Now is the time to make a difference

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By Abeer Khan

Last year, I remember walking around campus, slowly taking everything in. It was my last year of undergraduate studies and I wanted to fully immerse myself in campus life a few last times before I finally left it all behind as a student. 

I would walk up and down Gould Street, stroll through the Kerr Hall Quad and aimlessly study at the fifth floor of the Sheldon and Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre (SLC). And while I did so, there were few people around me. Slowly life had started to return to Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) as classes began coming back, some hybrid, some in-person. But still, it felt lonely and a little bit hollow. 

Sure, there were people here and there milling around, but there were not many students. There weren’t heaps of engineering majors with their bulky backpacks marching to their building, there were very few people dressed for fashion runways and the Balzacs chairs were often only half-filled. It felt surreal—like I was at university, but was I really at university?

Luckily, this year is different. Now, when I come to work and walk through Gould Street on the way to The Eyeopener’s office at the TMU Student Centre, it’s a heart-warming walk. The seating on the street is always lined with folks chatting and soaking up some sun, there are students running to summer classes and the SLC steps are no longer barren, but full of life. It feels like a brand new beginning. And really, it should be a brand new beginning. 

This year will be the first year, after two-and-a-half pandemic-consumed ones, that students will be making their full return to campus life. Classes will be offered in person, clubs and activities are resuming and campus spaces are allowed to be properly populated. This is also the first year that we will be coming to campus under a new name—Toronto Metropolitan University, or TMU, or Toronto Met, whatever you want to call it. 

I hope this new name and this new beginning will inspire you, the next generation of leaders at our school, to make the most of your time here and get involved in your community. 

Hold the TMSU accountable

In February 2022, the student body elected a new independent candidate as the new Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) president, ousting the former president who served two terms, ending a period of slate-run unions. In February, students used their voices and made sure they were heard. And the result? A change, a new beginning, a hopeful step forward. 

In the past, TMU students haven’t had much luck with our student unions. In 2018, the infamous credit card scandal overtook headlines across the country when The Eye reported on TMSU financial statements which showed purchases—some upwards of $2,000—with a credit card under the then-TMSU president’s name. Last year, questionable partnerships with organizations like FundQi and a lack of action from the union in general when it came to the elections and humanitarian crises was striking. 

It’s important that students use the momentum we have now to hold our new student union accountable. This year already, we have reported that the TMSU has let go of their financial controller and there has been in-fighting amongst student union directors. Now more than ever, we should be watching what’s happening in student politics. Now that there is a new union, hold them accountable by attending meetings, asking questions and staying informed. This is our chance to get our students’ union back to working for us and making sure our school hears our voice. 

Keep up with the institution you pay thousands to

During the pandemic, the Toronto Star reported that Canadian universities raked in record profits while students still continued to pay fees for services closed to them on campus and were subject to tuition hikes. Across the country, universities saw a record-high surplus revenues of more than $7 billion. Meanwhile, students at TMU had to continue paying high tuition, which is currently upwards of $11,986 for domestic students and upwards of $38,472 for international students, according to the university’s website. On top of high tuition rates, students are also facing rising inflation, with higher costs to commute to campus and a lack of affordable housing options, all without any support from the university. 

It’s time we start looking closely at how our school treats us and demanding a better life for us here at TMU. And the best way to do this is by staying informed and finding ways to get involved. 

This year, get involved in your community and engage with the people around you. Take the time to care about the issues that impact you and your peers. Take note of any mistreatment or unprofessionalism you may experience from those in positions of power and higher authority and for goodness sake, call it out. Keep up to date with campus news, both TMU news and updates from the TMSU. Hold those in power accountable and make sure you’re not being taken advantage of. 

Follow our coverage but also do your own research: look into the bylaws that govern your student life and experience, get to know the people behind the decisions that impact your time here, and participate by going to board meetings, taking surveys and finding opportunities to voice your opinions. 

Follow COVID-19 protocols

As we come back from our two-year hiatus, it’s also important to salvage the safety net we’ve put in place to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks from occuring on campus. If someone is wearing a mask, choose to wear one as well in order to make them feel comfortable. If you find yourself in a crowd, create distance, mask or remove yourself from the situation. Now that we’re finally back on campus, it’s important for us to also remain on campus and re-establish student life in a new way. Adapt to COVID-19 and implement safety in all of your on-campus activies  in order to ensure that you will continue to have on-campus activities in the future. 

Create the best campus experience for yourself 

And last but most importantly, have fun this year. I truly believe that university life will only be as good as you make it. Don’t hesitate to make friends, sit next to new people in lecture halls and step out of your comfort zone. 

You get to decide how your next four years will go at this school. It’s up to you to make the most of it by  knowing what is happening, finding ways to be involved and making sure that your voice is heard. 

For two years, students have had no choice but to remain dormant as the world changed around them. But that time is finally now long gone. 

Now, you finally have a chance to reclaim your identity as students at this school and make your campus life the best that it can be. Change starts with you. 

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