Members of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) voted to endorse separation from the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) at the UTSU’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 30. The motion passed unanimously with 222 votes.
The move comes after a lengthy negotiations process that began in January and culminated in the UTSU Board of Directors endorsing separation in September. The vote at the AGM was for members to show their approval of the endorsement, which would allow the unions to begin the formal process of separating.
UTMSU Vice-President External Atif Abdullah supported the separation, citing issues regarding campus representation.
Specifically, he pointed to a perceived lack of support on the health and dental plan — which is administered by the UTSU — as well as on what the UTMSU saw to be a lack of solidarity on the controversial University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy passed in June.
However, Abdullah added that it would still be possible for the two unions to work together after separation.
“When it comes to banding together for issues, I don’t believe you need a contract to work together,” said Abdullah.
UTSU Vice-President Operations Tyler Biswurm spoke to The Varsity on the next steps of formal separation and the overall financial implications, specifically an $82,800 loss in yearly revenue from UTM students until 2023.
“We’ve talked to the university about [its] role in it and so we’re putting in every effort that we can to make sure this, in an operational sense, goes smoothly,” said Biswurm.
The UTSU and the UTMSU signed an Associate Membership Agreement (AMA) on April 30, 2008. UTSU President Anne Boucher claimed that students from both the UTSU and UTMSU criticized the decision to sign the AMA at the time, as it was agreed upon during the last day of the fiscal period with little time for discussion.
The UTSU has experienced a similar separation in the past with regards to the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, which left the UTSU’s predecessor, the Students’ Administrative Council, in 2004.
Once the separation is finalized, the UTMSU’s health and dental plan will no longer be under the UTSU, meaning that it would have to find a new plan under a different health care provider. The student union will also no longer have to sign an agreement to work alongside the UTSU and would be able to conduct its own advocacy efforts.
— With files from Ilya Bañares, Hannah Carty, Josie Kao, Adam A. Lam, and Andy Takagi