The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors concluded its transition meeting amidst several disruptions from activists protesting the union’s lawsuit against former Executive Director Sandy Hudson and the union’s plans to reduce services and eliminate two staff positions.
As the outgoing Board members of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) met in Woodsworth College, they were met with protests from the “Save our Services, Support our Staff” campaign, as well as supporters of CUPE 1281, the union that represents full time staff at the UTSU, and the Black Liberation Collective (BLC).
When protesters entered the room, Speaker Billy Graydon mentioned that during the meeting only Board members had speaking rights and asked the protesters to “keep the disruptions to a minimum.” A motion introduced later in the meeting was passed to grant speaking rights to all those present at the meeting, including non-Board members.
Upon the passing of this motion, protesters made statements in support of Hudson. Protesters praised Hudson’s work on campus and her commitment to helping students.
The union sued Hudson in September 2015, alleging that she was improperly issued overtime pay. Hudson countersued in December 2015, alleging hostilities from incoming executives at that time.
After the first speaker, former UTMSU executive Melissa Theodore, finished her statement, another protester began speaking, drawing an interjection from Graydon. Protesters continued speaking and chanting amid protests from Graydon, who threatened to adjourn the meeting. He carried this out as the protesters chanted “drop the lawsuit now.”
Upon the adjournment of the outgoing Board of Directors meeting and in the interim between that and the meeting for incoming Board members, unmediated discussions took place between many individuals in the room. Protesters said that they would be present to protest at future meetings of the UTSU Board of Directors while Faizan Akbani, an outgoing Pro-Fac Director at Large, told them that a motion was on the agenda to drop the lawsuit against Sandy Hudson.
“If you end this meeting, the lawsuit will still be there,” said Akbani to the protesters.
Chimwemwe Alao, incoming Vice-President Equity, encouraged discussion and iterated that he respected what the protesters were doing. In response to this, Michelle Mabira, President of the African Students Association, said “if you respect us, then why did you run with Mathias?” referencing incoming UTSU President Mathias Memmel.
At 12:30 p.m., the meeting for the incoming Board of Directors was called to order. It should be clarified that these were two different meetings with two separate agendas.
Protesters from the previous meeting were again present at the new meeting, where a motion was once again passed to grant speaking rights to all individuals present in the room. Protesters continued to read statements in support of Hudson while criticizing the UTSU’s plans to eliminate Vita Carlino and Maria Galvez’s positions.
Eventually, a motion was passed to discuss whether to drop the lawsuit against Sandy Hudson, during which Memmel went into detail about the lawsuit after consulting with legal counsel.
Memmel offered to move the meeting in camera, which drew protest as non-Board members who were present wanted to hear about the lawsuit from Memmel.
Jose Wilson, who is the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) Representative, subsequently moved that the UTSU should hire a lawyer for a second opinion on the lawsuit. The requirements of this motion state that this lawyer should be Black, have a background in equity and employment law, and be appointed by the Board of Directors. The motion also states that the UTSU should consult the Black Liberation Collective in its decision. The motion passed with a simple majority.
Once discussion on the lawsuit ended, the meeting was called to a 15 minute recess, after which the Board of Directors went through items on the agenda. These included the transfer of signing authority, election of a finance committee, and discussion of a motion submitted by the Selkirk College Students’ Union to the Canadian Federation of Students’ National General Meeting.
After Emmanuela Alimlim asked for clarification on the status of whether or not the UTSU will lay off Carlino and Galvez, the meeting was moved in camera so that the Board could speak about matters privately. Memmel told The Varsity that the meeting lost quorum while in camera, and subsequently adjourned.
This story is developing, more to follow.
Editor’s Note: Two Facebook Live videos have been removed from this article due to legal issues concerning statements made by subjects of these videos.