UTSU’s controversial board structure proposal, which would have seen college directors replaced by constituency directors, was defeated at the AGM on Wednesday when it failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in favour.
The motion was 6% shy of a two-thirds majority.
The remaining bylaw changes were split by a new motion introduced early in the AGM and were adopted by a majority vote, except for the motion to establish commissions and committees for colleges and faculties.
Held in the OISE auditorium, the meeting was called to order at 6:55 p.m. by Chair Ashkon Hashemi.
Debate over proposed board structure
The board structure proposal was brought up at beginning of the meeting in UTSU President Yolen Bollo-Kamara’s address. Bollo-Kamara spoke to the background of the proposal and the union’s efforts to collect input from colleges and student societies at U of T, including by holding presentations and meeting with multiple downtown colleges and professional faculties.
“Some student societies never responded to my emails,” she said.
Bollo-Kamara defended the proposal, saying, “This proposal doesn’t exclude anyone, but what it does is focuses on the different ways in which students access postsecondary education and are able to participate in all aspects of this campus.”
A question-and-answer period followed the presidential address. UTSU VP university affairs Pierre Harfouche spoke against the proposed board structure, saying that it had been passed by the board of directors prior to beginning consultations.
“We should have done the consultation before we presented this to the AGM, before we passed it. We did it so early, we [weren’t] able to reflect, to change it, to add edits, to ask questions,” he said.
Tina Saban, co-head of Trinity College, accused UTSU of violating its own bylaws by trying to pass the new board structure without conducting a plebiscite—a non-binding referendum. The board passed a resolution in January to hold a plebiscite to approve any changes to Bylaw V prior to the AGM but did not, Saban said.
“We had every intention of it; there was one that was drafted and put forward and unfortunately was ruled out of order at the board meeting,” responded Bollo-Kamara.
Bollo-Kamara condemns “misinformation”
Kaleem Hawa, chair of Trinity College Meeting, spoke about false information circulated by students claiming to be UTSU volunteers to the effect that if the board proposal failed, club funding could be in jeopardy.
Bollo-Kamara responded that UTSU has been “very clear” about the consequences of not passing the board proposal.
“Waiting 12 months [to pass a new structure before the deadline imposed by the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act] puts us in jeopardy, and no one is sure exactly what happens if we don’t pass a structure in a year,” she said. “But I’ve always been very clear that we do have that time”.
“I can’t speak to misinformation [from UTSU], but I will condemn that there has been a lot of misinformation about the board structure,” she added.
Division of bylaw amendments
Before the vote on the bylaw changes, Bollo-Kamara moved to separate bylaw sections V and XI—concerning the controversial new board structure and committees—from the remainder of the amendments so they could be voted on separately.
All of the remaining amendments were passed by a simple majority.
Bylaw section V defeated
When the discussion turned to Bylaw V, a motion proposed by Bollo-Kamara was passed to amend the proposed structure so that the names of the constituency directors would be changed from “international students’ director” to “international students’ issues director”, and the others on the same pattern.
The floor was then opened to students to speak in favour of or against the motion. Students against the motion condemned what they alleged to be an inadequate amount of consultation for the proposed structure, a failure to sufficiently investigate alternative structures, and using “scare tactics” such as condemning the alternative proposal for a class structure under the name of “corporate paralysis”.
Other students said that the current model did not provide sufficient representation to minority communities. Students who spoke in favour of the new structure also supported its focus on “issues” related to specific groups.
UTSU VP internal and services Cameron Wathey also mentioned the defeat of alternative solutions—including the possibility of reincorporating UTSU in Ontario in order to avoid the jurisdiction of the federal act—as a reason to support the proposed structure.
After a heated debate, a motion was put forward to call the question to vote. With a tally of 1,556 votes in favour and 1,167 against, the motion was defeated.
The next item was bylaw 11, which concerned the establishment of commissions and committees for college and faculty representation. This motion was defeated by a majority.
Threshold required to “pass” resolution
Prior to the votes on the bylaw amendments, Hashemi explained that the motion concerning the board structure required a two-thirds majority vote in order to pass. He said that according to the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, the amendment required a “special resolution” since it involved a change in the number of directors.
All the other amendments required a simple majority in order to pass under the CNCA, which Hashemi said overrides UTSU bylaws stipulating a two-thirds majority vote for all bylaw amendments.
Ryan Gomes, UTSU board member for the Faculty of Engineering, raised the point that although UTSU has applied for continuance under the CNCA, the two-thirds’ threshold will only apply if the application is accepted.
Hashemi responded that the numbers have been recorded and will be available if the threshold changes.
Other motions not carried
After the motions concerning bylaw amendments, the discussion turned to the remaining motions that had been submitted for the AGM, including resolutions to hold a “Drop Fees Day of Action”, to investigate courses purportedly designed to “weed out” students, and to campaign in support of international student needs.
Before a vote could be called on these motions, a motion to adjourn the meeting was introduced and carried. The meeting was adjourned at 11 p.m.
UTMSU condemns “attacks directed to” UTM students
UTMSU president Hassan Havili commented on the AGM in an interview later in the week.
According to Havili, approximately 90 UTM students attended the AGM, including UTMSU board members and executives.
“We played a constructive role at the meeting to make sure there is adequate discussion and debate before the motions were considered,” he said.
“We are, however, disappointed by the attacks over social media, especially over Twitter, directed to UTM students by students affiliated with college societies,” Havili added. “The remarks are deplorable and unbecoming of students that hold elected office. We are grateful that the anti-harassment officer addressed the matter.”
During the meeting, UTMSU VP equity Melissa Theodore spoke about alleged comments on Twitter about “filibustering” the AGM—that is, deliberately causing delays—so that UTM students would be forced to leave early. In the 2012/13 special general meeting, the sudden departure of UTM students caused a loss of quorum that forced the meeting to be adjourned.
UTSU must now find another way to comply with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act.
Havili said he was “optimistic” that a solution to the board structure would be found.
“UTMSU representatives will be consulting with UTSU representatives and, most importantly, UTM students on the next steps,” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic about finding solutions through a revised board structure.”
UTMSU will hold its own AGM on November 13 in Council Chambers.