UTSU board transition meeting met with protests

Protestors call for end to lawsuit against Sandy Hudson, oppose union's plans to cut staff

UTSU board transition meeting met with protests

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors concluded its transition meeting amidst several disruptions from activists protesting the union’s lawsuit against former Executive Director Sandy Hudson and the union’s plans to reduce services and eliminate two staff positions.

As the outgoing Board members of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) met in Woodsworth College, they were met with protests from the “Save our Services, Support our Staff” campaign, as well as supporters of CUPE 1281, the union that represents full time staff at the UTSU, and the Black Liberation Collective (BLC).

When protesters entered the room, Speaker Billy Graydon mentioned that during the meeting only Board members had speaking rights and asked the protesters to “keep the disruptions to a minimum.” A motion introduced later in the meeting was passed to grant speaking rights to all those present at the meeting, including non-Board members.

Upon the passing of this motion, protesters made statements in support of Hudson. Protesters praised Hudson’s work on campus and her commitment to helping students.

The union sued Hudson in September 2015, alleging that she was improperly issued overtime pay. Hudson countersued in December 2015, alleging hostilities from incoming executives at that time.

After the first speaker, former UTMSU executive Melissa Theodore, finished her statement, another protester began speaking, drawing an interjection from Graydon. Protesters continued speaking and chanting amid protests from Graydon, who threatened to adjourn the meeting. He carried this out as the protesters chanted “drop the lawsuit now.”

Upon the adjournment of the outgoing Board of Directors meeting and in the interim between that and the meeting for incoming Board members, unmediated discussions took place between many individuals in the room. Protesters said that they would be present to protest at future meetings of the UTSU Board of Directors while Faizan Akbani, an outgoing Pro-Fac Director at Large, told them that a motion was on the agenda to drop the lawsuit against Sandy Hudson.

“If you end this meeting, the lawsuit will still be there,” said Akbani to the protesters.

Chimwemwe Alao, incoming Vice-President Equity, encouraged discussion and iterated that he respected what the protesters were doing. In response to this, Michelle Mabira, President of the African Students Association, said “if you respect us, then why did you run with Mathias?” referencing incoming UTSU President Mathias Memmel.

At 12:30 p.m., the meeting for the incoming Board of Directors was called to order. It should be clarified that these were two different meetings with two separate agendas.

Protesters from the previous meeting were again present at the new meeting, where a motion was once again passed to grant speaking rights to all individuals present in the room. Protesters continued to read statements in support of Hudson while criticizing the UTSU’s plans to eliminate Vita Carlino and Maria Galvez’s positions.

Eventually, a motion was passed to discuss whether to drop the lawsuit against Sandy Hudson, during which Memmel went into detail about the lawsuit after consulting with legal counsel.

Memmel offered to move the meeting in camera, which drew protest as non-Board members who were present wanted to hear about the lawsuit from Memmel.

Jose Wilson, who is the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) Representative, subsequently moved that the UTSU should hire a lawyer for a second opinion on the lawsuit. The requirements of this motion state that this lawyer should be Black, have a background in equity and employment law, and be appointed by the Board of Directors. The motion also states that the UTSU should consult the Black Liberation Collective in its decision. The motion passed with a simple majority.

Once discussion on the lawsuit ended, the meeting was called to a 15 minute recess, after which the Board of Directors went through items on the agenda. These included the transfer of signing authority, election of a finance committee, and discussion of a motion submitted by the Selkirk College Students’ Union to the Canadian Federation of Students’ National General Meeting.

After Emmanuela Alimlim asked for clarification on the status of whether or not the UTSU will lay off Carlino and Galvez, the meeting was moved in camera so that the Board could speak about matters privately. Memmel told The Varsity that the meeting lost quorum while in camera, and subsequently adjourned.

This story is developing, more to follow.

Motions to drop lawsuit, postpone services cuts, on agenda for final UTSU board meeting

Meeting to take place April 29

Motions to drop lawsuit, postpone services cuts, on agenda for final UTSU board meeting

The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) final board of directors meeting of this school year, scheduled for April 29, will feature two highly contentious motions concerning the union’s lawsuit against former Executive Director Sandy Hudson and the proposed cuts to services provided by two UTSU staff members.

