Two former employees of the U of T Students’ Union have told The Varsity that they were given proxy votes for last year’s annual general meeting, even though they did not sign out the forms or collect student votes themselves. Both Steve Masse and Alyssa James are executives on the Woodsworth College Students’ Association. Last year, Masse was associate to UTSU president Sandy Hudson, who is now in her second term. James was associate to former VP equity Koat Aleer. James and Masse said they were given filled-out proxy forms where the name of the representative who was supposed to collect them was left blank.
Adnan Najmi, last year’s VP internal, is also serving his second term this year. Najmi wrote in an email to The Varsity, “If somebody claimed to be a Masse and James and collected the forms and submitted with the right information then no one have a control on it. This in one of the issue that we face with our services like isic card which are only available for U.T.S.U. members at our office because university does not gives us our membership list and we are not able to verify our members to better serve them. [sic]” Najmi did not respond to requests for a phone interview.
Students can collect up to 10 votes from other students who cannot attend a meeting by signing out proxy forms. Once the proxies are collected, the form is numbered by an executive or staff member and returned to the UTSU office at 12 Hart House Circle, where it is verified.
“I showed up to the AGM, registered with my name and T-Card, and was just handed a form, which had proxies on it,” said Masse, who is now president of WCSA. He also sits on the newly formed St. George Roundtable, an association of college councils. “I know I did not have any proxies myself. They [the staff at the registration table] said, ‘Don’t worry about it, just take it.’” Masse said he was then handed a voting card with 11 votes on it, representing 10 proxy votes plus his own. “No one ever explicitly told me how to vote. I felt inclined to vote a certain way, to vote with the executive,” he said.
In a recent Varsity article, Masse criticized UTSU’s connection to the Canadian Federation of Students, and said he scaled back his involvement after the drop fees campaign last year.
James, who is WCSA’s VP of assembly affairs, gave a similar account. She said she was handed a proxy form with 10 students registered when she arrived at the UTSU office before last year’s AGM.
“I have no idea how they collected the student names and numbers,” James said. “I was just told that if I signed out the form I would receive proxy votes.” She also had a total of 11 votes.
James said that while she was not directly pressured into voting with the executive, she added, “it is generally expected that as an ‘employee of UTSU,’ you act in solidarity with the association.”
Associates assist executives in their work. According to Masse, an associate gets an honorarium of about $353 per month. “You do a lot organizing for campaigns like Drop Fees and also class-speaks,” Masse said.
The UTSU website does not list associates under staff members. According to Hudson, only full-time staffers are listed. “If positions are open, a job listing is posted on our website and the U of T Career Centre’s job listings website. We also send out emails to our listeners and Facebook groups encouraging members to apply,” wrote Hudson in an email. She added that last year, associate positions were posted on the UTSU website and the U of T careers site.
James said associate positions are not usually listed on the UTSU website, and that she was recommended for the VP equity associate position by Athmika Punja, last year’s VP campus life. “People don’t know about the positions unless they know someone on the UTSU executive,” she said. Masse said he became interested in the associate position because he was friends with Hudson and Punja, who was also last year’s WCSA president. After an interview, Masse became an associate under Hudson.