University of Toronto Student Giselle Sami Dalili Discusses Governance and Accountability in Levy Organizations

Where Do Your Tuition Fees Go? UTERN Undergoes Review and Restructuring

Every term, a portion of undergraduate incidental student fees at the University of Toronto (U of T) is allocated to the University of Toronto’s Student Environmental Resource Network (UTERN). UTERN also receives a portion of UTSG graduate student fees. While student levy organizations like UTERN play a crucial role in student empowerment and collective action, there is a need for transparent and accountable governance to ensure responsible use of funds and effectiveness in serving the student body.

UTERN is currently undergoing an exhaustive review and restructuring, led by its executive board. This review has been prompted by late and incomplete audits, as well as complaints about delays in funding decisions and reimbursements for sustainability projects and events. The goal is to assess UTERN’s mission and governance over the past 20 years and identify areas for improvement.

One of the concerns raised during the review is the allocation of funding for representatives to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference. While attending international conferences can be valuable, it is important to ensure responsible resource allocation and minimize carbon footprints, especially for an environmental organization like UTERN. This incident highlights the need for robust internal protocols for ethical decision-making and comprehensive oversight.

To ensure the effectiveness of levy organizations, U of T and the student body must actively engage with these organizations. Students can gain understanding by reading meeting minutes and reports and voicing their opinions on the initiatives and practices of levy groups. Financial reports should be made available to students, and students should be encouraged to question any actions that seem wasteful or misaligned with the group’s mission.

Student levy organizations, like UTERN, provide valuable services and resources that empower students and contribute to their success. By utilizing these resources and actively participating in the governance of levy organizations, students can access opportunities that level the playing field and build a strong community.

Opposition to student levies should be approached with caution, as it can undermine the collective power and benefits that these organizations bring. It is crucial to be vigilant and not give detractors the chance to attack the important work of levy-fee student organizations.

UTERN and other levy-supported student groups are committed to promoting good governance and ensuring the responsible use of resources. The ongoing review and restructuring of UTERN will help strengthen its administrative processes and benefit future leaders and U of T cohorts.

In conclusion, student levy organizations play a vital role in providing services, advocacy, and access to resources for U of T students. With transparent governance and active student participation, these organizations can continue to empower students and contribute to the university community.

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