Over one hundred UTM students turned out for the UTMSU Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the South Building Council Chamber on November 26. The proceedings were civil and polite throughout, despite a few objections raised by two or three students in attendance.
UTMSU President Wasah Malik opened the meeting with a slideshow presentation outlining the accomplishments of his administration, such as Orientation Week, the Green Experience week, and the November 5 Drop Fees Day of Action, to name a few. As outlined by Malik, future plans of the UTMSU include lobbying the administration to consider a twelve-week semester with a study week, instead of the current thirteen week semester, as well as holding a referendum with regards to the impending Student Centre expansion.
When the floor opened up to questions from the audience, the first topic raised was that of part-time students at UTM. Fourth year history student Ryan Singh asked the chair of the meeting Walied Khogali where do things stand? since the court ruling that the Association of Part-time Students (APUS) was entitled to consider part-time students at UTM as their members. Malik responded that the Erindale Part-time Students (EPUS) and UTMSU acted in good faith — which the court ruling confirms — and that EPUS was being denied funds by APUS, which meant that it was impossible to even run an EPUS office on campus, let alone effectively lobby for part-time rights. Despite the court ruling, UTMSU still represents part-time students on campus through the vice-president Part-time Affairs and through two Board of Director positions, Malik pointed out.
The resignation of VP part-time Mubashir Ali in October had nothing to do with this controversy, Malik insisted, and the vacant position will be filled after due process is followed. However, the court ruling handed down by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice explicitly states that EPUS and UTMSU had no authority to take actions that affected fees and membership in APUS without APUSs consent and that the referendum merging EPUS and UTMSU — while in itself an act of good faith — is invalid.
Next on the AGMs agenda was the auditor report from the Student Union budget last year, which showed $26,000 spent in excess of revenues, leaving the union with a $52,000 surplus carried forward to this year. The Blind Duck Pub was cited by VP Internal Affairs Joey Santiago as the primary reason why the budget went into the red in some areas, since the UTSMU paid off $44,000 in loans and debts accumulated by the pub, in order to improve its credit and lower long-term costs. Furthermore, the Blind Duck opened a month late last year, added Malik. So naturally, year-end revenues were lower as a result.
Jonathan Scott, a third year philosophy student, called attention to the fact that the Academic Societies budget showed an accumulated surplus, despite the fact that all money set aside for this purpose must be spent. Santiago agreed that was the case, and explained that certain funds were set aside for clubs that were planned for each department. Some departments didnt end up having a club for whatever reason last year, so the money was carried over to this year and distributed to the new clubs created this year, explained Santiago.
The last item on the agenda was a series of changes to the UTMSU Constitution and by-laws. Again Singh and Scott rose to the microphone, challenging various amendments, but two items were resolved in very interesting ways. The question of whether or not to allow executive members from the past year to automatically serve on the Board of Directors was raised by Scott, and President Malik quickly agreed that it was an undemocratic motion, since these appointments could impede current executives. In addition, Chair Khogali pointed out that the union is able to invite past executive members or appoint them to the Board on its own, and thus the measure proposed was unnecessary.
When the inclusion on the Board of a non-voting representative from the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC) came to the floor, Scott again raised an objection. This arrangement would automatically give the Scarborough student union greater influence over the board than students and groups on campus here at UTM, he protested. President Malik and VP External Dhananjai (DJ) Kohli responded that the inclusion of a representative from UTSC was necessary because it allowed the various campuses to work together on common issues in solidarity, and pointed out that UTSC planned to add a UTM representative to their own Board. When contacted to confirm this, UTSC vice-Chair Daniel Greanya explained, We did not complete consideration of all items on the agenda [but] the issue of adding an ex-officio director from UTMSU will be added to the next meeting of members for consideration.
Proxy collection questionable
A vote was held on the abovementioned motion, and although there was more or less an even number of hands for as there were against, the motion passed by a substantial margin. This was in part because many of those voting in favour of had proxy forms, meaning each voter held up to as many as eleven votes on their blue voter cards — with the ten other votes comprised from signatures collected from other students — whereas a student with no proxy had only one vote, that being their own.
It is especially significant how these proxy votes were distributed prior to the AGM. The Medium has learned from a number of sources, who insist that their identities be protected for fear of recrimination, that UTMSU executives handed out nameless and signed proxy forms — with eight to ten student signatures filled out at the bottom — to certain students, so that they could vote to support the UTMSU in whatever motion the union wished to pass.
During the AGM itself, reporters in attendance overheard a student holding a blue voter card and asking, What does this eleven mean? in reference to the number written on the students card. Reporters also witnessed two instances of these cards being passed on from UTMSU execs to students as they entered the room, despite the fact that all attendees were given their rightful voter cards before they entered the chambers. When handed another card, one of the recipients was overheard asking, Does this mean I have nine votes now? in reference to the students initial one vote and the subsequent eight he was given.
After the meeting adjourned, another student, who refused to be named for fear of burning bridges with UTMSU, attested to the fact that he was handed a high-numbered voter card just before the meeting by one of the UTMSU execs, whom he also refused to name, without ever collecting or filling out a proxy form. Proxy forms were to be collected from UTMSU office administrator Linda Feener in room 115 of the Student Centre throughout the week prior to the AGM, with the deadline to submit the forms set at 5 p.m. the day before.
Further investigation by The Medium led to declarations from two students who currently sit on the UTMSU Board of Directors. One of them claims to have been privy to two UTMSU execs, a day before the AGM, on the phone, collecting names and student numbers while having a stack of nameless proxy forms in their possession. Another board member even attested to having seen a UTMSU exec forging his friends signatures on the forms.
According to the UTMSU Constitution and By-Laws, under the heading By Law 3 — Meetings, 1.5 Proxy: Every member of the Union is entitled to designate another member to act as their proxy. (a) The proxy must be in writing and conform to the requirements of the Act, Bylaws and Policy of the Union. (b) No member shall carry more than 10 proxies.
When asked to clarify this apparent contradiction of their own by-laws, UTMSU President Wasah Malik responded that the UTMSU will investigate the matter further, to inquire if proxies were collected through a due process, although he has already concluded that the process of collecting proxies was fair and correct. The Student Union has a full record of students that signed out proxy forms and students that returned them to the office, and members of the UTMSU executives and board of directors were given an opportunity to sign out one proxy form each from the office.