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The Varsity

The University of Toronto's
Student Newspaper Since 1880

UTSU board passes major restructuring plan

Board also rejects two outstanding grievances from spring election

By James Flynn
Published: 1:46 pm, 26 April 2014
Modified: 11 pm, 11 May 2014
under
The UTSU Board of Directors met on Thursday, April 24. JENNIFER SU/THE VARSITY
UPDATED

The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s board of directors met Thursday to pass dramatic changes to the board’s structure, which would eliminate college and most divisional directors while adding constituency directors to represent marginalized groups. The board also voted to reject two complaints over the union’s controversial spring executive elections.

The board is currently composed of the UTSU executives; Division I directors from each college, the Faculty of Arts & Science, and the Transitional Year Program; Division II directors from the professional faculties; and Division III directors from UTM.

Almost all college and divisional societies — including vocal critics such as Engineering and Trinity, who overwhelmingly voted to leave the union last year — will lose board representation. The only societies that will still have representative directors are the Transitional Year Program (TYP) and UTM.

Under the new structure, the board would be composed of 10 constituency directors, representing international students, LGBTQ students, women, racialized students, indigenous students, mature students, students with disabilites, commuters, athletics, and first year students. The new structure also adds a third at-large director position for both the arts & science and professional faculty positions. TYP will keep its one director, and UTM will now have four directors.

At a meeting of the UTSU’s Policy and Procedures Committee on April 9, Cameron Wathey, vice-president, internal & services, said that the proposal was still in its beginning stages. During the summer and fall terms, union executives plan to consult students’ societies, clubs, and service groups to solicit feedback on the proposed changes.

At Thursday’s board meeting, UTSU president Munib Sajjad said that the changes arose from the need to provide a voice for underrepresented communities.

“We, as directors of the board… could look at how we could be working better to represent students in such a wide diversity of issues,” Sajjad said, adding: “It’s evolutionary. It’s revolutionary.”

A number of college leaders expressed concern over the proposed changes, including concerns over the logistics of electing directors.

“It is disturbing to see how the UTSU has decided to address longstanding concerns,” said Benjamin Crase, outgoing co-head of Trinity College, adding: “The introduction of a pseudo-sectarian structure of governance makes little sense and is very worrisome.”

Rowan DeBues, president-elect of the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) said that the board of directors is not currently representative enough of minorities and special groups. However, he argued that the proposed board structure would assign voting rights without regard to population size.

“I understand that there are certain groups that definitely need a voice at the table due to the important issues facing them, however there are so many students that may not see themselves as fitting into these criteria,” DeBues said.

DeBues also noted that it is currently the job of college directors to represent constituents regardless of background.

The new board structure also gives the executive director, currently Sandy Hudson, signing authority, and the appointed vice-president campus life a vote on the executive committee. At the meeting Zijian Yang, the only executive candidate from the incument slate to lose, was appointed VP campus life.

The board also voted to remove the requirement for an open nomination process and one-year renewable term for the UTSU speaker. Ashkon Hashemi was reappointed to the role. Hashemi serves similar roles at a number of other unions affiliated with the Canadian Federation of Students and has worked for the UTSU in some capacity since as early as 2002.

Sajjad did not respond to requests for comment. The restructuring motion will now go to the union’s next general meeting in the fall of 2014, for final approval.

The board also voted to resolve two outstanding grievances from the recent UTSU executive election.

Since the elections in March, the union has faced increasing criticism from some students over allegation of systemic unfairness and illegal decision-making during the election.   Recently, some complainants have called on the U of T administration to step in over concerns the UTSU is acting in an undemocratic manner. On March 26, the vice-provost, students, formally requested that the UTSU preserve certain ballot boxes from the election until her investigation of the complaints is complete.

“A student society that so brazenly violates the right of its members to an open, accessible, and democratic students’ union, and that ignores its own constitution, should not receive student fees until it corrects its mistakes through concrete actions” wrote Vipulan Vigneswaran, Team Unite’s campaign manager. Vigneswaran filed two complains over the way the election was run. Both were dismissed at Thursday’s board meeting after a weeks-long grievance process.

At a grievance resolution meeting on April 11, Team Unite agreed to seek a vote of the UTSU board requesting the resignation of the 2014-2015 executive-elect as a resolution to their grievance. At Thursday’s meeting, the board rejected the request.

