The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) General Council pushed out Internal Commissioner (IC) Lynne Alexandrova at a meeting on November 26 after a vote to vacate the office of the IC.
The duties of the IC will be taken up by Executive-at-Large Maryssa Barras until a by-election in January.
Citing Article 9.1 of the UTGSU bylaws, the Executive Committee sent notice to Alexandrova that there were suspicions that she was not properly fulfilling her duties as Internal Commissioner in October.
In contradiction of the bylaws, Alexandrova did not circulate a report on her ongoing initiatives before an executive meeting on October 16, where the executive brought its concerns to her, although she told The Varsity that she had done so before the November 15 meeting. At the same October meeting, the Executive Committee resolved to hire a mediator to “address Executive Committee team dynamics and communication issues.”
A month later, at an executive meeting on November 15, Finance Commissioner Branden Rizzuto motioned on behalf of the Committee to hold an irregular meeting of the General Council on November 26, and to vote on the vacation of the IC position at that meeting, citing a failure of Alexandrova to fulfil her duties.
All members of the Executive Committee voted to pass the motion, except for Alexandrova who was absent due to an illness.
In an interview with The Varsity, Alexandrova contended that she was not given sufficient warning that this meeting would occur and did not have sufficient strength to “stand up to ungrounded anxieties causing confrontational measures.”
She believes that, had she attended the meeting, she might have stopped the Executive Committee from invoking Article 9.
The Executive Committee, in a statement to The Varsity, claimed that the decision to hold a vote on the IC’s office did not result from the explicit intention to vacate the office. Ultimately, the General Council and Board of Directors made the final decision on the matter.
Tensions had been growing between Alexandrova and other members of the Executive Committee for some time. Alexandrova alleged that she was ignored or avoided by other executives throughout her term and blamed a structural conflict between her own “pedagogical paradigm” and the existing culture among UTGSU executives as cause for the strained relationship — specifically, a culture that supported returning executives without room for outside or “different” perspectives.
Alexandrova claimed that the Executive Committee was out of order in using Article 9.1 of the UTGSU bylaws to hold a vote on vacating her now former office because she was not properly notified that she was not fulfilling her duties.
The bylaws require that the executive accused be allowed a platform to address the rest of the Executive Committee, and while this occured at the October 16 executive meeting, Alexandrova contended that she was not clearly informed that the Executive Committee sought to address her performance as IC at this meeting.
While accused of failure to adequately perform her duties, Alexandrova wrote to The Varsity that she sought to add “some creative, content contribution… [to] encourage content discussion about what the Union’s leadership should be about, and the Union.”
She continued that she believes the vote to vacate her position is part of a larger deconstruction of the IC position that has been ongoing for years, and that the UTGSU “might reach a point where student-elected executives don’t matter” — this is in reference to what Alexandrova saw as encroachment of the staff members, including the Executive Director, on the duties of the IC and the “corporatization” of the UTGSU.
Editor’s note (December 3, 3:34 pm): This article originally stated that former UTGSU Internal Commissioner Lynne Alexandrova circulated a report on her ongoing initiatives before an executive meeting on October 16 at which the executive brought its concerns to her. In fact, she did not. The Varsity regrets the error.
Editor’s note (December 3, 5:50 pm): This article has been updated with additional context on the motion passed by the Executive Committee on November 15 to hold an additional meeting and vote on the vacation of the Internal Commissioner position on November 26.