including some of the curriculum, you should run for a committee on your faculty council (there are three: Social Sciences, Humanities, and Sciences). If you want to have a say on issues directly voted on by the administration, you should consider running for Governing Council. This is where all U of T broad-based policy, business transactions, etc. are voted upon.
3) Run for a college council. Perhaps you’re more interested in making things better at a local level, at your college or faculty; hosting better events, or creating more relaxing spaces for your constituent students. If this is the case, you should probably consider running for a college/faculty council like UCLit, VUSAC, EngSoc, PHEUA, etc.
In addition to having a say in how things will effect the university, you also get to meet and connect with a lot of students. I had this earlier this week, when ASSU held its course union social at Hart House. I met a lot of interesting and fun course union execs while stuffing myself with assorted cakes.
When running and when governing, remember the central tenet of respect. Too often in campus politics, students throw insults and attacks at each other without thinking about the ramifications of their words. If you see people like this, ignore them. Remember that you are doing it to help your fellow students, the struggling commuter, the student barely paying their tuition and rent, the disconnected first year — not for personal gain or political ideologies. Also remember to treat your fellow students and the administration with respect. You may not agree all the time, however, there is no need to resort to low blows and insults.
So, get out there and get involved with your education!
P.S.: I hope to see you at ASSU (Room 1068 Sidney Smith) with your past test donations. 😀