The latest meeting of the University of Toronto Student’s Union (UTSU) board of directors this June contained the introduction of two controversial motions; the approval of the report on the new hiring procedure for the vp campus life, and a motion to accept the CRO report for the recent UTSU elections.
Motion to approve report on hiring procedure
At the board’s last meeting, Akshan Bansal was hired as the new vp campus life. The decision was made following several changes to the original hiring procedure — controversy had arisen from the number of outgoing union executives on the initial hiring committee.
At the June meeting, a motion was put forward to approve the report on the changes to the hiring process. The approval of the report would acknowledge that the decisions made at the last board meeting — during which the changes were introduced — were valid and constitutional. However, the result of the vote was insufficient to pass the motion.
“I felt satisfied that the motion to approve the report failed. Although it was related purely to the procedure, it made sense solely on that basis for the board to reject the report,” stated Ryan Gomes, vice president internal & services.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Vere-Marie Khan, vice president university affairs, who explained, “the failure of the motion is an indicator that majority of the board finds that there was a problem in the way [the hiring of the vp campus life] was conducted and eventually upheld… I believe it is a message from our board that we should ensure that all problems or concerns that they have with any process we do should be investigated and revisited to the best of our ability.”
Problematic hiring process
According to Gomes and Khan, the central issue with the hiring process was inaccessibility; both expressed that the timing and location of the hiring meeting — which was held at UTM — as well as the technical difficulties associated with the electronic communications, led to a disproportionately low number of board members in attendance.
“To elect an executive who will be on equal footing as other execs who have been elected across both campuses, I feel that the vast majority of the board should be present. Without many board members being present, some colleges or divisions wouldn’t have a say in their selection as their representatives would be absent, and I don’t think that’s appropriate in the slightest,” Gomes stated.
Allegations of executive misconduct
In addition to dissent regarding the hiring procedure, allegations of misconduct on behalf of Bansal were also brought forward. However, further discussion was ruled out of order, with UTSU president Ben Coleman stating that the executive review committee would deal with allegations against the conduct of the executives.
“I believe [the allegations] should have been allowed to be discussed, but as it was ruled out of order. I believe we should wait for our internal processes (ie. the executive review committee) to begin its own proceedings and bring those allegations to light in due course,” Gomes said.
Coleman emphasized that the motion to approve the report on the hiring procedure is not a means to alter the hiring of Bansal, but rather a means of validating the hiring process.
Stephen Warner, a Victoria College board director, who opened the discussion on the vp campus life allegations, explained that “Procedurally, the failure of the motion is simply symbolic; the chair stated at the meeting that failing the motion did not reverse the decision of appointing the vp campus life. I think that the failure of the motion should be a warning bell to the executive and to the executive review committee that there are confidence issues from many members of the board regarding [Bansal].”
There is the possibility of a motion to impeach Bansal — it would be introduced at the board’s next meeting on July 12.
CRO report on recent elections
The other report that received criticism during the meeting was from the out-going CRO of the recent elections.
At the onset of the discussion, Coleman amended the motion to recognize the inaccuracy and error in reporting the numbers of votes, referring the report to the elections and referenda committee for review. The motion passed as such.
“This is not a great report,” Coleman said, and went on to explain that the voting numbers in the report do not include paper ballots, but instead only online votes.
Worryingly, two sets of numbers in the report did not match with the online vote numbers, with their percentages adding up to over 100 per cent, a figure that is impossible given the system used.
Gomes noted his dissatisfaction with the report, stating, “I personally don’t feel there are any merits to this report — it feels like it was thrown together haphazardly and does not reflect the depth and thought-out reasoning that would be expected from such a report.”
There were several attempts by the UTSU executives to get in touch with the CRO, but Gomes explained that they were unsuccessful.
The follow-up to the report will be a review by the elections and referenda committee. However, Gomes feels that the recommendations offered in the CRO’s report are “highly problematic.” “…particularly the ones about arms-length parties,” he said, adding, “I don’t think they’re particularly useful — in fact, I think they could even be destructive, given the issues regarding online sites giving teams demerit points even though they weren’t connected to them in any way. Personally, I don’t think the ERC will implement any of them.”
Gomes does, however, plan on introducing a requirement to the elections & referenda committee that the CRO must submit a report that meets certain standards before they receive pay or are considered to have completed their term, in hopes of subverting similar problems in future.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article made reference to an UTSU elections review committee in error. The body in question is the elections and referenda committee. This article has been updated to reflect the change.