Students came to discuss a number of issues at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM), but only eight were addressed before the meeting adjourned early.
The meeting, which began on Wednesday, November 18, lasted four hours and saw seven motions passed. One motion that would have changed the vice-president, operations of the SCSU from an appointed to an elected position was the only motion to fail.
VP Operations: appointed or elected?
The most contentious resolution of the meeting was a motion to change the selection of the vice-president operations position from a hired to an elected one. SCSU president Nicole Dionisio, the mover of the motion, began the discussion. She explained that the motion was proposed because the role of the vice-president operations has transitioned from being primarily business-focused role to a more services-oriented one. Dionisio said that a full-time staff member had been hired to help monitor the SCSU’s finances and operations, leaving the vice-president operations free to focus on reaching out to students, without needing a strong financial and operational background.
However, many students questioned the feasibility of the vice-president not requiring training or background in finance or management. Students listed several of the vice-president operations’ responsibilities, including accessing all financial records and presenting the budget.
Some students worried that a ‘popularity contest’ would not suffice in ensuring the capabilities of the person appointed. Furthermore, students mentioned that the voter turnout for SCSU elections is extremely low, with less than 10 per cent of the student body participating.
Govind Mohan, the resource co-ordinator of the UTSC Young Liberals and communications executive with the UTSC Film Club, and Syed Sajeed Bakht, a second-year computer science student spoke against the motion. “The SCSU is a $5 million organization, which, in the wrong hands could face appalling consequences, even without any malicious intent,” they later told The Varsity in a joint email.
The motion required a two-thirds majority vote to pass, which it did not meet. SCSU did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.
Several motions to amend the SCSU’s by-laws, including by-laws pertaining to the removal from office, committees, and executive responsibilities, all passed without much discussion. Motions for improved multi-faith space and scheduling, as well as a motion condemning the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) also passed.
The motion for a Racialized Student Collective, however, was contentious. It proposed the creation of a collective with an anti-racist mandate that would organize campaigns to combat oppressive systems, as well as provide a safe space, called the Equity Service Centre, for students to discuss their experiences.
Some students arguing against this motion were concerned about the inclusivity of the proposed space, while others worried about the opportunity cost, wondering if the space would always be active.
Those supporting the creation of this collective assured that non-racialized students wouldn’t be barred from the space and that the space in question, SL-210B, is largely under-utilized, stressing that the space would not be wasted.
Samreen Aziz argued that this space would act as a form of therapy for students. “The racialized space that the motion was referring to was to recreate a room in the Student Centre dedicated to students of ethnic minorities or of stigmatized religious background or really, any group of individuals who are facing tough times in the world,” she said, adding that the space is for “[students] who have cultural struggles between themselves and their society, who are victims to hate crimes, who feel overwhelmed by their own culture and adjusting to Canadian lifestyles, who have experienced PTSD or severe depression due to the things they or their families have experienced in war-torn countries -— it is for THESE [sic] people to sit and talk to one another to relieve themselves of stress and their frustrations.”
After further discussion, the majority voted in favour of the motion.
Five motions not discussed after losing quorum
Five motions, those calling for Syrian refugee support, for South African solidarity, for a website update, for livestreaming the SCSU AGM, and for SCSU holding an open public forum at the end of the year, were not debated or voted upon, because the meeting lost quorum. The meeting was adjourned during discussion on the motion asking for the SCSU to donate $500 to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
Aziz, the mover of the motion, was extremely upset. She believes that the SCSU should cap the AGM at four speakers per motion, saying, “The debates went on far too long and by the time my motion came up, it was the fifth hour and people just wanted to get up and leave — no one cared anymore.” Aziz said that she does not blame the SCSU, remarking that the union has been extremely supportive of her campaign.
There are three options for the remaining motions: they can be moved for discussion at the next year’s AGM, the Board of Directors can call for another General Meeting this year, or the motions can be brought to the Board of Directors who would vote on them.
Aziz said that her motion will be brought to the next board meeting, where she has been told there is a high chance it will pass.
Katie Konstantopoulos, the Sociology director for the SCSU, says, “I think another General Meeting should be called, because I think these motions are too urgent or important to leave aside for a year.”
Students react to the AGM
Renee Ball, president of the UTSC Young Liberals and an upper year representative for the Political Science Students Association believes that, overall, the meeting was conducted professionally and impartially. However, she, Aziz, Mohan, and Bakht all said that the meeting began too late and ran too long. Aziz commented that students did not anticipate the meeting lasting longer than two-to-three hours, and that the executive report and financial report reading took about two hours, not leaving enough for discussion of the motions.
Konstantopoulos was satisfied with the thoroughness of the executive report. She also praised the SCSU’s explanation of Robert’s Rules of Order prior to the meeting, saying it increased students’ access to participation in the meeting. “I think these changes really cleaned up the way the meeting was conducted, based off of comparisons to previous years; simply by changing the space and providing clarity, the overall atmosphere was more positive.”