The motion to end the lawsuit against Hudson was submitted by Jackie Zhao, Vice-President Internal for the UTMSU and the UTMSU designate for the UTSU. Zhao’s motion, if approved, would have the UTSU offer to drop its claim in exchange for Hudson dropping her counterclaim. Zhao also ran for Vice-President Internal with the We the Students slate during the most recent UTSU election cycle.

The UTSU commenced legal proceedings against Hudson in September 2015, alleging that Hudson was improperly issued severance pay amounting to $247,726.40. In addition to that amount, the union is also seeking $200,000 in damages, claiming that Hudson deliberately destroyed confidential information. Hudson filed a countersuit against the union in December 2015, alleging hostilities from the incoming UTSU executives at that time.

In the motion, Zhao characterizes the lawsuit as one that “perpetuates and contributes to anti-Black racism within the UTSU, UofT, and the broader community.” Zhao also calls for an independent review and “critical analysis” to “involve communicating with Black students and student groups for the purpose of understanding the way the lawsuit has negatively impacted them.” Similar requests have previously been made by the Black Liberation Collective, a group that held a protest regarding the lawsuit at the UTSU office in October 2016.

UTMSU Director Felipe Nagata has also filed a motion to “postpone the cessation of services” provided by Clubs and Service Groups Coordinator Vita Carlino and Health and Dental Plan Coordinator Maria Galvez, who are two of the UTSU’s full-time staff. The UTSU’s Services Committee voted to end these services on March 27 and the union intends to eliminate these positions.

Vice-President Internal and incoming President Mathias Memmel has claimed that the union would reach a deficit of $1.5 million by 2022, and $2.5 million by 2027 if these positions are not eliminated. The preamble of Nagata’s motion states, “the incoming board members have not been brought up to date on finances of union and the role of these services,” and that the union “has not shared or consulted ANY divisional groups and stakeholders of these services.”

Opponents to these proposed cuts held protests against the union at the Annual Ratification Meeting and the March 31 board meeting.

The April 29 board meeting is scheduled to take place at 10:00 a.m. at Woodsworth College.

UTSU Annual Ratification Meeting disrupted by protests

Protesters oppose union's plan to end services provided by two staff members

UTSU Annual Ratification Meeting disrupted by protests

On April 19, protesters disrupted the UTSU’s Annual Ratification Meeting (ARM) in support of Clubs and Service Groups Coordinator Vita Carlino and Health and Dental Plan Coordinator Maria Galvez — two full time UTSU staff members who administer services that the UTSU intends to eliminate in the upcoming year.

Under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA) and the UTSU bylaws, the union is required to hold a general meeting to ratify the results of the results of the elections.

An information picket outside of the meeting was organized by members and supporters of CUPE 1281, which represents staff workers at the UTSU; the demonstrators held posters and chanted: “The students, united, will never be defeated!” and “solidarity!” during their demonstration.

Representatives from CUPE 1281 allege that the UTSU may be violating the collective bargaining agreement between the two entities should it choose to move forward with the reduction of staff. Article 15, subsection 00 of the agreement states that, “There shalt be no reduction in the workforce without a corresponding reduction in work required.” In an interview on CIUT 89.5 FM’s We Are U of T, CUPE 1281 President Orion Keresztesi said that “the collective agreement clearly lays out that any kind of layoff needs to be a last resort.”

Mathias Memmel, the UTSU’s Vice-President Internal and Services and incoming President, said in an email statement to The Varsity that “the UTSU won’t be able to provide the same level of service–we can’t afford to,” in reference to services provided by the Health and Dental Coordinator, Clubs and Services Coordinator, and now-vacant Financial Coordinator roles.

He confirmed that coverage provided to students under the Health and Dental plan would not change and that clubs would still receive the same amount of funding.

“[While] having multiple people provide the same service is convenient and better for students, but we can’t afford to do it anymore,” he said.

The decision to cease to provide these services was approved at the union’s Service’s Committee on March 27 and the minutes of the committee were approved at the March 31 board meeting, which was also met with protests.

Memmel claimed that the UTSU would reach a deficit of $1.5 million by 2022, and $2.5 million by 2027 if the Clubs and Service Groups, Health and Dental, and Financial Coordinator positions are not eliminated.

