Fourteen of the 49 sitting members of the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Board of Directors have effectively abandoned office. There are 57 positions on the board, eight of which are unfilled.
According to Section 2 of the union’s Bylaw X, a Division I or II director “shall be deemed to have delivered their resignation, confirmed by a simple majority vote of the Board” whenever said member has failed to send regrets for two missed meetings, failed to attend three consecutive meetings or any four meetings regardless of sent regrets, or failed to attend any three committee meetings. Division I and II directors include everyone except University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union directors, General Equity directors, and members of the UTSU executive. At least one of the resignation conditions outlined in the bylaw has been met by approximately 29 per cent of the directors beholden to it: 14 people.
The Varsity’s attendance calculations are based on an attendance record spreadsheet supplied by UTSU executives. It includes board meeting attendance at six scheduled meetings and the Annual General Meeting (AGM). The attendance from the November meeting was not available. All absences at the AGM are recorded here as being with regrets.
The seven meetings have been attended by a rough average of 55 per cent of the board. Of these meetings, a director misses an average of three meetings. In addition, 22 people have missed at least four meetings this year.
Directors who have effectively abandoned office include New College Director Chengye Yang; St. Michael’s College Directors Myron Atta-Mensah and Garnet Ryu; Trinity College Director Nish Chankar; University College Director Anushka Kurian; Woodsworth College Directors Sara Zamani and Justin Zelnicker; At-Large Director Stephanie Hovdestadi; Faculty of Dentistry Director Joanna Man; Faculty of Music Director Rebekah Tam; Faculty of Pharmacy Director Jakov Krezic; Computer Sciences Director Lisa Guo; Rotman Commerce Director Kevin Wang; and Transitional Year Program Director Osman Osman, whose term ended in October but met the resignation benchmark prior to that.
When asked about the directors who have effectively abandoned office, UTSU President Mathias Memmel wrote, “The role of the board is to hold the executives accountable, so it would be inappropriate for us to start disciplining directors or trying to remove them from the board.”
UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh wrote that although “the Board has a lot more power and autonomy than previous years, this year’s Board faces the same issues that previous years have faced as there is a small group of very involved directors but a larger group of directors who are less involved.” Singh said that the board is “too large,” and because of its size, “it’s difficult for individual Directors to feel meaningfully engaged in the work of the organization.”
The UTSU attendance record occasionally differs from what is published in official meeting minutes. Aidan Fishman, Faculty of Law Director, is listed on the attendance record as being one absence away from a deemed resignation. His absence here is noted on June 20, despite him being marked in the meeting minutes as being present and even moving a motion. Conversely, Carol Yeung, At-Large Director, is marked present in the attendance record for June 20 but is not marked present in the meeting minutes.
“The minute-taker doesn’t always know who everyone is, and keeping track of fifty-seven people can be difficult,” said Memmel. “That’s why the speaker keeps a separate record, which is traditionally more accurate. We update the minutes later on.”
Two of the directors’ resignations — those of Chengye Yang and Nish Chankar — are determined by an absence without regrets at the first board meeting, which was held on April 29. The official attendance record notes that absences without regrets at the first meeting are considered absences with regrets — ‘freebies,’ if you will. This is not reflected in the bylaws, and it is not factored into The Varsity’s calculations.
Chankar told The Varsity that she moved to Germany for a couple of months, packing on April 29 and departing on April 30. She claimed that she notified the UTSU’s Speaker, Billy Graydon, and Memmel, and that her regrets should have been recorded. According to the bylaws, regrets must be sent to the Speaker and Vice-President Internal.
Resignations must be accepted by a motion put forth by a board member at a board meeting. According to Graydon, a motion to accept the resignation of a member has only happened once in the past three years.
If all the de facto resignations presented here were accepted, Canada’s largest student union by membership would lose almost one third of its representatives.