University of Toronto Students' Union
|Institution||University of Toronto|
The University of Toronto Students' Union (UTSU), formally known as the Students' Administrative Council of the University of Toronto, Inc., is an advocacy group at the University of Toronto. It is Canada's second largest student union and the third largest in North America.
The council evolved from the University of Toronto Union, which was founded in 1901. This was replaced by the Students' Parliament in 1907. The Students' Parliament suffered from low attendance from its elected members, especially representatives of the medical school. As the years progressed its Executive shouldered much of the work. In 1913, the parliament was replaced by a Students' Administrative Council composed of solely male students. The Women's Students' Administrative Council was formed in 1916, and in 1919 the two councils formed a Joint Executive. In 1931 the separate councils were abolished and the Joint Executive became the main body, and during 1935-1936 the unwieldy name "Joint Executive Students' Administrative Council" was simplified to "Students' Administrative Council". At an annual general meeting on 16 November 2006 University of Toronto students voted to change the name to University of Toronto Students' Union.
The mandate of UTSU until 1971 can be found in section 34 of the University of Toronto Act, 1947. SAC's original offices were located in Hart House, but are today based in the Louis B. Stewart Observatory at the centre of Hart House Circle, just south of the Hart House building itself.
Currently, several major divisions of its membership—Trinity College, St Michael's College, Victoria College and the Engineering Society—have referenda proposing effective "defederation" from the Union by rerouting fees directly to College- or Faculty-based societies, rather than supporting the Union.
UTSU provides a variety of student services, including a Used Textbook Exchange, the U of T Food and Clothing Bank, and funding and services for campus clubs. UTSU also administers the student Health and Dental Plan and Student Discount Metropass sales, a program that was recently made permanent after lobbying from student unions throughout the Toronto area.
Voter turnout in UTSU elections was very low for several years. Recently, turnouts began reaching as high as the 15% mark, but have once again dropped to 6% following the controversy surrounding the 2010 elections.
In November 2002, UTSU members voted in favour of becoming members of the Canadian Federation of Students, with 65% of those who voted supporting this decision.
The Union is governed by a Board of Directors which includes elected representatives from each of the schools' federated and constituent colleges and professional faculties. The number of directors from each division is proportional to the population of that college or faculty.
The Union runs through commissions, committees, and its board. The bulk of the Union's work comes from the five commissions: Campus Life, Community Action, Sustainability, Social Justice & Equity, and Academic & Student Rights. Any Union member can participate in the Commission meetings that are held at least once a month. Members of the Commissions are simply full-time undergraduate students who would wish to attend, all of whom have voting abilities. The committees are made up of members of the board of directors and deal with specific issues of operations and services. Projects and budgets move up through the commissions and committees, making the union more in touch with its membership.
UTSU and its predecessor body SAC have long been the target of criticism. The earliest manifestations of this were in response to SAC's policy, established in 1926, of not interfering in political issues for fear this would impede campus unity. This policy extended to The Varsity (newspaper), which was published by SAC. In 1929 and 1931, SAC dismissed editors who published unpopular opinions. In the mid-1930s, SAC was criticized for failing to support efforts by anti-war and pro-peace advocates on campus, groups which SAC declared were of limited interest. In 1946, SAC's decision not to endorse efforts to prevent deportation of Japanese Canadians was also the brunt of campus criticism. Anti-racist advocates also derided SAC's inability to embrace this cause in the 1940s.
Recently, UTSU has been criticized for having taken controversial public positions on equity and racial issues on campus, as well as having become involved in controversial campaigns relating to certain global issues like the Sri Lankan conflict or the Israeli Apartheid campaign  and federal issues like the Aboriginal movement Idle No More. Many criticisms have come from members of provincial and federal political parties, including both the Liberals and Conservatives, which have questioned the legitimacy of UTSU's democratic credentials.
A protest in November 2012 against guest lecturer Warren Farrell at an event organized by the Canadian Association for Equality has garnered significant criticism after protestors intimidated and assaulted police officers and attendees, blocked doors, and vandalized posters promoting the event. The UTSU organized the protest after the university administration denied their request to cancel the lecture. The protest was organized in response to controversial excerpts from Warren Farrell's publications and statements he made about incest in a 1977 Penthouse interview.
- Charles Levi "The SAC Historical Project 1930-1950", self-published, 1992, pp. 24-27
- Levi, "SAC Historical Project", 209-216
- Levi, "SAC Historical Project", 120-140
- http://thevarsity.ca/articles/19260[dead link]
- http://thevarsity.ca/articles/26054[dead link]
- The Varsity » Arrest, assaults overshadow “men’s issues” lecture
- University of Toronto Students' Union - Statement re: Event/Rally Nov 16, 2012
- Students Against Sexism protest Men’s Issues talk - the newspaper