Full-time staff salaries account for 20 percent of the UTSU’s total operating budget: $483,000 out of $2,391,063. The Financial Coordinator position has been vacant since August 2016, and CUPE 1281 has asked the UTSU to fill it.

After the meeting was called to order, Aidan Fishman, a member of the Elections and Referenda Committee, applauded the UTSU for its transparency and fairness during the recent elections.

Andrew Thomas, a student who is a member of the UTSU, subsequently criticized the union for its cuts to full time staff that he says he and other students rely on.

Speaking to The Varsity, Thomas said, “The staff positions that they are cutting affects me directly, affects plenty of my friends directly who access health services, and they don’t seem to care about our voice in the matter.”

He continued, saying that he “found that exceptionally disturbing given the fact that they’re supposed to represent all the students, and they’re not even allowing any dissent. It seems to me that they have already come here with minds already made up.”

Yasmine El Sanyoura, incoming UTSU Director for Architecture and Visual Studies, was introducing herself when the protesters walked into the meeting chanting and drumming at around 6:20 pm. The protesters made their way to the front, blocking the panel, while continuing their chants of “Support our staff,” and “Save our services.”

In light of the protests, Ryan Gomes, outgoing Vice-President Professional Faculties and chair of the meeting, declared a recess just before 6:30 p.m., in accordance with U of T’s Policy on the Disruption of Meetings which states that if protesters “refuse to leave and it is not possible to remove them without risking violent resistance, the meeting should be recessed or adjourned.”

At 8:17 pm the UTSU posted on the ARM Facebook event, saying that the meeting would resume at 8:20 pm.

Gomes confirmed that the recess was in accordance with the CNCA as there were 43 members present while 35 constitutes quorum, and that the meeting had well over the 50 in-person votes required due to members proxying their votes to attendees of the meeting.

“I’d also note that even if there was the concern regarding it, section 164.3 of the CNCA states that if you start a meeting with quorum, you have quorum for the rest of the meeting, but just covering all our bases, we did have the required quorum at the time of the vote,” continued Gomes.

Amanda Harvey-Sánchez, incoming UTSU Social Sciences Director, was one of the student organizers of the protest. She said that “thousands of students” use the services provided by the Carlino and Galvez “in order to have their clubs function smoothly and get the support they need and also to get the health and dental coverage that they need.”

“So if these two positions are eliminated, students are going to notice the difference in their services, the quality will go down and that’s not fair to all the students who depend on it. So, first and foremost, we’re here to show that students depend on these services, and we’re not ok with them just removing them without any input from students,” Harvey-Sánchez explained.

Harvey-Sánchez denies that the protesters were trying to force the meeting to go to recess, saying that stopping the meeting “wasn’t that important.”

“We were here really just to make a statement and to show that students are aware of what’s happening, that we care about what’s happening, that we’re not okay with it,” she said.

The Varsity attempted to speak to Carlino, who declined to comment and directed the paper to Executive Director Tka Pinnock. The Varsity has also reached out to Keresztesi and Galvez who were not immediately available for comment.

This story is developing, more to follow. 

With files from Tom Yun

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that CUPE 1281 would only accuse the UTSU of violating the collective agreement if the UTSU moves forward with the proposed staff reductions, which it has yet to implement. In addition, a previous version of the article stated that the protests were organized by CUPE 1281 and supporters. In fact, CUPE 1281 only took part in organizing a picket outside of the meeting as was not involved in the protests inside of the meeting.

The pitfalls of counter-representation

From Indigenous reconciliation to free speech advocacy, we must cautiously examine how challenges to the status quo are portrayed in the post-truth universe

The pitfalls of counter-representation

Representation is necessarily misrepresentation. When an elite claims to reflect the complex interests of whoever they deem to be ‘the people’ — a people imagined to be singular —  institutions of power frame, define, and pursue the populace’s interests. Representation, in this sense, means simplification, homogenization, and reduction.

By creating a singular imagination and truth, representation marginalizes narratives that dominant groups find uncomfortable, and centres that which is palatable and affirming to the people.

