The UTM Students Union Executive team is writing in response to three pieces published in your paper: First, your opinion piece Here we go again from last weeks issue. Second, Ms. Stefanie Marottas letter to the editor. And finally, Ms. Saaliha Maliks news article titled UTMSU denies a student attendance at CFS meeting. This letter will address all of these pieces as well as provide readers with a chance to learn the true facts of the matter which differ greatly from what has been published.
We began by addressing two facts which both the news article as well as the editorial were based on. As you will see, although the Editor-in-Chief Alain Latour dubbed these issues as facts, they can only be described as fictitious.
Firstly, the articles were based on the notion that the UTMSU executive committee refused to send Ms. Marotta to the CFS conference due to her affiliation with The Medium. In both Joey Santiago and Henry Ssalis interview with The Medium, neither of them indicated that Ms. Marottas affliation with The Medium was the reason she was refused to UTMSU as a delegate at the CFS Semi-Annual General Meeting. While her position with The Medium was discussed by the executive committee, it was only discussed initially due to the fact that most of the executive team was unaware of who Ms. Marotta was until she was referenced as a writer for The Medium.
Ms. Marottas affiliation with The Medium was also discussed since the CFS demands a separate procedure for those who wish to attend the meeting as media representatives. This became a non-issue as soon as Mr. Ssali confirmed that Ms. Marottas intention was to attend as a delegate of UTMSU as opposed to a representative of The Medium. This is a very reasonable discussion for us to have since it is not common for a writer of The Medium to be interested in attending a CFS as a delegate of UTMSU. Further, it was critical to discuss whether a conflict of interest existed in Ms. Marottas position as a media personnel and her position as a delegate of UTMSU. However, while some felt it was a grey area, this was not the reason the UTMSU executive committee chose not to send Ms. Marotta to the CFS Semi-Annual General Meeting.
The second fact which both articles alleged was that the UTMSU executive committee deemed it too expensive to send Ms.Marotta to the conference since she is white, and therefore costs more. This is unequivocally a blatant lie. All the members of the executive committee which had been interviewed by The Medium had stated that Ms. Marottas race, or the costs associated with her race, was not the reason for UTMSUs decision. Why The Medium decided to spin the story to make it appear so is beyond us, but we would like every student who read such fabrications to know that there is nothing further from the truth.
For the students who wonder why there is a cost associated with race, CFS provides a discount to students who come from backgrounds or ethnicities which are typically disenfranchised and to encourage a more diverse team of delegates. This is a CFS practice and rule, and not one which all UTMSU executives agree with.
The executives of UTMSU debated the pros and cons of sending Ms. Marotta as a delegate on the basis of Ms. Marottas experience and merit; Ms. Marotta was not involved in many UTMSU projects and events. Therefore, her attendance at the meeting would not be beneficial for her or for UTMSU. In this regard, the resources that would be spent in sending her would be more appropriated allocated to a student who was better acquainted with UTMSUs projects and events.
Mr. Henry Ssali who was referenced as stating that UTMSU executive team refused to send Ms. Marotta to the meeting because it costs more, has since apologized for his statement which was out of context. The argument that it would be better to spend funds on individuals who were better qualified was misinterpreted by Mr. Ssali and irresponsibly spread by The Medium, despite holding interviews with individuals who testified to the contrary.
The UTM Students Union has a long history of sending delegates of all ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds to various CFS meetings. Former VP UTM Vlad Glebov, as well as former VP University Affairs Marijana Josifovska, are examples of Caucasian students who attended CFS meetings on behalf of UTMSU. The UTM Students Union does not discriminate based on the color of skin, country of origin, religious affiliation or sexual orientation. Members of all backgrounds and political affiliations are more than welcome to participate in union activities. If the UTMSU committee executive had believed that Ms. Marotta was qualified to serve as a delegate, we would have sent her irrelevant of the cost.
The CFS Semi-Annual General Meeting is a four-day conference which runs all day and therefore accommodation costs must be considered. As such, we have to limit the amount of delegates we send to the meeting. Delegates to this meeting are representing the UTM Students Union and vote on matters of our interest. As such, delegates are either elected representatives (Directors, Executives or Ministers) or dedicated volunteers who have been heavily involved in the Unions activities and whom we trust to hold the common basic beliefs and philosophy of the UTM Students Union.
It should be noted that Ms. Marotta is not the first student to have been refused as a delegate, but many others have been in the past due to the same reasons. Ms. Marotta is in no fault for this, and can become an accomplished student leader. Ms. Marotta has a genuine interest in CFS and in the activities of her student union and she is encouraged to continue pursuing that interest as she obviously has great potential. It is very unfortunate that her attempt to get involved — by no fault of her own — degenerated into such messy situation.
Finally, and most importantly, we would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Ms. Stefanie Marotta for being caught in this mess. There has been much miscommunication, and though we are elected executives of the student union, we do mistakes. It was never our intention to hurt anyones feelings and we apologize deeply if this was the case. Please know that our decision was based on the aforementioned reasons, and nothing else.
UTMSU Executive Committee
Joey Santiago, Carole Au-Yueng, Vickita Bhatt, Henry Ssali, Maria Galvez, Ibrahim Hindy, Andrew Lalla