It has been over two months since the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM), and the conversations following the meeting have been dominated by entrenched opinions and a lack of compromise. We are no closer to a solution to this crisis than we were after the AGM, and the clock is ticking down to an October deadline.
It is time for action.
There is no question that students will be the true losers if their community leaders cannot work together on this pressing issue. The UTSU must conform to the Canadian Not-for-profit Corporations Act by October, and it has become increasingly clear that the only proposal that could possibly be successful is one that brings everyone to the table and produces a compromise.
On January 21, we will be hosting a joint board proposal meeting that we hope will produce an honest conversation between all stakeholders in our union. To ensure that a wide range of voices are heard, the UTSU, UTM campus leaders, professional faculties and colleges, as well as course and equity groups have all been invited to attend, with many already confirming their attendance. Beyond these groups, however, the meeting is open to all students who are interested in seeing or being a part of a resolution to this problem.
As the chairs of this meeting, we hope to host a fair meeting where all voices and opinions are respected and heard. The conversation surrounding board reform needs a fresh start, and this meeting will offer everyone a chance to do this and find a solution that works for all of us. To accomplish this, we have three primary objectives: have an explicit structure for the meeting, set out clear goals, and ensure the space is safe.
To make sure that the meeting stays on topic, we will be using a set agenda to structure the meeting. This means clearly setting boundaries and constraints, openly discussing legal issues, and defining the needs of union members. We hope that by having a well-defined idea of what we want to produce, all parties will be able to engage in meaningful dialogue.
In addition, we want to get an explicit set of goals from those who choose to attend. What do our student leaders want to see in this new board structure? What sort of objectives do they have coming into this meeting? At what point are they willing to compromise on their ideal vision? These are all questions that we cannot answer alone: they have to come from everyone willing to attend and voice their opinion.
Finally, it is paramount to us that the space remains safe. A recurring concern from board meetings, AGMs, and other general meetings is the lack of a safe space to have this kind of discussion. We will be operating under a one-warning system, and there will be zero tolerance for purposeful harassment or oppressive language.
As U of T students, we know how to think critically. Compromise must be the lens through which we build a new board proposal. It goes without saying that unless we can get everyone on the same page, this issue will continue to be dominated by partisan bickering.
We can all do better. Students deserve better. Let’s create a solution together. We hope to see you there.
The joint meeting will be held January 21, 2015 at 5:00 pm in ES B142
Natalie Petra is a University College student studying public policy.
Ryan Gomes is the Engineering Society’s VP Academic and a member of the UTSU’s Board of Directors.