An executive member of the U of T Graduate Students’ Union says that she is being silenced and discriminated against because she expressed her views at the Canadian Federation of Students annual general meeting in Gatineau, QC last December.

Bodia Macharia, a PhD student in French, has been a GSU exec-at-large and co-chair of the women’s caucus since May 2009. In the 2008-09 academic year, she was a GSU representative for the French course union. Along with fellow executive Anton Neschadim and GSU staff member Rose Da Costa, Macharia was a delegate at the CFS AGM. Each issued separate reports during the GSU council meeting on Jan. 28.

“It became obvious at the [AGM] that I had my own views and opinions,” Macharia said. “After that, I became a pariah.”

According to a source within the council, Macharia and Ajamu Nangwaya, the GSU’s internal commissioner, have a tense relationship with most of the executive.

Macharia said she was being coerced to vote with other GSU reps during the AGM.

“[Rose would] make me explain, over and over, why I held a viewpoint,” Macharia wrote in a memo to the executive. “When I could not be swayed, Rose would make me leave the room.”

Macharia said she was pressured against speaking with delegates from McGill and Concordia universities, who came with a package of 43 motions intending to reform CFS practices.

“Members of other unions would follow me, for example, and report to Rose [Da Costa] about the nature of the discussion and to whom I was speaking,” Macharia wrote. “Rose attempted specifically to make sure that I don’t talk to the McGill students.”

The AGM’s controversial Motion 6 sought to raise the signature requirement for starting defederation campaigns from 10 per cent to 20 per cent of their membership. It passed.

“Many felt that Motion 6 was introduced to specifically reduce transparency, reduce accountability, and cripple the fair use of democratic processes,” wrote Macharia. “I told them I’m abstaining from voting in favour [of the motion].”

The reforms proposed by Quebec universities were mostly rejected, including Motion 48, which called for disclosure of salaries and benefits of executives and staff. Da Costa successfully fought for the motion to be withdrawn. When Macharia brought up the motion at the GSU council meeting on Jan. 28, she was repeatedly asked to restate her concerns, eventually leading Da Costa to say she did not understand Macharia’s statements.

“As students, we have a right to know [how money is being spent],” Macharia said of Motion 48. “Access to information is a very important thing for me. We need to know.”

“Everything I say is being met with ‘Its confusing, its not clear,’” Macharia continued. “There was no misunderstanding at the national general meeting. Why is there a misunderstanding now? This is a tactic they’ve been using.”

Macharia recalls one instance when she believes Da Costa specifically tried to stop her from speaking with the McGill delegates. “She told me where to sit to stop me from speaking with the McGill delegation,” she said. “There was an empty seat next to two McGill delegates, and Rose pointed to another seat and told me to sit there.”

“She was infantilizing me,” Macharia continued. “I asked if I could sit at the corner because I needed to go to the washroom a couple of times. She said no.”

Da Costa said that as far as she knew Macharia did not express her views against Motion 6. Da Costa also denied allegations of discrimination against Macharia.

With files from Samya Kullab