Whether you’re new to the University of Toronto or have been here for a while now, there’s always a lot of new information being thrown at you. Dates, times, locations, and most definitely an endless amount of deadlines. Most of this information is in excess, but there’s one thing you should probably know at least a little about, and that’s the UTSU. 

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The University of Toronto Students’ Union. Sounds pretty straightforward—you see the name and you think you know what it’s about. But do you really? No, you don’t. There’s more to it, just like every other political party. You can’t ever know them, you can only hope to understand them. 

We at the newspaper are going to try to help you do just that.

The UTSU is a student advocacy group founded in 1901, and its office is located in the strange, owl-headed observatory across from Hart House. I’m still not entirely sure what the UTSU does, but over the years I have seen them mostly manage undergraduate student life (read as: provide an optional reprieve from the hell that is university) through club services, hosting events, and pursuing social justice issues. At some point in its history, the UTSU was a Parliament, so make of that what you will in terms of the political nature of the group and its lack of timely or particularly in-touch results. 

Campus politics are more likely than not out of sight and out of mind for most of U of T’s over 50,000 undergraduates. Most will have some vague inkling of what the UTSU does, and engage with the group at least once while at university, but there’s only a select group of people who are properly informed about or involved in student politics. It’s a step above your high school’s student council (e.g., executives get paid and face a lot more public scrutiny), but is essentially the same. 

The UTSU has a less-than-perfect past, from the withdrawal of Trinity College, Victoria College, and the Engineering Society in 2013 to the UTSU’s embroilment in a lawsuit against a former director who left her position shortly after the new year’s election and allegedly took hundreds of thousands of dollars with her. 

It can actually be quite interesting if you give it a moment try to get in the know. You don’t have to get involved, you can just sit back and watch. Be on the lookout for the next Annual General Meeting (AGM) because they’re usually a great time. Bring some popcorn and enjoy the theatrics of it all. Last year, there were samosas and surprise marching bands. Who knows what this year will bring? 

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