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UTSU AGMs: a history

Looking back on the past four years in preparation of this week’s meeting
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Tension has surrounded the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Annual General Meetings (AGM) for the past several years. With the 2016 AGM approaching on October 27, The Varsity reflects on previous meetings and their past proceedings.

2012: Total shut down

The 2012 AGM can be said to be the beginning of tumult and controversy.

Turnout was a record high, with over 300 students — nearly 2,000 proxy votes between them— ready to vote on the UTSU’s agenda.

Members waited in line for over two hours to enter the meeting, with delays stemming from restricted access to the union’s member list. Scheduled for 6:00 pm November 22, 2012, the meeting didn’t get underway until 8:19 pm.

Tension and division throughout the UTSU was evident. Opposition to the UTSU was strong, with student head of Trinity College Samuel Greene urging members not to vote to approve the agenda. Additionally, the UTSU voiced concerns over what they felt were personal attacks against the UTSU executive team.

Half an hour after the meeting was called to order, a routine vote on the agenda was held. Members voted against the approval the agenda, forcing an abrupt end to the meeting. The meeting was rescheduled for after the winter break.

2013: The cliff-hanger year

Reconvening on February 5, 2013, the AGM was especially long; four and a half hours were spent combing through the UTSU agenda. Members voted on a variety of concerns, from establishing an anti-war coalition to removing polystyrene foam food containers on campus.

The meeting lost quorum — the minimum number of members needed to continue — after UTM students left to catch a final bus back to their campus. With the meeting again forced to a halt, a controversial and highly anticipated vote on electoral reform and online voting was left unheard. The meeting was set to reconvene a week later.

The electoral reform motion was approved at the next meeting, but the delay in hearing the motion meant that it could not be ratified due to time constraints stemming from an upcoming election. Trinity College, the Engineering Society, and St. Michael’s College subsequently announced plans to secede from the UTSU due to its failure to ratify the changes before the election, a point that had been originally promised by UTSU President Shaun Shepherd.

2014: The road to Board of Directors reform

With a controversial proposal to drastically reform the Board of Directors on the table, a narrow vote at the AGM struck down the motion, which would have replaced college and faculty-specific directors with directors representing various marginalized groups.

The vote ultimately allowed for further discussion by the UTSU, though members had mixed reactions about the process to achieve a formal reform of the board, which was required under federal law.

The final orders of business, which addressed UTSU activism and advocacy work, were left unheard by the meeting.

A vote of 1,400 in favour to adjourn the meeting was heard before the remainder of the items could be addressed. The early adjournment led to feelings of disappointment from those that could not have their projects heard.

2015: The AGM trilogy

After a year of investigating how to reform the Board of Directors in order to comply with federal law, two proposals were presented at the AGM, which were meant to allow restructuring that was both legal and representative of UTSU membership.

Khrystyna Zhuk, the Arts & Sciences Director At-Large at the time presented one such proposal. Zhuk’s motion was voted for by over half of those in attendance, but failed to meet the two-thirds majority vote that was required for full ratification.

The failure to ratify the vote led to another meeting dubbed the ‘AGM Part 2’, where a majority number of members voted in favour of Zhuk’s proposal.

Students from UTM were not in attendance at AGM Part 2, due to scheduling issues that prevented the students from being involved in a Skype session, which would have allowed them to participate in the meeting.

Despite a call from a group of students for the meeting to be moved to allow for accessibility, the meeting continued as scheduled.

In addition to AGMs Part 1 and 2, a Special General Meeting (SGM) was called in January 2016 to discuss member-submitted motions. The agenda included motions on the UTSU’s relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students and ethical divestment. The meeting failed to reach quorum and instead carried on as an informal town hall meeting.

The 2016 AGM is set to take place on October 27 at 6:00 pm in the OISE Auditorium.