File photo: A University of Toronto Students' Union board meeting in progress. Iris Robin/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) has impeached Ernest Manalo, the director for the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE). The impeachment vote took place at a meeting of the UTSU’s Board of Directors on Saturday, November 28.

The motion for Manalo’s impeachment was originally scheduled to be the fifth item on the agenda, but the board voted to move the motion up and address it first. According to the motion, moved by e ngineering director Carlos Fiel, Manalo has failed to attend a total of five board meetings since the start of the academic year, including the October 7 Annual General Meeting. The motion also alleges that Manalo has missed committee meetings, attendance of which is part of his role on the Professional Faculties Committee. Neither Fiel nor Manalo responded to The Varsity’s request for comment.

The motion accused Manalo of failing to relay information from the UTSU and to inform his constituency or their student government, the Kinesiology and Physical Education Undergraduate Association, about his absences. The UTSU bylaws state that a director’s failure to attend three consecutive meetings or a total of four board meetings, including the Annual General Meeting, is equivalent to vacating their position.  Members of Manalo’s constituency, according to the board package, were said to be “frustrated and uninformed” by the director’s absence at the meetings and the subsequent lack of involvement and representation.

“The UTSU board has often been criticized in the past for not taking absences seriously, and [thinks] this strikes a different tone where the expectation for representatives are much higher,” said UTSU president Ben Coleman in an email to The Varsity.

Abdulla Omari, UTSU director for UTM, requested that the board consider tabling the vote to the Board of Directors’s meeting in January to allow Manalo to assess his capacity to hold office before voting on impeachment.

“We take representation seriously, but at the same time, as a board, we take fairness seriously,” Omari said. “One month’s time is enough to allow the individual to decide whether or not they can fill the capacity [and] to allow the board to evaluate whether or not they are filling capacity and acting on the concerns. I don’t think it’s fair to impeach someone when they were told the concerns an hour ago and formally read the concerns four days ago [in] the board package.”

However, Coleman remarked that he believed that this sentiment would have been “unlikely to lead to a different decision, as the information presented was already compelling.”

The board rejected Omari’s motion to table the vote and, after an in-camera session that lasted half an hour, proceeded to a secret ballot. Several minutes later, UTSU speaker Brad Evoy announced the vacancy of the KPE director’s office. Manalo was absent from the room at the time. “This is not a time to rejoice or celebrated,” UTSU executive director Tka Pinnock said to the board shortly after the voting results had been announced. A second vote to destroy the ballots took place afterwards, and passed.

This is not the first time this year that Manalo has been up for impeachment. A Board of Directors meeting held in September had the same motion on the agenda, after Manalo missed every summer meeting. Victoria University director Auni Ahsan moved the motion at the time.

At the September 20 meeting, Manalo explained that he had scheduling conflicts due to working two full-time jobs. Having to undergo medical treatment and not having access to his UTSU email were among the other reasons he gave for non-performance. Ahsan later withdrew his motion. “It was very specific concern of not attending the summer meetings. The discussion was ‘were you showing up? Yes? No? Why?” Omari said, addressing differences between the most recent impeachment vote and that of September 20. “This discussion has been significantly different, going to the very core of representing the membership.”

Manalo represented over 1,000 students. Last March, He campaigned for the KPE director’s office with the Change UofT slate. Although he lost to independent candidate Ryan Schwenger, his opponent was disqualified due to exceeding the campaign spending limit. Schwenger’s appeal was rejected and Manalo was announced the winner of the election. The UTSU is currently accepting applications on its website to fill the vaccancy.

Disclosure: Abdulla Omari also serves on the Board of Directors for Varsity Publications Inc.

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