When UTM student Ehsan Motamedi approached the podium repeatedly at last years AGM to voice his concern over the collection of proxy votes, many in the room felt he was simply stirring up a storm over nothing, that he was simply acting out his own agenda against the UTM Student Union. There were of course a handful of students who backed his claims that the proxy forms were indeed illegitimately distributed, i.e. certain students were given shorter deadlines for submission than others, and that blank, nameless proxy forms were in the possession of some Union execs, despite the ruling that only one form can be signed out by any student, and that they must do so in person. In the end, nothing came of this accusation. The claims and accusations were dismissed each and every time they were raised.
When I arrived at the South Building Council Chambers last Wednesday, I found no dissenters like Mr. Motamedi from the year before — this time, things ran smoothly, without constant interruption. Yet, the mishandling of proxy votes which he and others spoke of was apparent. I personally witnessed a former UTMSU exec hand a blue voter card with the number eight (votes) to a student who already had one himself; his card represented only one vote. The rest of what reporters from The Medium saw and heard are already stated in this weeks front page article (AGM proxy-gate ).
If you ask the student union execs, theyll probably have a plethora of reasons for doing what they did, if of course they dont deny the allegations in the first place. On the top of that list is their premise for attaining quorum. Quorum refers to the minimum number of members, or in this case, voters necessary to conduct the proceedings of an official meeting. For the UTMSU AGM, quorum is set at 40 voters, meaning 40 student voters must be in attendance for the meeting to proceed. As well, there must be a minimum of 200 votes in attendance.
The Union execs may tell you that they collected proxy forms on behalf of students because they needed to make quorum. They may tell you that they collected the signatures on each form legitimately, and that they had the consent of each and every student they signed out a proxy form for. While that may or may not be true, the point of contention here lies in the fact that the execs had access and were in possession of more than ten signatures, i.e. more than one form, which contrasts what is written in their constitution and by-laws.
Needless to say, this creates a huge discrepancy. Students like myself are only limited to one form and ten signatures. Unlike the UTMSU execs, I am prohibited from obtaining forms on behalf of my friends. If I wish to vote against some of the motions at the AGM, I have only my maximum of eleven votes to use, whereas the UTMSU has armed itself with over 500 — collected by only eight to ten of them. Whose voices are UTMSU representing now?
Fittingly, UTMSU VP Equity Saaliha Malik submitted a Letter to the Editor this week detailing the strategic and questionable goings-on of the UTSU (St. George) AGM held last Monday. It makes no sense to me that UTM, who themselves make accessible the minutes of all their meetings to every student, would vote against the St. George students plea for the same level of transparency. From my discussions with those who attended that meeting, UTSUs rationale is that their minutes contained various campaign strategies which they did not wish for administration to have access to. Well then why not vote or simply arrange for such details to be omitted from the meetings altogether? Discuss them under a different, more closed setting perhaps. Why make something that should be rightfully accessible to students inaccessible simply because it inconveniences you? More significantly, why would UTMSU, who openly and repeatedly declares to represent students, vote against what students want? Is this in student solidarity, or are we really talking about Student Union solidarity here?
Ms. Maliks letter outlines the hard work put in and the countless sacrifices made by the UTM Student Union thus far. I do not contend with this claim at all, having witnessed for myself the hours and dedication each and every executive has put into their job since the summer. Initiatives like the Green Experience week and the effort put into the November 5 Drop Fees Day of Action are perfect examples of some of the accomplishments of the Union this year. Yet, you have to wonder why that same amount of hard work could not be put into ensuring quorum for the AGM, the right way.