U of T radio station CIUT 89.5 FM is facing criticism from two of its Board Directors, Anne Boucher and Stuart Norton, over its internal executive elections process. Boucher, who is also Vice-President External of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), blasted the organization’s process as being “not democratic, transparent, [or] open at all.”
Executives are elected during a Board of Directors meeting that is held immediately after the station’s annual general meeting in the fall. Both Boucher and Norton argue that the nature of the election process — specifically the speed at which it’s conducted — hinder the potential for any competition for positions.
“It was all oral… So someone else may have wanted to be VP, even though they didn’t get a chance to lift their hand up. There was no chance for an actual election,” said Boucher. “[CIUT President Steve Fruitman]… went around the room asking who wanted to be… other positions, being like, ‘Oh, where’s my VP? Secretary?”
Norton backed up this statement, saying that “the President was like, ‘So, anyone want to be President? Well, I’d love to do it again, so I’ll be President.’ But…it happened in like five seconds.”
Fruitman described the structure of the meeting as “Who wants to be this? Who wants to be that? We need four officers, you’re the Treasurer… Secretary, who wants to do that?”
“We need a President and Vice-President, and in this case, as usual, it’s not people stepping forward, it’s people stepping back. So who wants to do it? I put my name for it. I said if you want me to continue doing it, I’ll do it. Nobody opposed me, so I was nominated and elected with a motion. Or I wasn’t elected, I was acclaimed,” said Fruitman.
He added that only board members can vote for executives. “Your board is comprised of who gets elected at an annual general members meeting, and they amongst themselves are going to decide who’s going to be on their executive.”
“I started there in 1988,” said Fruitman. “And we’ve always elected our executive that way.”
Cheri DiNovo, former NDP MPP for the Parkdale–High Park riding in Toronto and current CIUT board member, wrote that “anyone is welcome to run for and vote for positions on the Board and our AGM is coming up. All our terms are limited and certainly since the management is elected democratically, there’s an opportunity to change management at every AGM.”
However, according to the station’s bylaws, students who pay the levy are not entitled to receive notice of, attend, or vote at CIUT meetings unless they have paid a general membership fee of $89.50, separate from the levy. The sole guaranteed student representation at the station is through the UTSU appointees.
“Students are not considered that way because of the nature of our relationship,” said Fruitman. “They get their representation through the [UTSU].”
Students also cannot run to be on the board unless they have paid the membership fee. General member directors are limited to two-year terms, although there is no limit on the number of consecutive terms they can serve.
Boucher further criticized the station for not appointing a Chief Returning Officer (CRO) to administer the elections — a move that she suggested contradicts U of T’s Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations, which states that student organizations must have “impartial and fair elections processes that allow members to participate easily as both voters and candidates.”
Fruitman confirmed that CIUT did not have a CRO at the last election, stating he didn’t know of the CRO requirement and was unsure if the university’s policy applied to CIUT. Interim Director of Media Relations at U of T Elizabeth Church confirmed that it does.
Under CIUT’s bylaws, up to three members of its board must be students.
These students are appointed by the UTSU, unless the board finds the UTSU’s candidates unsuitable, in which case it can launch an application process to fill the seats.
CIUT received $310,575 from student fees in 2017, which made up 59 per cent of its total revenue that year. Full-time undergraduate students at UTSG pay $3.75 per session to the station, while full-time undergraduates from UTM and UTSC pay $0.50 per session.
Fruitman said that “the student fees are a lifeline” and the station wouldn’t exist without the university and its students.
Editor’s Note (March 11): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that U of T’s Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations requires student societies to have a CRO at elections. It does not.