The popular imagination of Canada — which is portrayed as a nation of diversity, openness, and tolerance — is one such representation that now faces challenges to its rhetoric in the form of counter-representations. In an era where governments are now speaking openly and frequently about reconciliation, the most relevant source of counter-representation is that of Indigenous peoples.

At the University of Toronto’s Art Museum, Cree artist Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience exhibit told some of the stories that were necessarily lost in the forging of a Euro-Christian imagination. Whereas the nationalist celebration of Canada points to 150 years since Confederation this year, Monkman starts our story from 300 years ago and examines the colonial history of Canada from an Indigenous lens.

Paintings like “The Subjugation of Truth” and “The Scream” were among the exhibit’s dark, absurdist, and poignant animations of residential schools, urban violence, and land dispossession, demonstrating the intergenerational persistence of colonialism that continues to this day. These counter-representations remind us that the birth of Canada has two legacies: one that celebrates the creation of a Canadian identity, and the other that mourns the erasure of Indigeneity from the landscape.

To look past the singularity of representation and truth is to challenge the status quo and demand change. Fortunately, at U of T, Indigenous cultural counter-representation is more visible than ever. Re-Indigenized street signs, the REDress Project on campus, which draws attention to the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the Powwow and Indigenous Festival are among the most conspicuous examples. President Meric Gertler’s public embrace of the 32 Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations for the university in January projects bright possibilities for reconciliation.

One should, however, be hesitant to conclude that we are now moving past representation and embracing truth in its plurality — in its counter-representations. Quite to the contrary, the new culture of counter-representation can be used to obfuscate the persistence of representation and its colonial functions. For instance, Indigenous visibility at the university is meaningless if Gertler continues to refuse to divest from fossil fuels, since that refusal sustains the drastic impact of climate change and undermines the environmental stewardship worldviews that underline Indigenous self-determination.

In a recent CBC piece, Clayton Thomas-Müller defines “redwashing” as the process by which corporations and banks sponsor Indigenous visibility in the Canadian imagination to overshadow the destructive initiatives that they impose upon Indigenous lands. In other words, we now face the appropriation of Indigenous counter-representation to advance the original project of colonial representation.

This space of plural truths, and the perverse contribution of counter-representation to the advance of representation is not just exclusive to the Indigenous context. Around the world, the cascade of disillusionment with the status quo and elitist establishment has emboldened self-proclaimed alternative political movements that claim to speak for a majority of people.

However, rather than empowering marginalized narratives — like the colonized Indigenous do through counter-representation — the idea with these movements is that the majority identity narrative is itself marginalized and needs revival.

Enough analysis has been conducted about right-wing populism in the form of Trump, Brexit, and Marine Le Pen. However, its local replicas on campus are worth noting as part of the broader pitfall of counter-representation. This is especially true for figures like Professor Jordan Peterson and former Reboot candidate Micah Ryu: although they hold different levels of power, each has exploited counter-representation to advance the original intent of representation, which is to exclude and erase marginalized narratives.

Peterson occupies a high level of power on campus as a tenured professor. His conflation of gender self-determination with totalitarianism this year is well-noted — but it remains staggering how his counter-representation narrative frames the fact that the majority is allegedly marginalized and needs protection. The staunch opposition that he faces from the transgender community and their allies has been framed as an assault on free speech rather than a defense of human dignity.

Indeed, by many proponents of free speech he is lauded as a hero, earning him thousands of views online and numerous media appearances, more than doubling his income, and exporting him to other university campuses like McMaster and Western.

Peterson finds himself connected to a transnational, trans-campus free speech movement, where the refusal of campuses to host the exclusionary vitriol of Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos grants the movement legitimacy by an ironic claim of victimhood. It is an infectious phenomenon, by which views that uphold the colonial status quo representation — whether it be the gender binary or the Muslim ‘Other’ — are framed as counter-representation, resistance, and freedom. Indeed, the loss of the right to oppress has now become oppression in and of itself.

Likewise, in UTSU student politics, Reboot presidential candidate Micah Ryu led a campaign that used this growing anti-establishment “outsider” framework to advance exclusionary politics. His criticism of student politics as the domain of an elite group of insiders is ostensibly consistent with the exclusivity of representation. However, his solution via austerity measures that would have cut down and decentralized the UTSU as a means of accountability only sustains the status quo de-politicization of the organization.

