Campus Space

This working group was struck at the first University of Toronto General Assembly.

Minutes from break out session (pdf file).

Report-back to the general assembly from break-out session:

Our urgent issue was the new space policy, which makes it very hard for community groups to have events on campus. That’s the first thing we want to work on. We felt the need to generate information, to do research on the policy and how it’s been developed. This links up with accountability and governance. The impression is that the new policy has been adopted without transparent decision making, and groups aren’t even clear what the procedures are— arbitrary measures that are unclear. We also want to do research and clearly compare the new and old policies, and figure out what we’ve lost. Eventually, we want to create a proposal for what we’d like the space policy to be. We related this to broader securitization (e.g., G20, Olympics) and increased security budgets, as budgets for more essential programs get cut. We have to talk about that. We also talked about the university as part of a community. Thinking about things like pedestrian zones, yet there is scarce space for groups at night. Scarcity is a big issue. Also, broadly: new and better spaces for child care, affordable housing, gardens, food, cafeterias not owned by big companies, linking up with unions as bargaining strategies, and linking to fees issues. Some groups are being told they have to pay thousands of dollars for security, and this is based on a decision by the Office of Space Management.

Minutes and approved motions from the second general assembly will be added within the week (before 03/08/11).

Background

Space Booking Policy
Background article: How U of T’s New Space-booking Policy Further Marginalizes Campus Community Groups

Motion passed at November General Membership meeting of United Steelworkers Local 1998:

That Local 1998 strongly denounce the recent room booking policy revisions approved at the October 28, 2010 Governing Council meeting. The revisions further restrict access to campus space by increasing booking costs, restricting external groups and speakers from participating in on-campus events, and giving the senior Administration the sole and unfettered discretion to deny bookings.

That room bookings can be rejected due to “security concerns” or the presence of Campus Police mandated and groups charged prohibitive security costs is a clear attack on academic freedom and political dissent. Passed despite unanimous student opposition and without any consultation, the approval of this policy further demonstrates the undemocratic and unaccountable nature of the University’s governance.

The Local demands that a new space policy be developed and administered by students, staff and faculty, not by the senior Administration concerned solely with commercial interests and the increased militarization of campus. U of T is mandated to promote debate, not stifle it; yet stifling it is precisely what this repressive space use policy aims to achieve. (Bard / McLennan)

G20 Campus Closure
In May of 2010, the University of Toronto announced that it would close its campus for the G20 Summit without consulting a single student. Despite widespread opposition to this decision by faculty, workers, and students, the University’s administration maintained its decision. This sent a chilling message that protestors posed a violent threat to students and property and that the only way they could be protected was to close the University’s doors for four days.

The campus closing resulted in widespread inconvenience including researchers who were denied access to their work, students who were forced to abandon their dorm rooms, and the rescheduling of final examinations. Even more disturbing was the widely reported violent suppression of protest that took place throughout the city during the G20, much of it taking place on or near campus and with the University’s tacit endorsement. Numerous witnesses saw police and other security forces using University buildings and grounds as staging areas for the orchestration of their violent attack on civil society.

The G20 closed on June 27th with an illegal police raid on the Graduate Student Union’s gymnasium, where numerous protestors were billeted. This raid resulted in the spurious arrest of over 70 people all of whom had their charges dropped several months later.

To learn more about the G20 and its effect on campus see:

No Campus Closure Website
Some Staff Move in After U of T Students Booted From Residence – Article
U of T Residences Used for G20 Accommodation – Article
Campus Under Siege – Article
G20 aims to shut down U of T campus and academic integrity – Article
U of T to Close Main Campus During G20 – Article
Whose Campus is it Anyway? – Article
City Under Siege: The University of Toronto Joins the G20 Security Ring – Article
Confusion 101 At U of T – Article

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