Following UTSU’s town hall with the Black Liberation Collective last Thursday, BLC claimed that they were not invited to the meeting.
According to UTSU’s Facebook event for the town hall, the meeting would be a space for “our [union] members from the Black community to voice their concerns about the UTSU, and what we can do to improve.”
“This is a space for our members to hold the UTSU accountable, and for the UTSU to engage in dialogue about problematic practices. This space will be prioritizing the voices of Black UTSU members,” the event description had also stated.
The town hall began 40 minutes later than scheduled, and only one Black student was present. Forty-five minutes after the meeting commenced, Yusra Khogali, a member of the BLC, entered the room and accused the UTSU executives of being “incompetent” and using Black students on campus “as tokens.”
Last Friday, a day after the town hall, the BLC released a statement on their Facebook page commenting on the meeting and its turnout.
“Around 10 people attended—only one Black student—and [the] majority of the attendees were UTSU executives,” read the statement. “Due to the poor turnout, the conversation was reframed to be a discussion on ally-ship.”
At the town hall, Khogali claimed that the low turnout of the meeting was due to a lack of consultation. Khogali also accused UTSU of scheduling the town hall meeting before their AGM to improve their image.
“The BLC was not invited to the town hall, nor were other Black students or organizations consulted with,” BLC’s Facebook statement read. “If UTSU claims to be holding space for their Black membership, then Black students need to be reached out to and consulted with.”
“We discussed the town hall with Black student leaders before the event. But we must, and will, make these relationships with Black students a priority,” UTSU’s Jasmine Wong-Denike told The Medium in an email. “Obviously there’s something wrong, and the UTSU needs to step up. Communicating and repairing these relationships is a top priority,” she added.
Wong-Denike also stated that she was “disappointed in the low turnout, but it was a very clear signal that the UTSU needs to be doing more when it comes to reaching out to Black students on campus.”
“We see this town hall for what it is, which is nothing more than the UTSU pretending to address their antiblackness for good PR,” the BLC’s statement continued.
Last October, BLC had issued a set of demands and had boycotted the union for being “anti-Black.”
“One of our demands is to meaningfully address antiblackness in a town hall where Black students can openly express their criticism of the union,” the statement read.
BLC also wrote in the statement that UTSU’s event description was “nothing more than lip service.”
“This [town hall] does not meet our demand in any way, and if the UTSU is serious about taking up this work, then they need to invest time and effort into the needs of the Black student membership,” the statement added.
Wong-Denike said in the email to The Medium that invitations were sent out over social media, particularly Facebook.
Wong-Denike had also told The Medium that she was not directly responsible for the planning of the event, but did not respond to who was responsible for planning the town hall.
BLC also stated on their Facebook page that their boycott still stands, and will continue to remain until their demands are met.
In addition to their demand for a town hall, BLC asked UTSU to “immediately” drop their lawsuit against the union’s former executive, Sandra Hudson, who had been accused, along with former president Yolen Bollo-Kamara, and former VP internal and services Cameron Wathey, of $277,508.62 of “amounts improperly paid” to Hudson before her employment was terminated last year.
BLC’s third demand is to make UTSU’s operating budget public by releasing it every year prior to the student union election, and to allocate annual funding for Black students’ group organizations at U of T.
The BLC declined The Medium’s request for comment beyond the statement that they posted on Facebook.