A pretty important vote was held last week at the University of Toronto Student Union’s (UTSU) Annual General Meeting, at least for the Faculty of Engineering. If it failed to pass in our favor, not only would we be left with one representative on the UTSU board, we might also lose out on the 50% fees from UTSU that were agreed to be diverted to the Engineering Society (EngSoc). Thankfully, the student body came through (albeit on the second attempt, as this was a second round of voting), and we engineers kept our seats on the board. This was my first real exposure to student politics on a university level, and it’s truly opened my eyes to the importance of having it around.
In high school, my student council didn’t play nearly as significant a role in our day-to-day lives. Sure, it would organize events and fundraisers here and there, but in my time there it never truly had as much of an impact as the UTSU or EngSoc did at the last meeting. In my high school, our ‘votes’ for grade-level representatives happened out of the blue one day early in the school year, and were essentially based on whoever you were closer friends with at the time. We as students didn’t really put that much effort into this rudimentary form of politics. Here, within my first semester a vote was held to determine where portions of my tuition would go, and whether or not we as engineers would get a fair representation in the union. Safe to say, that was a real eye-opener. Student politics affect each and every one of us now.
I suppose that this system also helps less politically-inclined students to gain exposure to this vast field, and as a result we are able to better transition into the rest of our lives as eligible voters. The concrete ramifications of the student union’s actions lend themselves to pushing us to take notice and make our voice heard.
In years past, I was, like many others, a teenager who cared about real-world politics; I had simply never paid much attention to my high school equivalent due to their overall lack of power. At the end of the day, their ‘decisions’ had little to no impact on my daily life, even as a student of the school. At U of T, though, I’ve seen so much change happen in such a short amount of time that I know I’ll always be keeping an eye on the actions of the UTSU and EngSoc.