Ahead of big decisions, listen to student leaders

When it comes to important decisions, leaders who are elected—or appointed—to represent their constituents should be heard. In student politics, they’re often not. 
Last week, Mayor Bryan Paterson told AMS Assembly he stood by a June statement saying the AMS had been consulted on the new University District Safety Initiative (UDSI). 
In an interview on June 11, AMS President Miguel Martinez told The Journal the Society was only “informed” of the UDSI, and not consulted on the content of the initiative. At the time, Paterson wouldn’t say whether the SGPS had been told. 
Paterson’s remarks at Assembly represent an unfortunate trend of student leaders being shut out of consequential decisions—even when their constituents are direct stakeholders.
In the case of the UDSI, the University and the City’s lack of meaningful consultation with student leaders has contributed to potentially damaging consequences for their constituents.
As one member of Assembly pointed out, students ticketed during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in late March—just weeks before final exams—could be forced to appear in front of a judge during a stressful time of year.
In response, Interim Provost Tom Harris couldn’t say whether the University would provide academic considerations for students summoned to court during exams or midterms.
The criticism Paterson and Harris faced from students last week was a step in the right direction. But it also revealed the extent to which student leaders have been excluded from decision-making.
The same trends are apparent at other institutions as well. This spring, the University of Toronto’s highest governing body approved the contentious university-mandated leave of absence policy, despite calls from several student groups to conduct more meaningful consultation.
The policy gives the university authority to place students on a mandatory leave of absence if their mental health poses a risk of harm to themselves or others. Students can also be subject to the policy if their grades are suffering as a result of their mental health.
Both of U of T’s largest student organizations publicly criticized the brief student consultation process for being inadequate—actions which demonstrate students’ desire to be heard.
Despite calls for expanded consultation from groups representing tens of thousands of students, U of T’s Vice-Provost, Students, Sandy Welsh, told The Varsity, “In terms of where we are right now, we do feel that [student consultation] has been sufficient.” 
Every year, students participate in a democratic exercise to 
elect—or appoint—their leaders. When it comes to the tough decisions, they should be heard.
Iain is The Journal’s News Editor. He’s a fourth-year history student. 

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