The dates for the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) executive and board of directors elections have been moved up following a dispute between the UTSU and the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU).
Email correspondence between UTMSU President Nour Alideeb and UTSU Vice-President Professional Faculties Ryan Gomes in mid-January, which was obtained by The Varsity, suggests that the two were working to schedule the elections so that they would be held concurrently.
Per the Associate Membership Agreement between the UTSU and UTMSU, the unions are to use their “best efforts to ensure their respective annual general elections and by-elections are held concurrently.”
The emails show Alideeb requesting March 21–23 for the UTMSU election due to scheduling issues with other dates. Alideeb notes in her email that “the beginning of March will be difficult for [UTMSU]” and asks Gomes if the UTSU could schedule their elections earlier than originally planned.
In an email from January 19, Gomes confirms that the UTSU would schedule its elections for March 28–30 to ensure UTMSU could hold its elections March 21–23.
When the UTMSU published its election dates online and in posters distributed throughout campus, the election dates were instead listed as March 7–9.
“In my capacity as ERC Chair, I was required to consult with the UTMSU as to when their election dates would be, and was informed that they hoped to utilize March 21st-23rd,” said Gomes in an email to The Varsity.
Gomes continued: “As those were the dates we were originally intending to use, we selected March 28th-30th so that the elections would overlap… It was shocking and frankly disturbing to find out that we had been lied to and that the UTMSU was going to run their elections on March 7th-9th instead. As such, we are attempting to amend our dates so as to still honour the Associate Membership Agreement.”
Alideeb told The Varsity that she had reservations about the language in Gomes’ emails, and disagrees with his assessment of the situation.
“Ryan Gomes has taken to personally attacking me, accusing me of being deliberately misleading, communicating ‘a blatant lie’ and acting in ‘bad faith,’” she said.
Gomes said that the UTSU plans to file a grievance with the UTMSU on the basis of breach of contract.
“The Agreement remains in place, and the detailed dispute resolution process can be invoked by either party at any time,” Alideeb told The Varsity. “In order words, there is a clear mechanism for UTSU to proceed under the Associate Membership Agreement if it is of the view that UTMSU has breached that Agreement.”
Gomes stated that in emails to Alideeb that he was “shocked” and “frustrated” to learn that the UTMSU set dates that differed from the original agreement and noted that the UTSU would be taking “immediate action” to rectify the matter.
In emails between Alideeb and Gomes, Alideeb stated that she “[had] best interest in mind for [her] 13,000 members. She went on to say, “You should feel ashamed of accusing me of lying and acting in bad faith because I have consistently put my best foot forward.”
According to Alideeb, the fact that the nomination period for the UTSU elections overlapped with the voting period for the UTMSU elections led to voter fatigue last year.
“The proposed schedule would have had the UTSU campaigning period overlap with the UTMSU voting dates, which would likely worsen the problem of voter fatigue, without providing any added benefit, such as the sharing of resources,” she told Gomes.“To avoid voter fatigue and to ensure maximum participation in both the UTMSU and UTSU elections, the UTMSU [Elections and Referenda Committee] proceeded with the voting dates listed on the flyer you sent me.”
“I recommend you keep the voting dates as they are unless you further want to marginalize the voices of UTM students… I implore you to stop searching for reasons to undermine our Associate Membership Agreement. I have tried to put aside any antipathy shown by UTSU to UTMSU for the betterment of our members and to improve the relationship between the UTMSU and UTSU, which we all know is strained. But this is ridiculous.”
Gomes confirmed with The Varsity that the UTSU held an emergency board meeting on February 3, “in order to amend the election dates to March 14-16.”
As the UTMSU has already published a notice of their election, they are no longer able to amend their dates.