It probably won’t surprise anyone that the same institution employing an intellectually bankrupt conman has, under the guise of future “budget cuts,” pre-emptively laid off university staff that just so happen to specialize in services increasing access to campus for marginalized students. (emphasis added)
At the same time, as these actions are garnering the majority of headlines and attention, a dangerous change has also been taking place behind the scenes, at the university’s undergraduate student union (the UTSU). This organization supports many student-funded services — including the LGBTOUT, the Center for Women and Trans People, the Students for Barrier-Free Access, and the social and environmental justice group OPIRG-Toronto — that women and minorities rely upon for equal access to the post-secondary experience. And yet, of late, it has worked to systematically dismantle these services.
The story of how this has happened provides a case study in the nefarious, underground ways far-right ideology is infiltrating campuses.
Like many campus organizations, the UTSU has long been considered a progressive organization. But echoing a rightward shift happening more broadly, the current slate of elected officials ran on a decidedly conservative platform, revolving around reducing “overspending,” freezing fee increases, and helping students find jobs.
Now, using deceptively neutral-sounding language, these officials are pushing policy shifts that are threatening the services of marginalized students.
Under the guise of “student choice” over where fees go, for example, the UTSU tried in April to reduce requirements for defunding its student services. Officials posited that, out of 44,000 members, only 250 student signatures should be needed to initiate a defunding vote, a reduction in threshold of about 95%.
It is not difficult to imagine how policies like these could be exploited. While it’s challenging to get 5,000 students to come out against LGBT rights, getting 250 is relatively trivial and only requires a listserv announcement in any conservative network. Even if the subsequent vote fails, the petition can still be recycled year after year to strip resources from marginalized students: Campaigning to urge students to vote in support is expensive for service groups, and imposes an energy tax on marginalized students forced to defend their presence on campus.
I already pay a tax to defend my presence in everyday life. As much as I’d love to return to school, I won’t as long as it requires paying administrators to say I should be prepared to litigate my own value to bad faith shit-weasels.
Read more about how segregation is being revived under new labels here.