When was the last time you used a UTSU service? Sure, thousands of people use UTSU health & dental coverage, but its other offerings fail to reach students and, when they do, are questionably effective. As VP Operations, I want to lead the union in taking advantage of our pooled funds to genuinely make a positive difference in people's lives.
For starters, that means food. If you eat every day on campus, you could easily be staring down the barrel of hundreds of dollars just to keep yourself satiated while you try and learn. As we work to expand the cafe, I want to ensure its offerings cater to all dietary restrictions and most importantly are easy on students' wallets. What's more, I want to establish weekly free or pay-what-you can lunches that are offered to anyone with a valid T-Card. No one should be going hungry on campus after spending thousands of dollars just to attend this university.
On a related note, we need to expand awareness of our food bank and ensure that it's reaching our membership. While it currently serves as a tremendous resource to those in the know, we need to make that its presence is well-known and that it's easily accessible for anyone who needs food on the table. I'm committed to partnering with other food banks and community groups to increase its operational capacity and the number of students that can utilize it to keep people fed. I'd also like to collaborate with college and course unions to expand both its funding and the pool of volunteers available to it as it expands.
Commuters face massive costs associated with the simple act of getting to school, especially those who take both TTC and GO transit. What's more, UTSU members don't currently have access to the UTM or UTSC shuttle busses which could easily lighten the weight of some of our members' commutes. As VP Operations, getting UTSU Upass that gains students subsidized access to GO and TTC services would be one of my top priorities.
While referendums to a similar end have failed in the past, I will work diligently with the VP, Public and University Affairs as well as the VP, Equity to ensure students understand the full value of such a service and to hopefully lighten the financial hardship so many endure.
A transit pass like this one could easily save our student body thousands of cumulative dollars and benefit everyone inside and outside of our lives on campus. I will also pressure the university into letting St. George students, especially commuters, access the shuttles.
Between corrupt landlords who seek to exploit students for every penny and a crushing immigration system that stimies international students, putting up barrier after barrier, sometimes it helps to have a lawyer on your side. The unfortunate reality is, most of us can't afford any such services on our own.
For tenant and immigration law especially, I want to partner with community legal clinics, like Downtown Legal Services (which UTSU members already fund), to ensure everyone who needs it can access high-quality legal advice. This could take the form of making new partnerships to expand the web of referrals the UTSU can confidently give. It could also take shape by partnering with law firms to offer pro-bono drop-in legal counseling sessions at the Student Commons.
Additionally, we could establish a community defense fund that combines our resources and channels them into helping our vulnerable students from being evicted, deported, or otherwise unfairly punished. Such a program could be run through committee Senate and provide vital aid to those in need.