Protests broke out at the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors meeting following a vote to approve the minutes of the Services Committee which had decided to reduce the services provided by the Health and Dental Coordinator and the Clubs and Service Groups Coordinator.
The motion that was passed at the Services Committee states that the UTSU would “cease to offer the services of a designated member of the full-time staff to recognized clubs and service groups” and “cease to offer the services of a designated member of the full-time staff to students seeking assistance with the Health and Dental Plan.”
The Health and Dental Coordinator and the Clubs and Service Groups Coordinator are represented by CUPE 1281, like most full-time staff positions within the UTSU.
As the vote to approve the minutes was being called, members from CUPE 1281 and several students, including Amanda Harvey-Sánchez, an incoming board member, and Andre Fast, who ran for UTSU President with the We the Students slate began chanting and shouting down the vote. Amidst shouts of “Shame!” and “Support our workers!” the motion was passed and immediately after, a motion to adjourn was brought forward and passed.
Just before the minutes of the Services Committee were to be debated, Mathias Memmel, VP Internal and Services and UTSU president-elect, brought forward a motion to call for orders of the day, which would have effectively made the items non-debatable and the allotted time for debate for the items have passed. He cited time pressures as the UTSU only booked the room until 9:00 p.m.
Various people raised issues with the motion, many making points of personal privileges and points of orders to argue against the proposed lack of debate. Eventually Memmel relented and brought forward a motion to extend debate on the minutes of the Services Committee to 10 minutes.
Susan Froom, who is the Vice-President Internal of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students, spoke first, saying that UTSU members had been coming to the APUS office asking about the the recent change in health insurance providers that was made last year. Froom says that they refer these students the UTSU Health and Dental Coordinator and warns that cutting this service would result in “a lot of dissatisfied students and [the UTSU] may be creating tension this year between APUS and UTSU.”
Orion Keresztesi, President of CUPE 1281, urged the board to reconsider cutting the positions.
“I want us all to remember that we’re talking about folks’ livelihoods here,” Keresztesi said at the meeting. He also said that “the people moving this motion are trying to be clever,” adding that “[the UTSU is] trying to frame this as a layoff, when they know very well it is not a layoff… it’s an attempt at a backdoor firing.”
A motion was also called to extend time to Nour Alideeb, President of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), to speak on the Services Committee minutes, but the motion failed.
“Today’s meeting, I think, could have gone in a different way had people not had previously made up their minds, who were willing to listen to people’s perspectives,” said Alideeb. “It’s hard when it comes to things like this because we’re not only talking about the service itself but we’re also talking about people’s lives.”
Protests continued after the meeting was adjourned as the UTSU directors left.
The Varsity is awaiting comment from Memmel, who declined to comment in-person and requested that The Varsity reach out via email. The paper has also reached out to UTSU President Jasmine Wong Denike.
This story is developing. More to follow.
—With files from Kaitlyn Simpson and Tom Yun
Clarification: An earlier version of the article stated that Memmel motioned to limit debate to zero hours. Although this is how Graydon described the motion, the article has been amended to clarify that the motion was for orders of the day.