SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

During a lengthy General Council meeting on September 27, University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) Finance Commissioner Branden Rizzuto resigned from his position effective November 1.

At the same meeting, following extensive debate, the council voted to de-affiliate with the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) on the recommendation of the UTGSU’s Ad-hoc Committee after it found 20 constitutional violations in April’s GSA elections.

Rizzuto’s resignation

“It is my personal opinion that the UTGSU has, for quite some time, suffered from a lack of accountability in its internal operations,” said Rizzuto, announcing the end of his fourth term as an executive elected to the union.

The commissioner cited an inability to continue properly executing his duties due to “multiple personnel and bodies in the UTGSU [neglecting] their duties and responsibilities for excessive periods of time.” He further described an inequitable and unsustainable workload. With the developments of the UTGSU’s legal challenge against the Ford government, and the Student Choice Initiative, Rizzuto intends to remain until November 1 to ensure that particular duties are fulfilled before his departure.

“I feel that, while I have made earnest attempts to address and resolve the issues I have stated in this letter, I have ultimately remained unsuccessful,” concluded Rizzuto, who read from a letter. Council members thanked Rizzuto for his work, but also sought to know more about his allegations — to which Rizzuto also declined to specifically name any individuals.

The Finance Commissioner position will be filled through a process voted on by General Council, which will be held at a future Council meeting, according to an email from the UTGSU Executive Committee.

Rizzuto and the Executive Committee declined to comment on the announcement.

De-affiliating with the OISE GSA

On the recommendation of the Ad-hoc Course Union Investigation Committee (adCUIC), General Council voted to de-affiliate with the OISE GSA, following an investigation that found a total of 20 constitutional violations in the April GSA elections. Out of four recommendations made by the adCUIC, the union passed the only punitive measure in the last 30 minutes of the meeting. Heated debate preceded the vote, which saw disagreement between advocates for de-affiliation and concerns from members that felt they did not know enough to vote.

Effective from the time of the council’s vote, OISE GSA’s four representatives on General Council are no longer allowed to vote; they do not have representation on council in any course union, but all students will remain UTGSU members with access to the union’s services.

Desiree Sylvestre, on behalf of the outgoing OISE GSA executives, wrote to The Varsity in an email: “The issues we are presented with at the OISE GSA are multi-layered and complex, involving different approaches and expectations regarding the priorities and style of student governance.”

While the UTGSU Executive Committee abstained from the vote to de-affiliate, Sylvestre maintains that the Committee did not reach out to mediate following the election investigation. The outgoing GSA executives also alleged that the Committee “exponentially aggravated” tensions when suggesting that the GSA rejoin the union as a course union, which would cut down the amount of union dues that the GSA collects from its members through the UTGSU. The UTGSU Executive Committee asserts that its members “[remain] pointedly separate from any discussions happening internally at OISE or elsewhere within the University.”

Sylvestre concluded, “I am truly disappointed in the UTGSU, they operate in a punitive environment with no hope for solidarity. My hope is that OISE students will become more involved and take steps to successfully challenge the systems that exist within the UTGSU, beginning with their Executive Elections.”

Due to only getting through a quarter of the agenda items for the September 24 meeting, the next General Council meeting will occur before the October 29, according to the Executive Committee.

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