Chants emerged on Friday night at the University of Toronto Students’ Union board meeting in opposition to a motion that cuts two staff members: clubs coordinator Vita Carlino and health and dental plan coordinator Maria Galves. Amid the protests, the motion was approved and the meeting was adjourned.
“Support our staff”, “this is out of order” and “shame” was shouted in the Galibarth Building room at U of T, as the board was about to vote for or against approving the motion that removes Carlino and Galves.
The item was part of the Services Committee minutes in March 27, which stated that the union would place an end to the terms of the health and dental plan coordinator and the clubs coordinator. It was placed within a motion to approve minutes of previous board meetings and different committee minutes.
“To be honest, I’m disgusted by yesterday’s UTSU board meeting […],” said UTMSU’s president Nour Alideeb to The Medium on Saturday. “Yesterday was the tipping point because we saw first-hand how little the UTSU executive and board cares for their 13,000 UTM members.”
According to Alideeb, with the removal of Galves, UTM students will face a likelihood of 45-minute wait times if they have questions about student care or opting-out options. She added that Galves has long helped UTM students and used to receive an average of 200 emails a day from students regarding the health and dental plans.
As for Carlino, Alideeb explained that she works with the Sexual Education Centre, the Women’s Centre, the Downtown Legal Services and other levy groups. “She is integral to ensuring that these groups are provided with administrative support in order for them to provide services, hold events, and run campaigns at UTM,” Alideeb said.
“Removing these two positions will greatly affect the way our 13,000 [students] access resources and has huge implications to our students’ mental and physical well-being,” added Alideeb.
UTSU’s current VP internal and services and the new president-elect, Mathias Memmel, cited in an email to The Medium on Saturday that based on the Collective Agreement with CUPE1281, the two positions are not terminated yet. He stated that the human resource implications of the motion will still be addressed by UTSU’s executive committee and CUPE1281.[ME1] “The motion eliminates services, but it doesn’t automatically deprive anyone of a job,” Memmel wrote. “The Collective Agreement effectively shuts the board out of HR matters, so the HR implications of this motion will be addressed by the Executive Committee, in consultation with CUPE 1281 in accordance with the Collective Agreement as necessary.”
“Yes, students will be affected by the change to the way services are offered, but students would also be affected by the UTSU running out of money and not being able to do anything, so there’s no scenario in which the broader problem doesn’t have an impact on students,” he added.
Prior to bringing the item on the Services Committees to discussion, Memmel called for an order of the day, an order that limits the debate to no discussion. He explained that there was a time constraint as the meeting room was booked until 9 p.m.
Alideeb raised a point of personal privilege saying that there are 13,000 UTM students who should understand what is happening at the meeting. The chair, Billy Graydon, stated that this was not a point of privilege. “What kind of democracy is that?” said Alideeb to The Medium in response to limiting the debate time. “How does he [Mathias] plan to fix what is broken when the tactics he uses silence members who depend on these services.”
After several arguments against Mathias’ motion by other members, the time was extended to speakers.
Susan Froom, the VP internal of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students said she was “very concerned” that if the two positions are eliminated problems will emerge between APUS and UTSU. She added that it will result in a “mess” due to the absence of the two service roles negatively impacting the students.
CUPE1281, who represent the two positions voted to be removed, also had two speakers take to the floor to speak.
“How many of you realize […] that you almost passed a motion that would’ve carried through without any discussion?” said the president of the CUPE1281, Orion Kereszteki. He warned students voting in the meeting against the motion.
“This decision is going to affect UTSU’s members. I know that the work [Maria and Vita] do is important. So your members are going to notice if they’re gone. And they’re going to wonder ‘why am I receiving worse services now,’” he added.
Fred Shilson, an executive board member at CUPE Ontario also warned against voting to remove the two positions.
“When you go to run for elections next time, your members are going to go, “Hey, I had problems accessing my benefits. How were you able to help me?” Because you voted to eliminate the person who helped me solve my problems,” said Shilson. “You need to reconsider doing this.”
Earlier in the meeting, which began shortly after 6.30 p.m., it was voted on that no live streaming or recording will be prohibited. Over an hour into the meeting, Danielle Sandhu, a member of APUS, arrived to the meeting late and began live-streaming. She was asked to leave the room and when she refused, Graydon warned her that the campus police would move her out, which he explained was based on the U of T Policy on the Disruption of Meetings.
However, Tka Pinnock, UTSU’s executive director stated that as the anti-harassment officer, no one will call the campus police.
When argued by several members at the board that such situation should not be considered, the chair confirmed that it will not happen again at other meetings.
“Things got heated in part because the board voted to disallow livestreaming,” stated Memmel in an email to The Medium. “I know that some people are uncomfortable with being filmed, but these meetings are supposed to be accessible so I definitely feel that there is a need for further conversations to happen.”
At 9.30 p.m., a motion was raised to overturn this motion and live streaming was allowed. The meeting was adjourned almost half an hour after.