Twenty-five agenda items were presented to students at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 12.
Caitlin Smith, former president of the Ryerson Students’ Union, chaired the meeting.
With the exception of a withdrawn motion to condemn the Board of Directors structure proposed by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), all motions on the agenda were passed.
The motion was withdrawn on the grounds that the board structure had already been voted down at the UTSU AGM in late October.
Following the approval of the agenda and the executive reports, five motions to amend the SCSU’s bylaws were considered. One motion to change the number of meetings that a member of the Board of Directors could miss before being removed from office sparked debate.
Students voted four times to extend the speaking list and continue the discussion.
The motion changed the rules for removing a member of the Board of Directors from their position.
A clause in the motion increased the total maximum number of meetings missed for removal from office from three to five.
The 15 directors meet approximately 12 times a year. Habiba Desai, the former presidential candidate from the New Political Student Party slate during last year’s SCSU elections, spoke against the motion. “The SCSU has a problem with making their directors attend meetings,” Desai says.
Six of 15 directors were present at the most recent SCSU board meeting.
“[Election] packages clearly indicate that board positions require attendance at monthly meetings. If you can not make the commitment than do not run for the position,” Desai adds. Pallavi Suresan, a student in attendance, was in favour of the motion. Suresan said that people who are involved in student government are likely to be involved with other groups on campus, in addition to work and academic commitments.
“I can understand the worry that people might abuse that or might take it as an excuse to miss a meeting, but these are things that would happen whether or not that rule was in place. If someone doesn’t want to go to a meeting, if that motion hasn’t passed they still wouldn’t want to go,” Suresan says.
The motion achieved the two-thirds majority required to pass, with 660 votes in favour and 148 against.
The SCSU will investigate the feasibility of online voting for future elections after a motion moved by Desai was passed.
According to Tahsin Chowdhury, president of the SCSU, the SCSU’s Elections and Referenda Committee and the Policy and Bylaws Committee will conduct the investigation and produce a report on their findings to SCSU members at the first Board of Directors meeting in the winter semester. Students were divided on the issue, with some raising concerns about the security and accessibility of online voting. Others praised it as a step towards ending polarity on campus. Suresan supported the motion, and said that she would like to see online voting implemented in the future, adding that online voting could increase voter turnout and help students get involved.
“I think that, if you give people more opportunities to be engaged and that you show that we are trying to open this up and we are trying to have more voices heard, that would really encourage people to come out,” Suresan says. She was one of the students who spoke in favour of the motion.
“I am in support of the most safe, fair, inclusive, and accessible elections,” Chowdhury says of the result of the vote.
SCSU vice-president, operations, Kaleab Mulatu presented the SCSU’s audited financial statements for the year 2013–2014.
Desai expressed concern with the state of the SCSU’s finances, noting that about 85 per cent of the union’s revenue comes from its students. Desai alleged that a small proportion of student fees were allocated towards student services after orientation.
“They spend $713,458 or 55 per cent on wages. The argument is the people hired work for the student, thus providing service,” Desai says, adding: “[O]ne must question how efficient and productive the student union [is] if we are paying people $753,458 to spend $117,500.”
“Their lack of transparency when it comes to SCSU finances is despicable. The people that are supposed to fight for us are using us for their own gains,” Desai alleges, saying that the SCSU refuses to provide descriptions of full-time positions and salary breakdowns.
A motion about socially responsible investment, which stipulated that the SCSU initiate a review of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation’s investments, passed at the AGM.
The motion asked that the SCSU submit a report of its findings to university administration.
The AGM began with an equity statement, which acknowledged the unceded territory upon which the AGM took place, as well as guidelines on how to maintain a safe and inclusive atmosphere. Motions to create an Indigenous Awareness Week, to advocate for Indigenous studies and programming, and to lobby university administration on consulting students in order to develop curriculum changes that better reflect the UTSC population all passed easily at the meeting.
A motion to oppose the ban of the niqab, a face covering worn by some Muslim women, was also passed.
The SCSU has taken an oppositional stance towards legislation that would restrict any Canadian individual in terms of their freedom of expression and/or Charter rights.
“I was very thrilled with the turn out. Students came out, they questioned, and they spoke out,” Desai says.
“I thought the AGM went really well,” Chowdhury agrees.