Op-ed: Accountability, democracy, and samosas — attend the UTSU’s fall Annual General Meeting

All you need to know about the UTSU AGM

On Wednesday, October 30, at 6:00 pm, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) will be holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Innis Town Hall. This event is crucial for the governance of the UTSU, and gives our membership the opportunity to debate and ratify decisions and bylaws, and have their say in the direction and maintenance of our organization.

The UTSU AGM is one of our most important events, as it serves as a mid-year check on our progress as executives. As such, we work hard to ensure that the AGM is as accessible and open to our membership as possible.

Through measures like our online proxy system at utsu.simplyvoting.com, we want to make sure all members have a chance to engage with the UTSU on a personal level.

The AGM has been criticized in the past for being filled with “insiders” instead of general members. This is a valid criticism. In the past, the UTSU’s engagement skills were poor, and transparency was dubious. We’ve made strides this year to bridge this gap and want all students to feel comfortable at our AGM.

Our organization functions best when we hear your questions and criticisms, and we want to hear as many as possible. We’re here to listen.

The UTSU has a long history of packed AGMs with students raising their concerns with executives, irrespective of how receptive the executives may be. This has extended to the adoption of online voting — despite its initial failure — the proposed erasure of executive positions, the banning of slates, and the separation of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union from the UTSU.

Suffice to say, AGMs are wholly consequential to the operations of the UTSU.

Before I became an executive at the UTSU, I used the AGM as an opportunity to press my predecessors on the status of our membership in the Canadian Federation of Students, because I was under the impression that we would be pushing for a referendum to leave. As a general member, I was tired of the constant rhetoric — if the UTSU was pushing to leave, why were they still failing to deliver?

Furthermore, I advocated for resolutions that I found merit in, and spoke in opposition to points that I found to be unproductive. I found the AGM and the processes that preceded it to be extremely exciting: The Varsity’s bingo cards that predicted the events before they occurred, the samosas that sat lousily in the lobby of the event, the proxy cards that announced how many members were participating, et cetera. It was a lot to process my first time, and it was really one of the events that motivated me to get more involved with the UTSU.

The agendas are normally as follows: an address from the president and an executive question period; the presentation of audited statements and subsequent ratification of the auditor; the presentation of an annual report detailing the events of the preceding year; a package of bylaws to be discussed and ratified by the membership; and member-submitted motions.

The executive question period is a great opportunity to press executives on their actions or inaction. This period has addressed issues like a lack of water bottles at orientation, the inclusion of students from the satellite campuses, and whether the UTSU is democratic or not. This is a great opportunity, and has been historically utilized to a great extent by UTSU members.

Arguably, the two most consequential pieces of this upcoming AGM agenda are the audited financial statements and the Bylaw and Elections Procedure Code changes. The audit allows the UTSU’s general membership to see the financial health of the organization — where our money is being spent.

In addition, changes to the UTSU’s Bylaw and Elections Procedure Code are important, given that the UTSU’s Bylaws are legally binding and guide the organization’s general direction.

I highly encourage all of our members to come out and attend the AGM, if not for the opportunity to keep executives accountable and assess the health of our union, then for the samosas. If anybody has questions about the AGM, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We hope to see you on Wednesday, October 30, at Innis Town Hall!

Joshua Bowman is a fifth-year Indigenous Studies and Political Science student at St. Michael’s College and current President of the UTSU.

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