At the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM), a member-submitted resolution was passed that amends the union’s bylaws to allow members to directly vote on member-submitted operational and procedural policy changes.
The motion, submitted by Vice-President University Affairs Josh Grondin, removes the bylaw that requires all policies and procedures to go through the UTSU’s Governance Committee.
This means that members are now allowed to vote on procedural and operation policies through a majority at the AGM. Procedural policies can now be adopted, rescinded, or passed at the AGM with a three-quarters majority, and operational procedures with a simple majority.
Discussion on the motion was heavily focused on the political implications of the policy. Vice-President Operations Tyler Biswurm expressed concern over the makeup of attendees at AGMs, saying, “We’re all insiders here, every single one of us. The normal person does not care about the UTSU.”
An amendment was introduced by Biswurm’s predecessor and former Vice-President Internal Daman Singh that would change the policy to refer all policy proposals to the next Board or UTSU meeting.
Singh’s amendment was further amended by former UTSU President and current UTSU contractor Mathias Memmel, who sought to allow members that submit policies to be allowed speaking rights in all levels of governance.
While Memmel’s amendment to Singh’s amendment passed, the overall amendment failed in a tie vote, meaning that neither passed.
Singh also called for a recount of the UTSU members in attendance right before the vote to pass Grondin’s resolution. This was to ensure that the AGM still met quorum, meaning that at least 50 members had to be physically in the room.
While the room did not have 50 members physically present, one member cited language from the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act that allows resolutions to be voted on as long as quorum was met at the beginning of the meeting, which the speaker used as reasoning to continue the AGM.
As such, the motion was able to proceed to a vote, and the inquorate members voted to pass it.
In an interview with The Varsity, Biswurm said that he believed the assembly was wrong to vote on the resolution without quorum.
“I would say everybody’s decision to sort of defer to the will of the assembly that didn’t meet those requirements was wrong.”
In a statement to The Varsity, Grondin emphasized the need for accountability and accessibility within the UTSU. He described the old bylaws as “problematic,” and said that he hopes the new resolution will allow members to feel “a sense of belonging and empowerment.”
On the issue of quorum, Grondin felt that it was unfortunate the resolution didn’t pass with the bylaw-intended number of members in the room.
“I think there’s a reason that a membership of 50,000 cannot get 50 people into a room for its AGM, and this stems from students not feeling empowered or invested in the UTSU. Even without quorum in the space at the time, this motion introduced a new power to our members that they did not have before, which I think is a great step.”
— With files from Ilya Bañares, Hannah Carty, Ann Marie Elpa, Josie Kao, and Adam A. Lam
Update (November 8, 5:38 pm): This story has been updated to include comment from Grondin.