“The grievance procedure isn’t good at solving things, especially if the speaker says things can’t be changed. It just wasted everyone’s time. Hopefully, we can move forward with [university administration] and a compromise can be reached” said Vigneswaran.

Vigneswaran alleges that the UTSU even violated their own grievance procedure, by telling him he couldn’t speak to the media or university administration about his concerns, and if he did his case would be summarily thrown out. A new grievance procedure was adopted last year and used for the first time in this case. The procedure does not stipulate a requirement not to communicate with the media or university administration.

University administration remains tightlipped about whether they will intervene in the election. “In accordance with the Policy for Compulsory Non-Academic Incidental Fees, UTSU will be provided the opportunity to comment on the allegations and the Office of the Vice-President and Provost will undertake an assessment of the complaint. At this time, it is premature to speculate on potential outcomes,” said Michael Kennedy, a university spokesperson.

  • Disgruntled Board Member

    I think it’s very important to note that these proposals were summarily pushed through the old board with NO consultation given to the incoming board. The makeup of the incoming board meant such radical bylaw changes wouldn’t have passed (they require a 3/4ths majority), so instead the union pushed these changes through the old board to save face. Shame on the UTSU for bypassing democracy, yet again, and shame on the UTSU for rejecting legitimate amendments (like adding some of these new positions to the current board structure). I hope voters realize the disenfranchisement that the UTSU is practicing at the AGM and reject this ‘restructuring’ for the sham it is.

    • Pierre Harfouche

      Yep! What’s funnier is that the new board speifically had concerns about this on Facebook and Yolen stated there would be more discussion before it is passed, yet she voted to push it through. Insulting. Oh well this will never pass at the AGM, it needs 2/3rds and we’ve already proven we can get 50% if the membership truly wants something.

      Everyone come out, we must fight to keep the UTSU representative!

  • Pierre Harfouche

    Also, this is absolutely a hilarious turnaround for the UTSU. They use to advocate that they want smaller groups to get moer say in the Union’s procedures. Well now smaller faculties will be eclipsed by larger ones. For example: Dentistry and Pharmacy which have less students than Engineering, will need to vote for Professional Directors at Large Reps. This means that Engineers will have an overwhelming Voice for Pro Fac directors… Silly structure.

    Also, OISE and the school of theology lose all representation.

    • Bluth

      Who cares about faculties and colleges. We’re a union that represents individual members. Each member will now be their own director!

  • Koschany

    I would encourage everyone to look past the alarmist headline and understand the reasoning behind this. Of course “vocal critics” will not have seats – nor will any colleges. The UTSU represents full-time undergraduates regardless of affiliation.

    As such, the Board structure is being examined because of the incompatibilities between the college system (already encompassed by the SGRT) and the UTSU.

    Also, the Board voted to forward the recommendations to the appropriate sub-committees and finally to the AGM where everyone will vote on it. The decision was not made – it was in fact so important that the Board itself could not decide, so it was passed along to the general membership.

    Thanks to the Varsity for the article on this important topic, which hopefully inspires people to form their own opinion.

    - Cullen Brown; outgoing BOD, SMC.

    • Bluth

      Why does UTM still get 4 directors?

      • Pierre Harfouche

        Because Arts and Science and Faculties on St George still get 3 + 3. The real questions is why TYP still gets a director – especially given it is now a part of Arts and Science. Also representation for OISE students and theology students is all gone.

    • Pierre Harfouche

      cullen, the problem si that the commmittee decided to not forward to membership before everyone could get consultation on the topic. If the membership fails this board reform at the AGM, Sandy has stated that the board would nto be compliant with the new law. Essentially, the UTSU would be operating against the law… Consultation may have been able to make a proposal that most students generally agree with.

      • Cullen Brown

        Pierre, thanks for your comment.

        So, you are saying that more consultation should have occurred before the minutes of the P&P Committee were approved?

        • Pierre Harfouche

          The minutes were not approved! You guys rejected the decision by the P&PC which was to seek consultation and instead motioned to send it to the AGM.

          So you guys effectively nullified the decision of the P&PC and bound the Union to this plan. If it doesn’t pass at the AGM and the UTSU has no alternative that is complaint with the law, it’s your legacy. The cool aid tastes good doesn’t it?