In fact, We the Students presidential candidate Andre Fast condemned the suggestion that the UTSU should remain distant from equity issues, and pointed out that, disappointingly, the union has become depoliticized this year. He stated that the union “does have a really big role to play on issues of social and environmental justice, on affordability issues” — all issues that matter most to marginalized students.

Ryu’s personal Queerphobic comments in light of this year’s gender identity controversy, and his campaign’s hostility toward the Black Liberation Collective’s condemnation of anti-Black racism within the UTSU only further demonstrates the bankruptcy of this anti-establishment narrative.

What’s more, in response to the accumulation of demerit points that led to Reboot’s eventual elimination, some students reacted in a way that suggested that this allegedly anti-establishment party was a victim and martyr of the establishment — inadvertently excusing Ryu’s otherwise inexcusable behaviour. Yet, Ryu’s exclusionary behaviour and pledges to de-politicize the UTSU under an anti-establishment outsider narrative have hardly helped the most anti-establishment outsider students on campus — Black, Muslim, and Queer folks — all of whom need more support from the student body given the events that occurred this year.  

What we can take from this is that it is necessary to challenge dominant narratives that become culturally objective, to shed light on marginalized narratives, and to turn discomfort into productive change. Indigenous resurgence on campus reminds us that counter-representation is possible and powerful.

However, we should also be wary of certain counter-representations that insidiously uphold and even deepen oppressive structures of power that correspond to the original exclusionary logic of representation. In this era of alternative facts and multiple truths, we should fight for a future that captures the imagination of the heretofore unrepresented.

 

Ibnul Chowdhury is a second-year student at Trinity College studying Economics and Peace, Conflict, and Justice Studies. His column appears every three weeks.

Protests erupt after UTSU board meeting

CUPE 1281 members, supporters protest reduction in services provided by two staff positions

Protests erupt after UTSU board meeting

Protests broke out at the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors meeting following a vote to approve the minutes of the Services Committee which had decided to reduce the services provided by the Health and Dental Coordinator and the Clubs and Service Groups Coordinator.

The motion that was passed at the Services Committee states that the UTSU would “cease to offer the services of a designated member of the full-time staff to recognized clubs and service groups” and “cease to offer the services of a designated member of the full-time staff to students seeking assistance with the Health and Dental Plan.”  

The Health and Dental Coordinator and the Clubs and Service Groups Coordinator are represented by CUPE 1281, like most full-time staff positions within the UTSU.

As the vote to approve the minutes was being called, members from CUPE 1281 and several students, including Amanda Harvey-Sánchez, an incoming board member, and Andre Fast, who ran for UTSU President with the We the Students slate began chanting and shouting down the vote. Amidst shouts of “Shame!” and “Support our workers!” the motion was passed and immediately after, a motion to adjourn was brought forward and passed.

Just before the minutes of the Services Committee were to be debated, Mathias Memmel, VP Internal and Services and UTSU president-elect, brought forward a motion to call for orders of the day, which would have effectively made the items non-debatable and the allotted time for debate for the items have passed. He cited time pressures as the UTSU only booked the room until 9:00 p.m.

Various people raised issues with the motion, many making points of personal privileges and points of orders to argue against the proposed lack of debate. Eventually Memmel relented and brought forward a motion to extend debate on the minutes of the Services Committee to 10 minutes.

Susan Froom, who is the Vice-President Internal of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students, spoke first, saying that UTSU members had been coming to the APUS office asking about the the recent change in health insurance providers that was made last year. Froom says that they refer these students the UTSU Health and Dental Coordinator and warns that cutting this service would result in “a lot of dissatisfied students and [the UTSU] may be creating tension this year between APUS and UTSU.”

Orion Keresztesi, President of CUPE 1281, urged the board to reconsider cutting the positions.

“I want us all to remember that we’re talking about folks’ livelihoods here,” Keresztesi said at the meeting. He also said that “the people moving this motion are trying to be clever,” adding that “[the UTSU is] trying to frame this as a layoff, when they know very well it is not a layoff… it’s an attempt at a backdoor firing.”

A motion was also called to extend time to Nour Alideeb, President of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), to speak on the Services Committee minutes, but the motion failed.

