The removal of vice-president external and vice-president university affairs was rejected at the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s Annual General Meeting in a vote of 196 students against the bylaw amendment.
Removing UTSU Executive Positions
UTSU president Mathias Memmel sought to eradicate the two vice-president positions and combine their duties into a new executive role, VP advocacy, to reduce union spending as each executive receives a yearly salary.
According to Memmel, the UTSU is currently running a deficit and needs to reduce its spending. He emphasized that if the UTSU has a consistent deficit for seven years, the university administration can reclaim occupation of the student commons building.
The UTSU whether you believe it or not is in financial crisis,” said current VP Internal Daman Singh.
One student argued that the UTSU spends a large quantity on “self-serving expenses” and that the removal of executive positions would not create financial relief.
“Do not talk about a culture of self-servitude and then get up here and talk about keeping that we should keep a number of executive positions that we don’t need and that a number of other schools don’t have,” Singh said.
Several students spoke out in opposition to the altering of the executive team including UTSU’s current VP external Anne Boucher and UTMSU’s president Salma Fakhry.
“Over this past year, all I feel UTSU is doing is cutting and cutting and cutting. But are you really growing as a union? Are you including these students in your decisions?” Fakhry questioned UTSU.
The opposition’s main argument concerned the division of work for the new VP position. Boucher argued that her current position requires her to work over 45 hours-a-week, resulting in the completion of only half her workload. Boucher claimed that a VP advocacy would not be able to accomplish the necessary tasks of both VP external and university affairs.
Students argued that the cutting of the two VP positions would not effectively reduce spending and would ultimately put students at a disadvantage by removing their representation to the administration and outside organizations.
Daman Singh, UTSU’s current VP internal, argued that the union currently has the lowest salaries given to a student union but the most executive positions in the country. Singh also accused that opponents of the amendment wanted to keep the two executive positions to run in the 2018 UTSU elections.
“Do not get up here and agree with the staffing restructure and then dismiss this restricting because you want to run for the position that is being eliminated,” Singh stated.
Singh received backlash from the crowd with one speaker calling his speech a “personal attack” against unspecified members of the audience.
Other students claimed that the removal of the two VP positions would ultimately limit the amount of advocacy activity on campus.
“It’s objectively more important to keep the organization solvent than to do advocacy work to the point the organization doesn’t exists,” argued Memmel.
The motion to remove VP external and VP university affairs and create the role of VP advocacy ultimately failed, leaving the UTSU’s executive team untouched.
Removal of Board of Director members
UTSU members also put forward a motion to amend Bylaw X section 2 (c), titled “Abandonment of Office,” that detailed the removal of a board of director if they failed to send regrets after missing three consecutive meetings.
The motion for this amendment was externalized when Victoria College Director Jayde Jones motioned to ammend section 2 (c) could be altered to read that a director may miss “any two meetings of a committee they sit on” without sending regrets prior to removal.
Students in favour of keeping the amendment as missing three meetings argued that it was difficult for members of the board to attend every meeting while still fulfilling classroom and other extra-curricular commitments.
Students argued changing the amendment to two meetings before removal, held directors accountable to their attendance and responsibilities as a director on the board.
The motion was passed to keep the amendment unchanged.
Motion on Autonomy
Item eight on the agenda concerned the autonomy of the UTSU. It stated the intent to give UTSU the ability to reject joining any organization that they could not withdraw from through a simple vote from the board of directors.
Memmel explicitly listed the Canadian Federation of Students as an organization that the UTSU wished to leave.
“This is the members making a very clear distinction about its position within external organizations,” Memmel stated.
Part four of Item eight stated that a three-quarters majority vote from the board of directors, when at least 10 per cent of the members were present, was required to leave any organization.
Students moved a motion to have the 10 per cent attendance threshold to be removed, citing unfair representation. The floor voted to have the 10 per cent threshold removed and the motion failed.
Item eight on the AGM agenda, “Motion on Autonomy,” carried.
Changes to the Equity Collective
The floor also discussed the removal of seven general equity director (GED) positions in the amendments for the Equity Collective.
“The GED positions are not working as we intended. As someone who created the structure we’re using right now, it’s not working,” Singh stated.
Students argued that the removal of these positions would limit the voice of marginalized students on campus.
Time was extended twice to further discuss the Equity Collective amendment. The floor approved the amendments to the Equity Collective, resulting in the removal of the seven positions.
UTSU’s AGM adjourned after almost three-hours-and-a-half, at 10:02 p.m. on Monday October 30th.