          • disqus_CJfIfh5DTU

            #rekt

    • http://smcsu.com Victor Valentine

      Just a quick note Cullen, the SGRT is not in any way a binding student body. It’s not like the SGRT controls the college system in any significant way, we’re just there to correspond with each other about student events and issues regarding student politics. We’re more or less an information exchange group, and it’s difficult to compare the SGRT to UTSU.

      • Hardy Weinberg

        Agreed, comparing SGRT to utsu is like comparing Zombies to demonic possession/invasion of the body snatchers. On the surface they may seem similar but deep down one is controlled by an overlord (CFS) while the other is simply mindlessly causing havoc.

      • Cullen Brown

        Thanks for your comment Victor. To be more clear, let me say that the SGRT defines student participation based on college/faculty affiliation, while the UTSU does not.

        There are two reasons I point out this difference. First, because the Union represents students to the administration and the outside world through its legal mandate, while the SGRT does what you said.
        Second, it is my opinion that this divide is the root of the inadequacies of the current Board structure (besides its incompatibility with the CCA).

    • Rob

      Can a Board of Directors be outgoing, Cullen?

      • Koschany

        Good point. I meant to say that my term has just ended.

  • Jeebus Krist

    Glory to Eternal Chair Ashkon Hashemi!

  • Concerned Alum

    Being a former student from long ago, I try to ignore most of the stuff about UTSU I see on my news feed from the Varsity, but this is weird enough that I have to say something. I’m all for representation of marginalized students, but how do they think electing board members to specifically represent LGBTQ students, radicalized students, women, students with disabilities, etc. is going to work? Are you supposed to show up at the ballot box with a sign on your forehead saying what your sexual orientation/gender/racial identity is? Who gets to decide what counts as a ‘radicalized group’? Reminds me of when, in my last year, someone asked the Change candidate at the debate how, as a white man, he was supposed to represent marginalized students and he responded ‘I’m a gay Costa Rican Jew’. What if someone like that (from a racial minority group, but white-looking) went to vote for the ‘radicalized students’ representative and was told he/she wasn’t radicalized enough? What counts as a disability and who decides? If you have a non-visible disability, are you expected to disclose this at the ballot box? What if you are part of a marginalized group that is not on this list? International students are about the only group on their proposed list that is easy to unambiguously define, and for whom this model could work. Building inclusivity on campuses is a great cause, but putting people in hard-to-define boxes when it comes to electing a campus-wide representative body is a mind-bogglingly stupid idea. Also, how do they think this is a step away from defederation? It’s really funny how similar the far left (e.g. the UTSU) and far right (e.g. Harper) are sometimes. Both believe they have a monopoly on moral authority, and so whenever a majority of constituents disagree with them, their reaction is to focus on message control and bending the rules of democracy to preserve their advantage rather than stepping back and thinking about why people disagree with them.

    • Pierre Harfouche

      The way it works is that ANYONE can vote in ANY elections. I know this because I asked the same questions at the board meeting. Yolen, the future President, said that if she was going to vote she wouldn’t vote for the international student director because she isn’t an international student, but that would be her choice.

      So yeah… you abstain… or you vote, it becomes a functional board as a opposed to a representative board. So you vote for the person most likely to do a good job on LGBTQ issues, not the LGBTQ person. That means that if someone runs on a hate campaign – and if enough of U of T agrees with that person, they could elect him. Alternatively, it means that Engineers could run for all positions on the UTSU and granted that they can get a high enough turnout (not hard when people are abstaining left right and centre), they could control the entire board.


      Pierre Harfouche
      VP University Affairs Elect – Non incumbent slate.

      • Concerned Alum

        Thanks for the clarification, Pierre, and congrats on being the first non-incumbent elected since before I was a student! That’s a little bit better than what I thought when I read it, but still problematic, I agree, though I doubt anyone would run on a hate campaign and win realistically. On the other hand, maybe this change would solidify and formalize the fact that UTSU is an advocacy group, not a representative group, and functionally has been such for years. If that’s where it’s going, I don’t necessarily see a problem with that, but maybe then we should think about expanding the SGRT or another body as the main campus representative/student governing body, and moving UTSU’s non-advocacy-related funding (e.g. for the dental plan, some of the staff, etc.) to whichever group takes that role.

