UTSU’s upcoming special general meeting, scheduled for the end of the month, is slated to discuss the remaining student-submitted motions on the agenda of the union’s annual general meeting, which took place last October.
After failing to ratify a new board structure during UTSU’s AGM last October, UTSU held a SGM last November focusing on passing a board structure compliant to changes made in the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. A board structure was ratified at the November meeting, leaving student-submitted motions on the union’s AGM agenda unaddressed.
Scheduled for January 28, the third UTSU general meeting this academic year will consider 13 student-submitted motions, as listed on the meeting’s agenda.
Motions on the CFS
Motioned by U of T student Stephanie Spagnoulo, a proposal has been put forward calling on the UTSU to consider leaving the Canadian Federation of Students and strike a committee investigating the relations between the union and the CFS every year that the UTSU remains a CFS member.
Founded in 1981, the CFS is Canada’s largest student advocacy group. Over 80 student unions across Canada are members of the CFS.
In an email to The Medium, Daman Singh, UTSU’s University College director, explained that in order to leave the CFS, a petition must be signed by 20 percent of students in order to hold a referendum on whether to leave the organization. When entering the CFS, a petition must be signed by 10 percent of union members.
“This is a clear example of a corporation intentionally making it more difficult for one to revoke their membership than it is for them to sign up for membership,” wrote Singh.
At the CFS annual general meeting held last November, Singh submitted a motion to lower the referendum threshold to 15 percent instead of 20 percent of members.
“I was interested in lowering the threshold because I believe having fair and democratic bylaws will encourage healthy participation in the federation from the members,” Singh said. “I also felt that this was a necessary step the federation should have taken to address the growing disdain amongst members. Unfortunately, the motion failed.”
As worded in the motion listed on the SGM agenda, Spagnoulo refers to the CFS as “inefficient” and that it “restricts the democratic process”.
Supporters of the motion include UTSU Victoria University director Steve Warner, who explained the need to review UTSU’s membership to the CFS.
“We pay approximately $700,000 in yearly membership fees, as well as about $100,000 of our health and dental fees—about one percent of our premium each year—to the CFS,” said Warner in an email to The Medium. “It would be inappropriate and poor fiscal management to not routinely evaluate what is being done with our money and whether or not we wish to continue paying the CFS levy.”
Among other motions on the agenda is one moved by Singh, proposing that UTSU stand in solidarity with the students at Cape Breton University after a Cape Breton University Student Union faced bankruptcy following a lawsuit with the CFS.
Electronic vs. paper
Moved by Natalie Petra, an executive for the Arts and Science Student Union, an item on the agenda is calling for the availability of computerized and paper ballots at the polls during UTSU elections.
In an interview with The Medium, Petra said she wanted to improve accessibility during elections, claiming, “Not all students have access to a computer at home.”
According to Petra, the goal is not to eliminate paper ballots—which according to her would still be available to students at the polls—but instead, the motion is intended to give all students more options and increase accessibility. Petra also expressed the need for election poll staff to be trained to use software as well as undergo disability training.
Also on the agenda, a motion moved by Hashim Yussuf, a member of UTMSU’s board of directors, proposes that UTSU allow those who do not have access to a computer, do not live on campus, or do not have access to online voting, be given an option to use paper ballots at the polls.
No Means No campaign
Madina Siddiqui, president of the St. George Afghan Students’ Association, has put forward a motion against sexual violence, asking UTSU to roll out a “No Means No” campaign to challenge and stand against all means of sexual violence including assaults, harassments, acquaintance rape, and dating and gendered violence.
According to Siddiqui, the “No Means No” campaign has existed for years, has stood up for the rights of women of colour, and has addressed issues of sexual, cultural, and gendered violence.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of the conversations on campus around consent, sexual violence, and rape culture fail to consider or center the experiences of racialized and indigenous women,” said Siddiqui. “This includes within student groups that have popped up, with administration, even in the campus press.”
Siddiqui explained that the reason behind this motion is that there have been discussions around the UTSU to stop this campaign. As of press time, The Medium has not verified these claims.
“I hear oftentimes that we should be focusing on ‘Yes Means Yes’ but yes doesn’t always mean yes, whereas no always means no—there are many ways that people can say no without explicitly saying no. This campaign is valuable in educating about consent,” said Siddiqui.
Also moved by Siddiqui is a motion calling for UTSU clubs and service groups to be part of the annual budgeting process of UTSU.
Justin Bieber motion
Listed on the original agenda advertised by UTSU earlier this month was a motion proposing that UTSU congratulate Justin Bieber as the artist “has undertaken a dramatic rehabilitation process” and “is now producing bangers”.
Originally moved by ASSU president Abdullah Shihipar, the motion had been removed by the time the comprehensive agenda was published online last week. Shihipar requested it to be removed with concerns that people would be upset since it was not a “serious” motion.
Additional motions listed on the agenda include the endorsement of Black Lives Matter by UTSU, increasing accessibility to UTSU for professional faculty students, accessible computer labs for the St. George campus, and a non-binding motion calling for eliminating the tuition fees.
The SGM will take place on January 28 at Sydney Smith Hall, room 2118 on the St. George campus.