Today’s meeting, I think, could have gone in a different way had people not had previously made up their minds, who were willing to listen to people’s perspectives,” said Alideeb. “It’s hard when it comes to things like this because we’re not only talking about the service itself but we’re also talking about people’s lives.”

Protests continued after the meeting was adjourned as the UTSU directors left.

The Varsity is awaiting comment from Memmel, who declined to comment in-person and requested that The Varsity reach out via email. The paper has also reached out to UTSU President Jasmine Wong Denike.

This story is developing. More to follow.

—With files from Kaitlyn Simpson and Tom Yun

Clarification: An earlier version of the article stated that Memmel motioned to limit debate to zero hours. Although this is how Graydon described the motion, the article has been amended to clarify that the motion was for orders of the day.

UTSU VP Equity Farah Noori resigns

Position staying vacant until incoming VP Equity takes office

UTSU VP Equity Farah Noori resigns

The UTSU has announced the resignation of Farah Noori, who served as the union’s Vice-President Equity.

According to a statement from UTSU President Jasmine Denike, which was released on March 31, Noori informed the board of directors on March 26 of her intention to resign.

We have chosen not to publicize the reasons behind her resignation. We ask that all members of the U of T community be respectful of Farah and her privacy,” the statement reads.

Denike thanked Noori for her work and highlighted her efforts in organizing eXpression Against Oppression Week, consultations for the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment on Campus, events for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the UTSU Accessibility Fund.

It is unclear why the statement states that the Board of Directors approved Noori’s resignation on March 31, a date that has not happened yet. Noori declined to divulge her reasons for her resignation, citing personal reasons.

In November 2016, Lucinda Qu also resigned from her role as Vice-President External.

Noori was elected in last year’s spring elections with the Hello UofT slate. The position will remain vacant until Chimwemwe Alao, the incoming Vice-President Equity, takes office in May 2017, pending board approval of the election results.

Demand Better wins most UTSU executive positions, unofficial election results show

Carina Zhang of We the Students, independent Anne Boucher also  elected

Demand Better wins most UTSU executive positions, unofficial election results show

The unofficial results of the University of Toronto Students Union (UTSU) elections, which were released shortly after 7 pm Thursday, show that the 2017-2018 executive will comprise mostly individuals associated with the Demand Better slate.

The voter turnout was 11.8 per cent, an increase from last year’s 9.7 per cent.

Demand Better presidential candidate Mathias Memmel was elected over opponents Andre Fast of We the Students, John Sweeney of Whomst’d’ve UofT, and independent candidate Joshua Hands. Reboot candidate Micah Ryu was not on the ballot after being disqualified on Monday.

Voting was conducted using the single-transferrable vote, in which students can rank candidates in their order of preference. Fast received a plurality of first choice votes in the first round but lost to Memmel as the rounds progressed, with Memmel accumulating more second choice votes after Sweeney’s elimination.

Daman Singh of Demand Better was elected Vice-President Internal in the second round by a margin of 354 votes after former Reboot candidate Jessica Leung’s 823 votes were redistributed to Singh and We the Students candidate Jackie Zhao.

Carina Zhang, the only We the Students candidate elected to the executive, won the Vice-President University Affairs position handily after she received a total of 3,447 votes after redistribution.

Independent candidate Anne Boucher was elected Vice-President External, receiving more second choice votes than her opponents from We the Students, Demand Better, and Reboot and winning the position after four rounds.

Chim Alao, Demand Better’s candidate for Vice-President Equity was elected by a margin of 1933 votes to 1621 over We the Students candidate Michelle Mabira. Former Reboot candidate Keelie-Shay Eaid was eliminated in the first round with 576 first place votes.

Stuart Norton, also of Demand Better, was elected Vice-President Campus Life after two rounds.

Finally, Shivani Nathoo of Demand Better, receiving first-place votes in all four rounds, has filled the Vice-President Professional Faculties position.

Of the elections for UTSU directors 13 Demand Better candidates were successful, according to the unofficial results, along with three from We the Students, three from Reboot, and two independents.

The results will be official once they are ratified by the UTSU board of directors.