        • Beatrix Jean

          SGRT should be akin to what other students have as their undergraduate councils. I absolutely agree that they should be the main planners for Winter Welcome, pep rallies and Frosh Week.

      • Arash Ghiassi

        This is really strange. If anyone can vote for each constituency representative, then what is the way in which the elected person represents the constituency? How do LGBTQ students, for instance, get a voice at the table when the LGBTQ director is elected by everyone else? This does not give the underrepresented groups any more representation. Rather, it hijacks their identity to give legitimacy to some elected person whom the other electors (being in the majority) think best represents their interests, whether or not that is really the case.
        It seems that rather than making the board members representative of or accountable to anyone, they are just getting new portfolios and responsibilities, without an election process that is suitable for those responsibilities.

      • tadsony

        It’s utterly ridiculous that the board should focus primarily on some groups to the detriment of others.

        It’s repugnant, anti-democratic – and possibly illegal.

        Union membership should be voluntary, not mandatory.

  • Michael Scott

    I would echo many of the concerns already raised. This structure undoubtedly gives some groups disproportionate representation (e.g., significant over-representation for TYP, virtually no representation for TST).

    Furthermore, this moves the UTSU into a more “winner take all” system. Presuming slates continue to play a role in UTSU elections (which seems likely), this proposal will make it essentially impossible for independent candidates to contest and win elections (because, it would be extremely difficult for an independent candidate to fight the resources of a slate when faced with such a large electorate). Further, it also diminishes the chances of any members of the losing slate being elected (many voters will vote for candidates from a single slate and since most positions are being voted on by the entire electorate, it is much more likely for one slate to sweep the elections). The net result is the UTSU Board will become more of an echo-chamber, leading to inferior decision-making.

  • Hardy Weinberg

    As a white, able-bodied, straight, male student from an upper middle class family going into their 4th year let me say these changes are dangerous for both the UTSU and the student population. As many of you know that for the past 2 years i have been actively involved in student politics, by commenting in the varsity, on twitter and facebook. Sharing my opinions and sending harsh criticism to those who hurt students. And yes after my 4th year i was planning to take a 5th year and run for UTSU against the incumbents and those who dare to challenge my awesomeness. With these marginalized community focused positions, Liberals like me have no space to run in the utsu, thus I feel discriminated (and unsafe with the likely increase in CCTV cameras). For these reasons alone the university should withhold fees from the UTSU, otherwise they will get some angry phone calls from some of my family friends who donate generously to the university. Next I was plan to converting a successful year in UTSU into a post-undergrad job with the CFS. Now that Ashkon Hashemi can no longer be fired and has shown no sign to move on with his life since 2002, that is another job and future career denied to a regular UofT student like myself. The only way people like me can now get a job after graduation is if Ashkon croaks.

    These changes to utsu structure speaks to broader issues of how UTSU/CFS are out of touch with reality. The UTSU is forcing marginalized community to identify themselves and run for specific roles in UTSU that is honestly not meant for them and creates more race baiting and discrimination. Look at reality and look at the best political shows on TV like Homeland, Game of Thrones and House of Cards. What do you see? People like me. Why? Because we know how to run things. Not to say marginalized people have no role, such as Freddy in House of cards and Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones.

    With that being said, it is time that I and others get together and start early preparing a slate to bring UTSU back in line with Canadian values instead of the radicalism that has taken a stranglehold on it. This new slate will be called “Original UofT”, a name I took from the “Washington Redskins Original American’s Foundation”. I felt the Washington Redskins handled the issues of marginalized communities the best, by setting up a feel good foundation controlled by people like me to help a marginalized community, yet maintain their historic name. We need to restore UTSU to it’s old glory, by returning it to the hands of original UofTers who represent canadian values and understand how the university works and how to get things done for students like me and those who are marginalized. Please feel free to comment below if you want to join the “Original UofTers”

    • Bluth

      You’re a fucking moron. Graduate and get the fuck out of here.

      • Hardy Weinberg

        Please channel your strong dislike of Ashkon Hashemi to something useful like “Original UofT”. We need passionate people like you who are real 4-5 year undergraduate students who just want to see the old fogeys finally graduate.

        • Cassandra Taylor

          5-year undergrad? How fucking STUPID can a person be, lol?

