At its meeting on August 24, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors approved a motion to rescind the requirement of a second legal opinion on the lawsuit against former Executive Director Sandra Hudson.
The board approved the motion to rescind by a vote of 21 in favour to eight against.
“I was surprised. We expected the motion to pass, but not by such a wide margin,” said UTSU President Mathias Memmel in an e-mail to The Varsity. “I can’t speak for the board, but my sense is that we’ve all had enough of non-members–be they Ms. Hudson’s friends or CUPE 1281–disrupting our meetings and trying to prevent the UTSU from functioning.”
At an April 29 meeting, protesters from the Black Liberation Collective (BLC) compelled the board to approve a motion requiring the UTSU to seek a second legal opinion on the lawsuit. That motion stipulated that the BLC must be involved in the hiring process of a second lawyer, that the lawyer must “identify as Black,” and that the lawyer must have a background in employment and equity law. A second motion was later introduced to rescind the initial motion.
Memmel said that the second legal opinion would have cost the UTSU “around $50,000” and claimed that, while the UTSU expects to run a surplus of less than $10,000, moving forward with the second opinion would have led to cuts to services provided by the UTSU. During the meeting, Equity Director Adrian DiTommaso questioned whether the second legal opinion would be worth more than these services, and encouraged the board not to appease a group of “politically motivated individuals” by seeking a second legal opinion.
“You should not be seeking a second legal opinion as a PR measure,” Vice President Internal Daman Singh argued during discussion on the motion. “That is not what lawyers are for.”
As discussion progressed, UTMSU Representative Jose Wilson criticized the board for its hesitance in seeking a second legal opinion, saying that finances should not factor into the decision and that he was “puzzled” at the board’s emphasis on cost. Humanities Director Kassandra Neranjan also spoke against the motion to rescind, calling the UTSU a “shady institution,” and claiming that the main issue was cost versus transparency.
“The UTSU has a history of not being accountable and pushing away black students,” said New College Director Prashansa Atreay.
In order to gain entry to the meeting room, each individual was required to present a TCard; Wilson criticized the board for “policing” the door to the meeting.
Memmel told The Varsity that the decision to implement the TCard was made by the university administration. “It’s also very telling, although not at all surprising, that so few of the people who’ve been disruptive are members of the UTSU.”
Recent UTSU board meetings have been subject to protests and interruptions, including a meeting held on July 20, where members of the BLC forced entry into the room during an in-camera session and, following discussion, vocally protested the UTSU’s lawsuit against Hudson, leading Chair Billy Graydon to adjourn the meeting early.
The UTSU Board of Directors is set to meet again on September 23.
The Varsity has reached out to UTMSU Representative Jose Wilson and the Black Liberation Collective for comment.