University is about more than going to class and getting credits. University is also about pursuing and developing your interests. If you are interested in political action, then there are a large amount of different student unions across campus each with a different scope. Perhaps the largest and most successful of these unions is the University of Toronto Students Union at 12 Hart House Circle.
The various commissions that UTSU run are the Sustainability Commission, the Social Justice and Equity Commission, the Community Action Commission, the Campus Life Commission, and the Academic and Student Rights Commission. These commissions are general members’ meetings that decide on campaigns and events. Anyone can join these commissions; they are democratically governed. As long as you are a member of UTSU, which you are simply by being a U of T student, you can join these commissions and vote towards the policies that affect you.
UTSU boasts several victories over the years, most recently being their campaign to stop flat fees at the University. UTSU had also been instrumental in changing University policy to allow undergraduates access to Robarts and women’s access to Hart House, which I have taken for granted as always having been that way.
UTSU has also effected change beyond the University. The UTSU used to provide discounted Metropasses to University students until they convinced the TTC to introduce the post-secondary student metropass.
Beyond UTSU’s campaigning, they also serve as an advocacy resource for students. The UTSU provides a list of all the academic rights afforded you as a student, including the ever contentious right to refuse to use turnitin.com. If you feel like your rights have been infringed upon, your should go speak with UTSU.
Most departments will also have a student union, which you are automatically a part of if you are taking any course in that department. I am currently enrolled in a CLA course, which has automatically made me a part of the Classics Student Union, and so therefore I was invited to a delightful board game night. I can’t truthfully say that this counts as political action, but the student union has organized this for the sake of outreach and recruitment. The executives of the student union are in the process of going through the same program that you are, for the most part, so if you are struggling with a course or even struggling on what courses you should take, the relevant student union would be able to help you or refer you to someone who can.
Ultimately, if you want to be involved politically or be informed, it’s not enough to sit in class and do your readings and homework. The University is a wonderful platform for getting involved politically. You don’t have to sacrifice your interests for your studies. Go speak with the student unions you are interested in and who you want to be a part of. They will be happy to give you some advice.
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