        • Hard-lyNO

          What is “Canadian”? On behalf of anybody that is not a white straight male I strongly disagree. While I don’t think the way the UTSU is handling this is fair/right- your “Canadian” mentality needs a serious reality check…bro

    • Julie Z

      Although I, too, believe that this new proposed structure could backfire and force students to marginalize themselves, I STRONGLY disagree with your assertion of superiority. As a female, non-white student, I can’t help but feel completely offended by your statement that leadership roles are “honestly not meant for [people like me]“. Additionally, I feel you have skewed the meaning of what it means to be Canadian. I am a proud Canadian who maintains an ability to embrace multiculturalism, diversity and acceptance. UofT can still be glorious without being a caucasian, male-centric institution.
      Let’s not go back in time, shall we?

      And seriously, you’re using TV shows as support for your argument, after 4 years of university?

      • Rob

        *Whoosh*

      • Beatrix Jean

        LOL do you live under a rock? Hardy’s the ubertroll… anyone who has kept up with election-related things and UofT student politics would know that. People like you ruin satire for the rest of us.

  • Sam Cherniak

    AND THE UTSU WILL BE ORGANIZED INTO THE FIRST GALACTIC EMPIRE

  • Bluth

    Is the photo used in the article from 2014 or is it a stock photo from 2007?

    #moveon

  • Karl Marx

    PC Culture has now officially climbed up its own arsehole.

  • Concerned Alum

    In case anyone missed this, this story has made it into the National Post. Small disclaimer: A quick review of this columnist’s past work suggests she seems to lean to the right a bit on many issues, but in this case I think she’s more or less spot on: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/05/07/robyn-urback-u-of-t-student-union-moves-ahead-with-harrowingly-stupid-equity-plan/

  • Toronto

    Hahaha my goodness. This is one of the worst ideas I have ever seen. I am so glad I am gone. Let me second what that one commenter said about this giving false claims of legitimacy to represent marginalized groups. What if someone is both a woman and racialized? I promise you at least one person could be represented by every single representative. The racialized, LGBTQ, female international student who commutes and is in first year is not that hard to imagine. Who is meant to represent her interests? What about when concerns overlap?
    Let’s say all of these marginalized groups have difficulty integrating into campus life, as is often the case in our society. Who would they approach to solve these issues? Would they go to the first year representative on days they felt most like a first year? How about if they do not feel any kinship with the person elected to represent them as a racialized student? That’s a bigger barrier to overcome than not seeing eye to eye with your college’s representative – at least then your entire cohort isn’t being defined by the words and actions of one person.
    God, this place is crazy.

  • Ernie Valdez

    Astonishing. This is a complete disgrace. It is a blatant attempt to silence the voices of straight males or anyone that doesn’t fit into these arbitrary categories. Every student who believes in fairness and in not segregating and tribalizing the university campus should rally against this fascist proposal.

  • MGTOW 4Ever

    Well according to page 33 of U of T 2013 enrollment of students (All counted) is 82986 where Females are 46076 or roughly 55% and 36910 of 44% are male doesn’t that make all male students a Visible Minority? Since the enrollment stats of each race is not counted or shown, its clearly visible that the White Male is a minority on Campus and is Mathematically True compared to White Females.(Demographics of Canada)

    So technically they need to make a room for the White Male Minority representation.

    Thus by that logic shouldn’t White Females are not entitled to representation.. You know Privilege and such.

    Has any one actually looked at the Demographics at U of T.

    h t tp://www.utoronto.ca/about-uoft/quickfacts/factsandfigures/Facts___Figures_2013.htm

    • Rob

      You’re embarrassing the (very valid) opposition here and not helping one iota.

      • Facepalm

        Of course. Who gives a shit about white men? Certainly not you.

        • Rob

          You caught me. I don’t give a shit about myself at all.

          • http://menbeproud.org Robert Brockway

            Do you agree that a group that constitutes 44% of the student body is a minority in that student body?

            Is a group that constitutes 56% of the student body a minority in that student body?

          • Rob

            Oh, this is fun. Yes, please, lead me to socratic enlightenment.

            To question 1: Generally, yes.

            To question 2: No.

            Do I get a gold star now?

