On December 1, 2011, the highest decision-making body at the University of Toronto Mississauga, the Erindale College Council, held a meeting to decide on ancillary fee increases for parking, meal plans, and residence at the UTM campus.
At this meeting, students were in strong unison to question why increases in fees needed to be increased. These ancillary fee increases fundamentally speak to students, faculty, and administration alike as to how accessible education is at our university. At the end of this meeting, parking fees were passed, but I believe that they were passed very unfairly, and rules were not followed throughout the meeting.
There were many problems with this meeting. It was held at a time that would make it difficult for students to attend, as exams are quickly approaching, and we all need time to study and prepare for them. It is not fair to ask students to trade off their studying time to review extensive budgets that are presented at ECC meetings. These kinds of budgets take a lot of time to review, and students cannot afford that much time when they are studying for exams. This issue was brought up by several students, but disregarded by the chair each time a student brought it up.
Another aspect of this meeting that I found appalling was the manner of the chair. A chair is meant to be neutral and impartial at a meeting. This did not seem to be the case at this meeting. Professor Gordon Anderson is inexperienced in Robert’s Rules of Order, and had to keep referring to the secretary of the Council, Cindy Ferencz Hammond, when faced with any issues. This should not be the case; the chair of such a high decision-making body should have extensive experience with Robert’s Rules of Order in order to ensure that these meetings are fair and efficient.
Our chair was also extremely rude towards students; he took every opportunity to mock us when we made comments or asked questions, embarrassing many of us, and making a lot of students uncomfortable and unwilling to speak up for fear that they would be made fun of as well. Munib Sajjad, the VP External of UTMSU, spoke up during the meeting and asked that the chair stop mocking the students at the meeting, to which the chair replied, “Point taken.” This issue was even acknowledged by professors who were attending this meeting.
Of course, the biggest issue that I saw was the breaking of Robert’s Rules of Order at the very end of this meeting. At this meeting, we saw the chair allow a speaker to jump the speakers list, who then called to question the vote on the budget for the parking ancillary fee. I consider this to be stifling debate as several speakers still had important contributions to make on the topic at hand. What is more, the vote that was “called to question” was allowed to take place—despite several points of order called—after the meeting had officially ended as per the time communicated in the agenda, and announced during the meeting. For these reasons, I truly believe that both the vote and all business after the 12:45 p.m. mark should be considered invalid and should not be included in the ECC minutes.
Yet another concern of mine is the fact that the rules of the constitution were not followed. On a strictly policy basis, students took great exception to the notice given for the December 1 meeting. This agenda for the meeting was served with six days and several hours notice, meaning, in my opinion, that it did fall short of the seven days’ notice required, as stipulated in the ECC constitution. The chair was of the opinion that three hours did not make any difference, but I would argue that the minimum requirement notice of seven days is itself insufficient, making it a very sensitive rule—also given the sensitivity of the examination period. Every hour really does count. If we hand in an essay three hours late, we cannot argue that it is still handed in on the same day. If it is handed three hours after the due date, it is considered late, and we are given a late penalty. Hours matter, and so I believe that this meeting should not have been held in the first place, because the rules of the constitution were broken.
I am very concerned and disappointed with the conduct that took place at this meeting. Students are the ones paying fees and attending university, and they should be the ones who have the most impact on these kinds of decisions, and that did not happen at this meeting. I sincerely hope that the meeting minutes are reviewed and that this meeting occurs again at a time where students can actually attend and rules are actually followed.
A disappointed student,
VP Equity, UTMSU