The proxy war is on: student societies scrambled for votes ahead of this Wednesday’s University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM), in an attempt to rally students to support one of two proposed restructuring plans for the UTSU’s Board of Directors.
Under the proxy system, students who are unable to attend the AGM can ask another student to vote on their behalf by signing a proxy form and returning it to the UTSU or the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) offices.
A student attending the AGM may be a proxy holder for up to 10 other students.
In order to comply fully with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA), students will have to ratify a new structure for the UTSU’s Board of Directors. Such a vote occurred at last year’s AGM, where the only proposal up for approval was rejected.
This year, there are two board structure proposals in play.
‘Plan B’ is a proposal moved by Arts & Science at-large director Khrystyna Zhuk and seconded by Daman Singh, University College director. The proposal would keep the same number of directors for each college and professional faculty proportionate to the number of students in the division, as with the current board structure.
Elections for these positions would occur internally within each college or faculty’s respective student society.
Plan B would also create six appointed ‘general equity directors’ to represent a variety of marginalized groups and to chair newly created sub-commissions under the Social Justice and Equity Commission.
Grayce Slobodian, former UTSU vice-president external and this years’ orientation coordinator, also put forward a proposal to the AGM. Under Slobodian’s proposal, one director would represent each college and professional faculty while the number of UTM directors would increase from seven to eight.
Crucially Slobodian’s proposal would also see the introduction of 12 elected ‘constituency directors’ responsible for advocating on issues facing specific marginalized groups, similar to the board proposal that was defeated at last year’s AGM.
A new proxy system
In previous years, it was the role of the proxy holder to collect information and signatures from students wishing to proxy their votes to another member. However, under the new regulations in the CNCA, that responsibility now belongs to the person wishing to proxy their vote.
“The new proxy system did pose a huge obstacle for those trying to get proxies or students looking for proxy holders. It took much more effort on each individual’s part,” said Amanda Stojcevski, president of the university College Literary and Athletic Society (UC Lit). “However, I do believe this system was for the best, in that I found students with more knowledge regarding UTSU politics were more likely to explain things in detail to those who were less knowledgeable.”
Stojcevski saw this as an opportunity to educate students and reach out to students who would otherwise not be engaged with UTSU politics.
“I was very proud to see many individuals in the community, on and off of council, working hard to try and engage students. Our focus was more about educating everyone as opposed to racing to get proxies, and I think we succeeded in informing students that previously were more disconnected from the student politics of the university.”
Rallying the votes
Plan B has received endorsement from the UTSU Board of Directors, as well as many other student societies, including the Innis College Student Society, the Trinity College Meeting, the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council, the UC Lit, and the St. Michael’s College Student Union. These student societies also created Facebook events promoting the AGM and encouraged students to become a proxy or proxy out their vote.
“Our reasoning behind endorsing the proposal moved by Zhuk and seconded by Singh mostly revolved around keeping our college’s full representation on the board, but also the representation of St. George campus in general,” said Stojcevski.
“Also by having six General Equity Directors, any type of equity group can be represented on the board. Because they are general equity directors, they are not limited to representing a specific group of individuals, and they are able to address any equity issues at the university.”
Stojcevski is also supportive of the changes in the way directors are elected under Plan B. “Internal elections will ensure that the directors of each constituency are involved within their community, and voters will not be swayed to vote by slate, a problem I personally have found frustrating in the past.”
The proposed reduction of the number of seats for students on the St. George campus under Slobodian’s proposal has prompted the #SaveOurSeats campaign, which is being led by the St. George Round Table, a council of heads and presidents of every undergraduate college and faculty student society on the St. George campus. #SaveOurSeats has circulated an infographic on social media that compares both board proposals and highlights the seemingly disproportionate underrepresentation of students on the St. George campus under Slobodian’s proposal.
Events leading up to the AGM have also been planned.
“[The St. George Round Table] is currently in the talks of hosting a rally for all students to come to before the AGM, and we can all go to the meeting at OISE together,” said Stojcevski,“ adding, We have been working hard to emphasize the fun and positive side of the meeting (namely, the excitement and food factors, and how this meeting is sure to be an important part in the history of the student union).”
The UTMSU has yet to endorse any of the two board proposals. UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe expressed concerns over what he saw as a potential lack of sufficient notice for the AGM. Under the UTSU’s by-laws, the UTSU must provide notice to its members at least 21 days prior to the AGM.
“The officers of UTMSU are consulting UTM students on the board proposals being put forward. We are aware that there may be some changes put forward,” said Agbeyegbe. “Please note that there has been many changes to the proposal being put forward by Khrystyna Zhuk. We are concerned that the notice provisions for such important changes have NOT been met. We would like all members of UTSU to have sufficient time to review the proposals before the meeting.”
The UTMSU has also made efforts to promote the AGM on the Mississauga campus. Agbeyegbe stressed the importance of the upcoming vote and said that the union has emailed every student with information on the AGM and the proxy voting system.
“Our goal is to ensure that we have as many UTM students participate at the AGM as possible, so that we can ensure that UTM students have a presence to ensure that the bylaw changes and motions that are approved benefit all students, especially UTM students,” Agbeyegbe said. “An email will also be sent to all undergraduate students early next week to encourage them to attend this meeting.”
The AGM is scheduled for 5:30 PM on October 7 in the OISE auditorium.