The York Federation of Students (YFS) met with student attendees on January 28 for the 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM). The meeting took place online via Zoom and lasted a little over an hour. During the meeting, YFS executives remarked on the various initiatives they took part in over the course of the year. Students also raised discussion points about issues including tuition, lobbying, and the effects of the pandemic. However, no resolutions were brought to the table.
The meeting began with welcoming remarks by YFS President Kien Saningong Azinwi.
“Thank you, against all the odds, for making the time to invest in your student union. We take our lead from you, and you are in front of us today in these positions because you elected us to be your voice,” she said. “This year may have been different from ones in the past, but as you will get to hear from our executives tonight, our priorities have stayed the same, and that is to put you, the students, first.”
She further elaborated on the difficulties the student body has faced during the pandemic, a message which was reiterated by the other executives during their remarks.
“This past year has been one, for most of us, of survival,” Azinwi continued. “We have seen the strain the pandemic has put on students, and the fight for students to not be an afterthought in any ‘recovery plan.’ So here, today, virtually, that is a testament to our resilience as students.”
VP of Operations Riaz Nandan then presented a recap of the year’s financial statements. The operating revenue for the year was $2,856,425, and the operating expenditures were $2,185,921 — resulting in an excess of revenue from operating activities of $670,504.
The YFS executives presented reports on the activities and initiatives they oversaw during the course of the year. VP of Campus Life Jaskarn Duhra mentioned the YFS care package program, which took place in early December as an example of the YFS’ social initiatives despite the pandemic: “If that’s what it takes to see you all in a safe, social distanced, and healthy manner, we’ll do it,” he said. He also cited Mental Health Awareness Week and Multicultural Week as further examples.
Vice President of Campaigns and Advocacy Jessie Whyte discussed the lobbying efforts the YFS engaged in during the year.
“We have had a number of meetings with Vice President Academic Lisa Phillips as well as the Vice Provost of Students Lucy Fromowitz on a variety of different matters surrounding the university’s course refund tables, the requirement for doctor’s notes, the implementation of mandatory anti-oppression training, and the collection of race-based data,” they stated. “We know now more than ever it’s important to advocate for student accommodations, especially during a year where so many people are honestly just struggling to adjust to an online learning environment.”
They cited the removal of the requirement for doctor’s notes during the pandemic, as well as the university’s decision to collect race-based data beginning June 2021, as benchmarks of progress in these areas.
The YFS executives also discussed other initiatives outlined in the Executive Report, including the Fairness for International Students campaign and the Education for All campaign.
Notably, no resolutions were brought to the table at this meeting.
During the discussion period, a student activist with Socialist Fightback at York — who identified himself as Greg J. — voiced his concerns about the lack of resolutions, stating that the issue of equality of education was one he wished had been addressed by a resolution.
“In the past year, students have been forced to pay the same kind of exorbitant amounts of tuition that we’ve had in past years. There’s really been no financial relief for students who now in the current situation, are unable to pay for schooling,” he stated.
“Even before the pandemic, the government was making these kinds of devastating cuts to OSAP and public funding. There’s a lot of people now who can’t afford rent and tuition at the same time, and a lot of people I know personally have had to take time off of school to pay for bills, because the cost of tuition continues to go up.
“And so that’s sort of why I was kind of surprised, I guess, that there weren’t any resolutions that were coming in on this issue,” he concluded. “I’m sure this is something that many others feel, and this is a key issue that we need to be talking about right now.”
Read the full AGM report here.