A series of resignations and discussion of poor board attendance records comprised the latest UTSU Board of Directors’ meeting.
Directors debated with each other over why the attendance for meetings was always very low, as well as how to improve engagement. The board also accepted the resignations of four directors at the meeting and filled five other director vacancies.
In December 2017, The Varsity found that 29 per cent of the board had missed enough meetings for them to have effectively abandoned office.
This is based on the UTSU’s Bylaw X, which covers abandonment of office. According to the bylaw, a director “shall be deemed to have delivered their resignation” if they have 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.
Mathematics and Physical Sciences Director Wilson Wu began the meeting by proposing a motion to automatically accept any resignations from board members who have been deemed to have abandoned office. Wu’s motion did not receive enough support to be added to the agenda.
“I triggered Bylaw X for the sake of accountability,” Wu told The Varsity. “I felt that it was important we were active in applying our few measures of accountability, especially seeing that engagement had degraded to the point that over a dozen directors have effectively abandoned office.”
However, the agenda did dedicate time for discussion on attendance, after UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh noted that “there was will from the board to have some sort of discussion on attendance more generally.”
The discussion focused mainly on why directors were missing meetings and how to solve the problem for future boards.
Trinity College Director Nish Chankar said that although she didn’t “have the best attendance this year,” she and many others often missed meetings for work obligations.
“I don’t skip meetings for fun. I skip meetings for work, for other commitments I have. But the problem I have is that I’m really shit at replying to emails,” said Chankar. “I think that an easy fix to this problem is people not sending in their regrets. I can’t be the only one on the board who repeatedly forgets to send in their regrets.”
Wu also spoke at length about the issue, saying that although he understands “everyone has busy lives,” board members also made a commitment to the UTSU and should therefore follow through.
“When we signed up for this we took on a commitment to show up to all of these meetings,” said Wu. “So saying that, ‘Oh, we’re bad at responding to emails or we don’t want to commute all the way down to campus for a meeting’— these are all issues, but just by us signing up, we’ve agreed to deal with them.”
Tka Pinnock, the UTSU’s Executive Director, agreed that directors had other engagements but said that board members were doing a “disservice” to themselves by not being engaged.
“Your goal as directors is not to come to the board meeting and to stamp everything the execs have done,” said Pinnock. “Your goal as directors is to come to the meeting and to ask the execs to explain what they’ve done, to defend what they’ve done.”
She claimed that this year’s Division III directors, who represent the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, were less engaged than in previous years, which in turn leads to St. George directors becoming disengaged as well.
“St. George directors should not take the position that you’re only engaged when you think people from UTM are engaged so [that] you have this challenger, this enemy that you have to bolster yourself against,” argued Pinnock.
Pinnock also mentioned that last year, “there were things that execs got away with… [that], had there been an engaged board, they would not have been able to get away with.”
At the meeting, the board also accepted the resignations of Aidan Swirsky, University College Director; Gaby Garcia-Casanova, General Equity Director; Rebekah Tam, Faculty of Music Director; and Hamboluhle Moyo, Victoria College Director.
Of the four, Tam had missed enough meetings to have effectively abandoned office.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Moyo said that he was resigning because he felt that he had not used his time on the board to the fullest extent.
“When one does not attend the council and commission meetings… it is rather easy to feel detached and become more disengaged,” he told The Varsity. “Most of the responsibility of disengagement is on us directors though it is fair to point out I don’t know the state of most of the directors’ lives.”
“It’s a shame that we’ve lost so many directors,” UTSU Vice-President External Anne Boucher told The Varsity. Boucher wrote that though some resignations were due to “personal reasons and they’re 100% valid… We need to rethink how we engage our board and membership.”
The board subsequently appointed five new directors to empty positions. Aron Sankar and Jeff Dryden were appointed as Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering Directors, replacing Danja Papajani and Andrew Sweeny, who both resigned last year. Victor Cheng was appointed Faculty of Music Director, replacing Tam. Justine Huyer was appointed Transitional Year Programme Director after the previous director’s term ended last semester. June Marston was appointed as General Equity Director, filling one of the vacant spots for that position.
The board has also struck a Shortlisting Committee to hire directors for any vacant positions for the remainder of the year. Jones, Sankar, and UC Directors Kshemani Constantinescu and Anushka Kurian were appointed to the committee. They will serve alongside UTSU President Mathias Memmel, Singh, and one other executive.