The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors voted to impeach Akshan Bansal, its former vice president, campus life from both the Executive Committee and the board. UTSU president Ben Coleman moved to impeach Bansal at an emergency meeting on December 30. The motion to remove Bansal from the UTSU Executive Committee passed with 24 votes in favour, two against, one abstention, and one spoiled ballot.
Immediately following the impeachment, the UTSU Executive Committee released a statement encouraging students to hold them to account. “It is important that, as the leaders of the UTSU, executives uphold the mission and values of the organization. We therefore encourage our members to continue to hold their elected leaders to account,” read part of the statement.
Bansal was impeached after a public allegation of sexual assault came to the attention of the UTSU executives on December 14. In the hours following the circulation of the allegation, the UTSU released a statement calling for Bansal’s impeachment and condemning rape culture on campus. The statement was signed by five of the seven UTSU executives.
Uranranebi Agbeyegbe, president of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) and UTMSU designate on the UTSU’s Executive Committee, did not sign off on the original letter calling for Bansal’s impeachment. Instead, the UTMSU published a statement on December 22 calling for an investigation into the allegation against Bansal.
Agbeyegbe declined to comment for this story.
According to Jasmine Denike, UTSU vice president external, the allegation was a “tipping point,” but not the sole reason behind the impeachment; rather, it was the result of several complaints regarding Bansal’s job performance. “We don’t wish him ill and we wish him all the best, but we wanted to make sure students feel safe on campus. That is our first priority,” Denike said.
Previous complaints received by the UTSU’s Executive Review Committee (XRC) included claims that Bansal made sexist and sexual comments and was inebriated at work. The XRC investigated the grievances over the summer and recommended that Bansal be placed on probation, but did not recommend impeachment.
Immediately after the meeting at which he was impeached, Bansal told The Varsity that he was distraught.
A new vice president, campus life will be selected to fulfil the office for the remaining four months of the term. A hiring committee comprised of UTSU executives, with the possible addition of one or two UTSU board members, will be responsible for the appointment and will conduct interviews for the position after the January 15 application deadline.
This round of applications marks the third time that the hiring process for the position of vice president campus life has been opened this academic year. Denike noted that this time, the hiring process will be an improvement upon the previous two, where concerns were raised about the disproportionately low number of board members present.