Also on the ballot were referendum questions, the first asking for a 50 cent levy to fund accessibility services at the UTSU, and the second from the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT) asking for a $2.77 levy to send a satellite to space. Both referendums passed, with 54.8 per cent support for UTAT’s referendum and 67.6 per cent support for the accessibility levy.

This story is developing, more to follow.

 

At least six Reboot candidates withdraw from slate

Withdrawal motivated by risk of disqualification

At least six Reboot candidates withdraw from slate

Several candidates from the Reboot U of T slate have withdrawn from the slate during the first day of voting. Keelie-Shay Eaid, Vice-President Equity candidate, and Jenny Yue, Vice-President Professional Faculites candidate, have issued statements on their Facebook pages indicating that they have withdrawn from the slate.

Eaid and Yue are each 10 demerit points away from the maximum allowable for executive candidates.

Victoria College Director candidate Alex Bercik, Dentistry Director candidate Joanna Man; Professional Faculties at-Large Director candidate Tony Ye, and Social Sciences Director candidate, Jane Tien have also declared their withdrawal from the slate. These candidates have accrued 20 demerit points, the maximum allowable amount for director candidates.

A portion of the statement written to The Varsity on behalf of the slate reads: “Many Reboot members have decided to disband in order to avoid further demerits for the whole slate, altogether. The ERC/CRO has placed many Reboot candidates on the edge of disqualification and has hence forced them dissociate. In light of the recent disqualification of 5 members, other Reboot members were placed in a very tight spot. However, the members still have the same platform goals even as individuals.”

On March 13, five candidates from the slate, including the presidential candidate, Micah Ryu, had incurred enough demerit points to be disqualified. A statement on was issued on Reboot UofT’s Facebook page, saying that the candidates were withdrawing from the UTSU elections. They are still able to appeal the ERC’s decisions.

Eaid says that she and others have decided to “dissassociate [sic] with the slate in order to avoid any further demerit points from comments that were/are being left on our (Facebook) page.”

She notes that they had incurred 8 demerit points for one comment on a post and 10 on another. She also said that she will not be disavowing the slate’s platform, and she did not believe the other candidates would either.

“For some candidates that still have a very solid chance at winning their seat, continuing on as a slate was no longer worth the risk of being targeted. In particular, our former Dentistry candidate is running unopposed and the faculty would have no board representation for several months if she was disqualified, and based on the way the DROOP quota system works, we think it’s very likely for some of our college directors to win their seats as well,” Eaid explained.

“We came together because of shared ideas. We are splitting up so we no longer have to be liable for each others’ actions. This isn’t a betrayal of ideas, it’s a dropping of liabilities,” Eaid went on.

Avinash Mukkala, the slate’s recently disqualified Life Sciences Director candidate, also echoed Eaid’s reasoning, saying that the Elections and Referenda Committee had “placed us in a very tight spot at the edge of disqualification for many individuals.” He also noted that his disqualification meant that “further affiliation would be at too high of a risk.”

Riley Moher, one of the slate’s disqualified Engineering Director candidates, said that he would not be appealing the decision because of what he had heard from other slate members’ experiences trying to overturn decisions.

“I think the role of the ERC and CRO is too great, and the application of the rules of the election can be subject to too much subjectivity and political influence,” Moher said, adding that he was not hopeful of  “stamping out corruption and politicization within the UTSU within the current student politics climate.”

According to Ryan Gomes, Chair of the ERC, these actions may not be perceived by the ERC or the appellate board as truly disavowing the slate.

“I think that they would have a harder time convincing the ERC or the appellate board that this actually was a disbanding of the slate, especially considering that they’re still all on the website and they’re not disavowing their platform and the names on the ballot still say Reboot… I think it would be a difficult sell,” Gomes said.

At the time of the interview with Gomes, the candidates’ profiles were still shown on the Reboot UofT website, however, the candidates page was empty at press time.

Ryu confirms that they were “looking into disbanding the slate.” He also brought up the example of Reboot UofT’s former Dentistry Director candidate, saying that she had “done nothing with respect to any of the violations, and isn’t gaining any advantages from those violations since she’s running unopposed.”

“They keep handing out points as a slate and that was about to disqualify a lot more people. Our 3 engineering director candidates were only put over the top… because of how many points they gave us for not policing our Facebook page comments well enough,” Ryu said.