UTSG and UTM students will convene to vote on new bylaw amendments and restructuring of the union’s use of finances in UTSU’s annual general meeting this Thursday.
According to Mathias Memmel, UTSU’s VP internal, in an interview with The Medium, an establishment of the Appellate Board will be among the amendments proposed in the meeting.
“The jurisdiction of the Appellate Board shall be limited to the hearing of appeals of disciplinary decisions from the Grievance Officer, the Elections and Referenda Committee, and the Executive Review Committee,” states this year’s AGM agenda.
The Appellate Board is designed to hear grievances raised against UTSU after all other methods for filing grievances have been completed.
“You can bring grievances in a variety of forms, such as grievances against directors or the organization as a whole, and that gets heard by our speaker of the board, or you can bring a grievance against an executive, and that goes to the Executive Review Committee,” said Memmel. “You can bring grievances in the context of elections, if you feel there’s bias in an election or disagree with the ruling of the CRO.”
“After you’ve exhausted those processes, [you can] file a further grievance to something we’re calling the Appellate Board. That’s just an opportunity if somebody really feels that a decision has been made in bias or they haven’t been heard, they now have a body to do so,” Memmel added.
The board would consist of four “Class A” members, who are members of the student union enrolled in the Faculty of Law and have not held elected office within UTSU.
Three students classified as “Class B members” will be appointed to the board as well. The agenda dictates that these members have to be enrolled in first-entry programs, would need to have a minimum of two years of study, and should not have held a previously elected position in UTSU’s executive office.
The AGM agenda outlines that the members of the Appellate Board will hold office for one year, and that during their time on the board, they are not permitted to run for the elected office of UTSU’s executive team.
“We really want robust grievance mechanisms so that we can deal with them internally before they go to the admin,” Memmel added.
UTMSU’s president Nour Alideeb did not respond to The Medium’s request for comment on the agenda, as of press time.
Removal of board
Other amendments made to the bylaws include Bylaw 10, which outlines the conditions of the board of directors removal from office.
In 2015, a board member could be removed for missing three consecutive meetings or any four meetings during their overall term. In the 2016 amendment, the member can be removed if they have “failed to send regrets for two missed meetings, failed to attend three consecutive meetings or any four meetings, regardless of sent regrets, and failed to attend any three meetings of a committee they sit on.”
As well, the removal of an executive will request two additional conditions.
In 2015, the removal of an executive required an occurrence of a 75 percent majority vote by the Board of Directors to hold a referendum, and a five percent vote by the members of UTSU for the board to hold a referendum.
According to the Bylaw Amendments, the 2016 amendment also requires that “a motion to impeach an Executive may be moved by any member of the Board. The motion must specify the misconduct of which the Executive in question is accused, and be sent to every member of the Board at least ten (10) days prior to the Board meeting at which it is to be considered.”
The final condition states that a motion for impeachment can be put forth by any member of the board “on the condition that the Executive Review Committee has recommended.”
Another issue the meeting will focus on is the use of the union’s finances.
“One of the main things we want to focus on this year is the Union’s finances and what was perceived to be some structural problems. You’ll notice that in our audited financial statement, in comparison to last year, there’s a shift in terms of how we’re reporting some things but not others,” Memmel said.
“For example, if you look at the books last year, the UTSU has a $14-million-year budget, which sounds like a lot of money, when in reality the majority of them is the Health and Dental plan.”
“We still include the Health and Dental plan, it’s just separate so you can still get a better idea of the areas in which we spend money on versus what is not already designated towards other things,” Memmel explained.
Memmel also stated that after paying for fixed fees, such as general meetings and elections, there is little room to use their budget for events or equity and outreach initiatives.
“We have to ask ourselves the question: Do our expenses align with our values? And that’s a conversation that we want to bring to the AGM and hope that our members engage in.” Memmel said.
In terms of the UTSU’s financial audit, Memmel cited a desire for transparency as the motivations for the restructure.
“We’ve added further breakdown in some categories, such as HR expenses, so you can clearly see what we’re spending on executives versus our other staff. And that’s really just an accountability measure, that’s something that’s really important.”
During the last academic year, three AGMs were held due to the failure to ratify the board. Only one general meeting has been planned for the 2016-2017 year, unless more members wish to put forth additional motions, according to Memmel.
The AGM will take place this Thursday at 6 p.m. in U of T’s OISE auditorium.