by Joshua Bienstock
My heart was racing so fast. I wasn’t really thinking about where I was or where I was going…I couldn’t. All I could think about was how nervous I was and how much that made me sweat.
All the sudden the car stopped and there I was outside of Morrison. Before I knew it, I had gotten myself and my stuff out of the car and across the street to sign in. I put on the shirt that they handed me and began to meet so many amazing people. Their smiles and welcoming energies allowed me to relax and feel right at home.
Now able to focus a little better, I realize it’s the middle of summer and I’m in the Commuter Student Centre (CSC) for the UC Lit’s MyJourney retreat. MyJourney is an annual program that provides UC students, and especially commuters, a head start at UC extracurricular life. If I didn’t take the risk to get out of bed that day for MyJourney all those months ago, I wouldn’t have the amazing friends I have now or know how to have a life beyond just studying.
I do not believe that life at university is just about studying and going to class; it shouldn’t just be about complaining to your friends about how much work you have; it shouldn’t just be about running to the library to cram for the exam you haven’t prepared for. Our studies are just one part of the potential we all have to explore and learn more about ourselves while at UC.
The way I got involved at U of T is through the Lit, UC’s Literary and Athletic Society – in other words, our college’s student government. The council is full of amazing people that work tirelessly to create a safe space at UC to make friends and experience life beyond classrooms and libraries. During my short time on the Lit, I have witnessed many of its strengths and its weaknesses. I’ve found that getting more students engaged is one of the most pressing problems for our Council.
I do not believe that the Lit does nearly as much as it could when it comes to engaging its constituents in student life. Specifically, we need to do so much more to ensure UC residents have every opportunity to get involved and stay involved.
Commuters like myself look for spaces such as the CSC in order to gain a sense of community while on campus, so that we don’t have to come to school just for the sake of going to classes. UC residents have UC Residence Council (UCRC) and Lit programming inside their houses or a quick walk away and yet, so many students do not understand how their student societies work or what they can do to get involved.
As soon as next year, most students living on residence will move off-campus and no longer have the immediate ability to get involved in student life. We cannot let school just be about studying and going to class, especially in the upper years when classes get harder and more stressful.
Up until now, first year, mid year, and upper year representatives have been responsible for facilitating relationships between the Lit and UC’s houses. Being a representative myself, I’ve learned that as a group we have many responsibilities to our ratified commissions and/or committees on top of planning and executing our own events to engage the student population. In this current structure, UC Residents are an afterthought added to the Lit’s already busy structure.
All of these reasons are why myself and a couple others have proposed a change to how the Lit approaches engagement with UC Residents.
The new proposed position, called the Residence Representative, will be elected onto the Lit every year in March Representative Elections. The explicit purpose of the position is to engage UC residents beyond their houses and studies to fully integrate them into UC extracurricular life.
The Residence Representative will be in constant contact with the UCRC President and executive to ensure each organizations’ calendars are properly arranged in order to prevent overlapping or duplicate events. They will also be responsible for constantly engaging with each UC house executive, which is elected at the beginning of the year every year.
The Representative will send each house up to date information regarding lit events from every commission and representative. They will also need to express intent to live in residence while in the position and as such will be able to give the Lit valuable insight into how we can engage residents better as well as ensure that there is a consistent link between residences and council.
School doesn’t just have to be about studying. You don’t have to be sad because you have no life beyond working. UC is here for you, there are countless student leaders committed to making events and providing resources that will make your UC experience better.
I want to make sure that next year’s first year residents have the same potential to get involved with the Lit as I did back in July at MyJourney. The Lit’s job is to ensure we provide the best events and resources for our constituents; the Residence Representative position is the first step in bettering how we provide those services to UC Residents.
To make this happen, we need your help! Come out to the Junior Common Room (JCR) this Thursday January 31st at 6:00 PM to vote to include the Residence Representative position on the next UC Lit Council. Any UC student can participate. I really hope to see you there!
Feel free to contact me on facebook, on instagram @jbbiens, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with any and all questions, comments, or concerns. My office hours are Thursdays, 1-2 PM in the JCR office. If I’m not there then I’m probably at the CSC (Commuter Student Centre) or in class.