The UTM Students’ Union has found itself in a few controversies this year. Last month’s “aggressive” vote yes campaign. Their ineffectiveness in preventing the rock pile. The resignations over an allegedly hostile work environment. And now the sudden exit from the downtown Student Societies Summit suggests they still aren’t satisfied.
Quitting the summit isn’t necessarily stupid; after all, it’s a moderated discussion of an issue between downtown student groups that has little to do with UTMSU, except insofar as we might get the same idea someday and try to separate from UTSU, too. But the way we quit wasn’t one many students will feel they can stand behind.
First of all, it came out of nowhere. The seven-page goodbye note—signed by Melissa Theodore, UTMSU’s VP external, on behalf of the executive team—says they spent “many hours” reporting on the meetings to UTM students. I haven’t heard a peep. Might’ve been nice to talk through this.
At least as frustrating are the nonsensical reasons given for quitting. The letter extols student groups’ autonomy, for example, without a word as to why the summit is a breach of autonomy. Then it proceeds to lament the fact that the societies whose members voted to divert their money from UTSU don’t know what’s good for them and should stay in line. Actually, bringing that up at all is disingenuous: We know that this is the incumbents’ view. And that the smaller groups hold another view. That’s why the summit was called.
But that’s not the only convoluted logic in the letter. On the one hand, it insists that UTMSU “doesn’t know what the purpose of the summit is”. But despite being in the dark, the union also manages to “have serious concerns that the unknown purpose of this summit is in conflict with our mission, and as such an inappropriate use of our valuable time”. Well, which is it?
Elsewhere, the letter says attendees attacked UTSU to gain favour with the university, and so defends UTSU’s policy on proxies (voting on behalf of others) by saying that a major critic, the Engineering Society, also allows them. EngSoc’s bylaws are attached. Nice; now I can easily verify that UTSU lets one person vote for 11 people while EngSoc lets one person vote for three. The absentees also count towards minimum attendance for UTSU but not EngSoc. This isn’t to take sides; it’s just to say that misleading finger-pointing doesn’t befit a student representative.
Since none of these reasons makes sense, I suspect it’s because other attendees—rightfully or not—have been asking to see the contract that has UTM students pay UTSU, only for most of it to be remitted to UTMSU. The letter says UTMSU is only too eager to “summarize” the terms, as long as they don’t have to “divulge” them. Meanwhile, the university requires anyone who receives student money to be financially transparent.
I guess being caught on that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And made it hit the eject button.
The full letter was shared with various campus media and can be read at the end of this news article.