Thursday, Jan. 5 saw a major event in the calendar of the Students’ Administrative Council (SAC), as the group held their Annual General Meeting (AGM), where some major decisions came to definitive vote.
Any full-time undergrad had the right to bring items to the forum by way of submitting it, along with 500 full-time undergraduate signatures to support it, and discuss it. But 50,000 students usually don’t show up; it’s usually 100-200 students who hold positions in SAC carrying proxies (other people’s votes) amounting to several hundred votes. This year was no exception.
The meeting was chaired by Robin Rix, and kicked off not far from its planned 6 pm start time. This was a particularly interesting AGM as it was the first ever not held on the St. George campus but in UTM suburbia. The lack of attendance of SAC President Ashley Morton was noted by almost everybody in attendance, as was the attempt by someone to undermine the AGM by having The Newspaper print an article online stating that the AGM was cancelled. The article was yanked off the server in a matter of hours.
The first item up was SAC’s financial statements, which had been audited by an outside firm; the statements and results of the audit were almost glossed over as they were said to have been “out of order,” as they had not been published in a campus newspaper such as The Varsity, which is required for the AGM. They were brought back to the forum by a challenge to the chair on the reasoning that the financial statements covered actions already taken by SAC, so nothing could be undone, along with the stipulation that they be published quite soon.
Each year, SAC does a little internal cleaning up in terms of its rules of procedure and by-laws. Each of these go through SAC’s Board of Directors via various committees throughout the year and then finally approved at the AGM.
The only sticky situation in this portion arose in regards to UTSC, as their referendum has shown a student majority in favour of merging the SAC UTSC and Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) college council into a single student representative body that would not be a constituency of SAC. It was decided that all decisions on changes to UTSC would be contingent on the Governing Council approving the referendum; this was done to ensure all contingencies were taken care of so Scarborough students wouldn’t end up without student representation.
The eligibility of SAC executives was also discussed, and it was established that they would be able to run year after year, provided their re-election be in successive years. This means an executive’s running status does not hinge on full-time or degree status, although they do have to be enrolled.
The meeting’s most controversial motion came next, a proposed new constitution for SAC championed by President Ashley Morton, Ben Bach, and Mark Graham. Of the three, only Graham was present. The constitution was brought directly to the AGM by means of collecting enough signatures to circumvent the customary internal review committees. There was contention over some of the 540 signatures that came supporting the constitution, but the constitution carried through to debate nonetheless.
Curiously, the motion struck out many clauses in SAC’s current documents which make statements on diversity such as SAC’s commitment to serve students regardless of race, religion, political beliefs, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or other marginalizing criteria, and replace them with an ambiguous clause stating that SAC would simply strive to best serve it’s students.
Furthermore, it changed the way SAC elections would run at U of T. Candidates would not run independent of each other, but rather, a slate presenting several candidates for several positions would run. Essentially, students would no longer vote for individuals but teams of candidates so the mix of good and bad candidates could become an issue. The constitution did come to a vote rather quickly, though, and no one voted in favour, with hundreds opposed, and 22 abstentions.
That was not the last of the drama, however.
Next came a motion stating “Be it resolved SAC take a position against the occupation of Iraq by the United States, Britain, and other ‘coalition’ forces, and BIFRT SAC endorse and commit resources such as room bookings, photocopies, et cetera to assist students at University of Toronto to mobilize for the March 20th International Day Against the Occupation of Iraq.”
With the massive worldwide discontent for the war in Iraq, and March 20 being the one-year anniversary of the first shells being dropped, SAC VP Operations Alex Artful-Dodger stated that SAC had done so much good in terms of awareness this year that it is essential that they represent students in “continuing to take stances on important world issues.” Artful-Dodger went on to say that this was a sentiment that showed itself in force last year with massive protests by not just students, but many diverse persons of Toronto, the GTA and beyond.
Andrew McLeod felt that that while the cause was honorable, it did in fact “limit freedom of choice” by its working.
A transitional year program student, Manuel Matabvu, who came to Toronto from Africa, voiced his concern over what he felt was an over-concentration on wars involving North America and a relative lack of knowledge over conflicts in other parts of the world.
The Iraq motion passed with 295 votes for, 59 against, and nine abstentions.
After adjourning at 9:30 pm, people walked out tired, happy, and pissed off. Many saw the event as a success. “Today I am proud to be a part of SAC, proud to have been a part of a student union that stood up against the oppression in Iraq and proud to have defended democracy,” said Rini Ghosh, President of ASSU (Arts & Science Students Union).
SAC’s next major event is a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 pm at the Bahen Centre, where students will have a chance to voice their concerns on issues such as the environment and the possibility of a student centre on St. George campus.