Voting at next week’s Annual General Meeting of the UTSU has the potential to dissolve the union, say representatives of UTMSU. The meeting’s order of business includes motions on several bylaw amendments concerning UTSU’s board of directors, some of which UTMSU says are required to be approved for UTSU to comply with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act.
Lumped into the motion with the legally required amendments, however, is another amendment to adopt a new structure in the board of directors, which is not required by the act—despite an explicit claim to the contrary by UTMSU executive director Walied Khogali in an email to executives and their associates—and is not marked as necessary in UTSU’s own AGM package.
Currently, the UTSU board of directors includes directors from the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Transitional Year Program, the professional faculties, downtown colleges, and the UTM campus.
The proposed structural change—dubbed the “constituency model”—involves removing the college directors and replacing them with 10 directors to represent marginalized groups, including racialized students, women, international students, students with disabilities, first-year students, athletes, mature students, indigenous students, commuters, and LGBTQ students.
If the majority votes in favour of the amendment, the directorate positions representing the seven downtown colleges will be dissolved, along with a number of positions representing professional faculties. The change would also mean upper-year students, males, and other students who do not fit into any of the marginalized groups would not have their own representation on the board.
Last May, Robyn Urback of the National Post condemned the proposed structure, calling it “harrowingly stupid”. Urback cited the fact that many of the 45,000 undergraduate students who pay mandatory fees to the UTSU wouldn’t have a category representing them.
UTSU published a response to the Post’s article on Facebook titled “Inclusion Is Not Exclusion”, in which they said the proposed structure seeks to address complaints that the college and faculty representatives on UTSU’s Board “were not sufficient or representative”. Nevertheless, the bylaw amendments do exclude the directors being replaced.
“These groups represent themselves through their own students’ societies, and wanted to interact with us in that way. We wanted to respect these wishes,” wrote UTSU president Yolen Bollo-Kamara, adding that the establishment of a new committee has also been proposed “that would allow direct representation from student societies, without violating new restrictions on representation”.
Last April, Benjamin Crase, outgoing co-head of Trinity College, commented to The Varsity that “The introduction of a pseudo-sectarian structure of governance makes little sense and is very worrisome.”
The Varsity also published a comment by Rowan DeBues, president-elect of the Victoria College Students’ Administrative Council, saying that while UTSU’s board of directors does not currently represent minorities and special groups, the proposed restructure would assign voting rights without regard to population size.
According to the order of business for the Annual General Meeting, the other bylaw changes include amendments to the roles of the Executive Committee Members, grievance procedures, the invalidity clause, and others.
According to the internal UTMSU email circulated by Khogali, if the motion for these amendments does not pass, there would be a risk of losing the UTSU’s status as an incorporated entity, resulting in its dissolution as an organization. UTSU members—including full-time students at both the UTM and downtown campuses—can only vote either in favour of all of the amendments or none of them, instead of voting for each amendment separately, creating pressure to vote for the non-required and controversial ones at the same time as the required ones.
UTMSU’s email, some of the contents of which were also posted on the UTM MSA’s Facebook page, encourages the executives to “prevent a filibuster” by encouraging “as many UTM students to attend as possible” in hopes of passing the proposed changes and a holding a preparatory meeting beforehand. The “filibuster” likely refers to the procedural delay at last year’s AGM related to removing motions in protest to UTSU having removed the option to not approve its meeting agenda that year.
The email also states that if the bylaws motion fails, there will be “devastating consequences” for UTMSU, which says it receives around 40% of its operating budget from UTSU. The email also says that UTSU dissolves, the services they render at UTM could disappear.
The same email also asks the executives and their associates to pick up proxy forms and drop them off when “completed”, i.e. filled with student signatures. Proxies allow one student to vote on behalf of others and are commonly used by UTMSU and UTSU to boost voting power.
The other motions mentioned in the AGM order of business include supporting a campaign for international students to sit on the Governing Council and enjoy other benefits, revamping UTSU’s “public relations strategy” in response to criticism of their communication style, and addressing the high cost of on-campus housing, among the annual motion to pass the year’s financial audit.
All full-time UTM students are able to vote on the motions at UTSU’s AGM. The AGM will take place on October 29 at the OISE auditorium.
This article has been corrected from the print edition. It was credited to Menna Elnaka, but should have been equally credited to both her and Maria Iqbal. A notice will be printed in the October 27, 2014 issue.