            The UTSU isn’t actually saying women are a minority. They’re saying they’re an oppressed group historically. Argue *that* point all you want (which is dumb to argue against, but whatever), but don’t start embarrassing yourself by pointing to enrollment figures and mischaracterizing the UTSU’s position.

            I hope you realize that seeing people engaging in this kind of petty bullshit fake-oppression shit is the only reason idiot proposals like this UTSU one manage to get any traction at all. Stop with your fake-victim shit, man. Anyone who has ever posted “http://www.reddit.com/r/MensRi… is highly recommended.” on any forum is probably a horrible person. That shit is the laughing stock of the internet.

            You know how intelligent Republicans saw Sarah Palin being interviewed in the presidential elections and thought, “Oh god, this one little twisted group is going to be highlighted, associated with us, and totally sink our ship and drag us all down with them?” The Men’s Rights Movement is the Sarah Palin of the anti-UTSU crowd. Please get lost.

          • http://menbeproud.org Robert Brockway

            Do you speak this way to people face to face? I hope not or you’d be a very lonely person.

            I interact with people online the way I interact with them offline. Oh well. Have a good life.

          • EqualityEd

            Women aren’t necessarily a oppressed group nor are men. This oppression seems to be more about whether or not we care about the problems facing some particular group rather than some objective test being applied to all that is relevant to most or all of the supposedly ‘oppressed’ group.

            You are on the side of privileged people fighting for privilege. You use the language of oppression of a source of undeserved moral authority over others rather than a path of liberation for all. We really need your generation of power hungry SJW to shut up before you do anymore damage to the proud legacy of human rights activism that came before you.

          • MGTOW 4Ever

            Historically women were what? Oh RLY, I don’t know about you but I would have traded any position with a woman in the passed history. Hey stay at home take care of the house and kids while the husband works him self to death on the farm, in the mine, soldiering etc.. Women are such oppressed majority they that men still have the privilege of 94% of all injuries and death at work. Or how about the world flips its shit when Boko Haram kidnaps a bunch of girls, when Boko Haram butchers 50 boys no one bats an eye lash. Or When 200 boys died or had massive medical issue from botched circumcisions in South Africa, no one gives a flying rats ass. Or when over 50 thousand boys are forced to go to Muslim school to study Koran and then are on the streets starving and begging. Or In Afghanistan boys are raped just because.
            If you think Women are the oppressed you need to get your head check for stupid, because if you indeed graduated in Math from U of T then you sure don’t know how to interpret RAW Statistical Data and I fear the Mathematics department at U of T is one step below a brain damaged monkey.

          • Ryan

            I’ve gotta side with Rob here. While what you’re saying probably isn’t false (I admit I skimmed it), it also doesn’t seem particularly relevant to this article.

            The argument shouldn’t be that men should have more representation than women. We should be focusing on the fact that BOTH genders should have representation; something that this new structure does not guarantee.

            You’re both on the same side here, we’ll all get more done if we focus on the right issues.

          • ZimbaZumba

            “Historically Oppressed” how would one evaluate that meaningfully for such a large demographic? It is jingoistic hogwash to rally the troops. Bernays would be proud of you.

      • MGTOW 4Ever

        You have the reasoning and logic of 3 year old. Your rebuttal is empty. You fail to debunk actual stats from the University itself. So I guess you must be a graduate of Feminist Mathematics at U of T.

        • Rob

          Yes. I am a graduate of feminist mathematics at U of T.

  • tadsony

    This is a highly discriminatory action and it could be illegal.

  • boscotung

    I’ve been a UofT student since 2004, and this is the dumbest decision I’ve ever seen. UTSU has ALWAYS felt really disconnected from students, doing whatever they want and overemphasizing on LGBQT rights compared to anyone else. You ADD the voice of marginalized groups, in a way that doesn’t keep marginalizing them, rather than ‘revolutionize’ and ‘replace’ current structures that are working actually quite fine for students to relate to.

    Providing a voice from underrepresented communities FROM a majority elected leader, is still NOT getting that voice heard! Getting that voice requires LISTENING to students from all spheres, not counter-marginalizing others to be heard.

  • Toronto

    One other thing – what happens to the gay white male who would prefer not to out themselves in order to receive services? Forcing someone to self-identify and effectively out themselves to a person who was elected by the majority of the school, not the majority of the specific cohort, is plain wrong.

