Former president of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, Uranranebi Agbeyegbe, who is currently a non-UTM student, was hired into the newly created position of campaigns and communications coordinator.
According to UTMSU’s president Salma Fakhry in an email to The Medium, the hiring processes for full-time staff was organized through “relevant networks and not-for-profit jobs bulletins.” The job posting was advertised through a site called Charity Village. Fakhry also stated that previous experience with the UTMSU is not required, but experience with a non-profit organization would have been an asset.
“The UTMSU has, for years, wanted and needed a position focused on campaigns, research, and volunteer network development. The process was initiated by the previous executive and board and a hiring committee was struck by the board last year,” UTMSU’s president wrote in response to why the position was deemed necessary for this year. Fakhry did not directly address The Medium’s questions on the specific responsibilities of Agbeyegbe’s position.
“The hiring process was open for all to apply, skills were evaluated above all, and we looked at proven history of campaign organizing, research compilation, and volunteer management,” she added.
Referring to having non-UTM students hold paid positions, Abdulla Omari, formerly on the UTMSU board of directors in 2015 stated, “Having a position of full-time that is a non-student, changes that structure and that dynamic. I still remember being a volunteer and sitting in the room with these 26-year olds trying to plan things, and it’s intimidating. And to have a man who’s, again, no longer a student managing these things, means students inherently have less input, students inherently have less voice.”
According to Omari, the choice to establish a new full-time staff position goes through the executive committee, then the board of directors to ratify the decision and establish the salary that is given to full-time staff.
“We really did try to make an honest effort to avoid having full-time staff taking things students could be doing, especially when we’re paying them with their own money. So, for me, when I look at this position, I’m seeing a non-student making a salary wage for a job that was accomplished before by four students,” Omari stated about his time in office.
Omari said that there has been discussion of a campaigns and committee coordinator in the past, which was reviewed during his time as a board member.
The UTMSU board of directors informally rejected the creation of this position in previous years, due to a lack of need and budgetary concerns.. He stated it was “not agreed [upon]. Just because we felt that the expenditure was not really equal […]. There is only so much you can do in a title like that,” said Omari.
In Fakhry’s email, she responded saying: “There was a need for more campaigns work to be done and on a full-time basis. The posting went up on our website, newsletter and Charity Village, interviews were had and a person was chosen (like any standard hiring procedure).”
The hiring procedures and protocols are outlined in the UTMSU bylaws located on their website.
According to Bylaw XIV: “The Executive Committee has the right to employ unionized and contractual staff as it deems necessary for the best interest of the Union. The Executive Committee shall review their terms of employment as outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Union and the respective Union representing the Staff.”
The UTMSU policy manual states that the hiring committee for new staff consists of the UTMSU president, the vice-president internal, the vice-president equity, and two members from the board of directors.
According to Omari, it is not against any policies for staff to attend governance meetings, however, he stated it would be unusual for a hired staff member, who was not elected, to deliver presentations to the administration and thereby represent the student body.
“When you’re talking about student unions, you are talking about something that is inherently meant for students. It is meant as an organization that’s supposed to help students field their opinions, field their campaigns, and enjoy them,” said Omari.
Agbeyegbe had served as a UTMSU executive for two consecutive academic years, in 2014/2015 as the VP external and in 2015/2016 as the president.