    • Toronto

      Based on the facebook comment thread on Munib’s page, there is more to be said on this subject.
      No sane person (possessing privilege or not) is arguing that MORE representation is bad. In fact, most students would love MORE representation. This proposal does not accomplish that stated goal.
      This is not about white, heterosexual males denying their privilege. It is about students fundamentally opposed to the proposed idea. On that note, let’s break this idea down while noting its pros and cons.
      College Representation v Diverse Representation
      I am unsure how to characterize this kind of representation, but it certainly celebrates diversity on campus – a decidedly positive achievement. With that in mind, we’ll call it diverse representation. Students are disappointed and frustrated by the fact that they are not gaining this diverse representation. They are, in fact, losing college representation.
      Most students interact with U of T through their chosen College. Frosh Week, Registrar Meetings, and Convocation are all done through College Representation. Is this not viewed as a necessary form of representation in the Union?
      Basis of Diverse Representation
      What makes this proposal all the more troubling is the make-up of this diverse representation. Marginalized groups on campus are not gaining a voice. A select few of each margnialized group’s most politically adept students will have the opportunity to campaign for the votes of every student. How, exactly, does that limit the effects of white privilege that plagues society?
      The incumbent slate and its constituents seem to be convinced that this proposal takes steps towards stopping oppression. The reality, however, is that marginalized groups will have less of a voice in picking their own elected reprentative.
      The elected representative addressing women’s issues on campus will likely have to appeal to the 45% of men on campus who will have a say in the matter. The elected representative addressing racialized students’ issues on campus would benefit from the support of the white, heterosexual, male “masses” that occupy and oppress because that’s how democratic elections work. Does anyone honestly expect this process to elect the most qualified individual to represent the interests of marginalized students?
      The fact that the Union can’t seem to understand this very basic point – allowing the whole school vote to pick a representative for ALL women or ALL racialized students or ALL LGBTQ students does not mean you are giving marginalized students a voice.

  • Aji H

    This seems to be the most recent article on this dramatic decision by the UTSU. It has been getting serious backlash in other media outlets and internet forums as of yesterday. The President of the UTSU has made some very strange remarks on his own facebook profile last month that have been dug up recently. Dear ‘The Varsity’, I think it’s your turn (and duty as specialized media outlet) to be on top of the news and publish a follow-up story.

  • Concerned Alum

    By the way, in case anyone missed this, Munib Sajjad, in a vitriolic thread in response to the National Post article said: ‘And also, heterosexual white males don’t need representation. They used to have it, it was called the Klu Klux Klan’. Sana Ali’s comments about her experience on his team are starting to make a lot of sense. I hope Munib has got a CFS job lined up, because this comment is already going viral (it’s on Robyn Urback’s twitter feed) and my guess is he’s about to become a pariah in the real world.

    • Concerned Alum

      Related to this (though not quite as bad), here is an article from 2008 where Sandy is quoted likening anti-abortion views to white supremacist views. http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/we-might-just-might-all-be-nazis/

      To be clear, I am resolutely pro-choice, but also recognize that this, unlike white supremacy, is a contentious debate with well-meaning morally upstanding people on both sides of it. People (apparently including Sandy and Munib) who try to suppress the voices of people who disagree with them seem very ill-suited to both democratic governing bodies and academic institutions. Thus, a body like UTSU, which is supposed to be a constructive member of both of these categories, seems particularly ill-suited to their current modi operandi. I hope they both can move on (especially Sandy, who has been there a long time) and gain some real world perspective.

  • Yannick Descharmes

    This is so impossibly stupid in so many ways it can only lead to campus-wide defederation from UTSU. I can see no other alternative. Until then, we must find some way to withhold fees from UTSU if we do not receive adequate representation. Aside from the utter, sheer, and harrowing idiocy of this, what are the many straight, white males supposed to do under this new system?

  • Yannick Descharmes

    By the way, there is no way this will come to fruition and be official as it is, even for UTSU, a new low. I don’t think this will ever be anything more than a footnote in UTSU’s recent legacy of alienation and mismanagement of democracy. On the bright side it may finally mobilise UofT’s student body to become involved and speak out – or more realistically it will turn off the last few of us who actually tried to view UTSU as a respectable and serious entity.