At the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) January Board of Directors meeting, committee members and directors passed a motion to effectively end relations with the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), collaborate more closely with the Black Students’ Association (BSA) in the run up to Black History Month, and minted a new executive vice-president position that will combine the external affairs and university affairs portfolios. The new position will be brought to next month’s Special General Meeting (SGM) for final approval.
Much ado about RSU
Recent events at the RSU have prompted the UTSU to adopt a new resolution outlining which external organizations it will work with moving forward. Passed unanimously, this resolution commits the UTSU to cease collaboration with organizations that fail to meet the standards and values set out in the UTSU’s Board of Directors Code of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Policy. The Executive Committee and Board of Directors will continually evaluate their relationships with external partners on a rolling basis, so that members can address issues as they arise.
Ryerson University recently announced that the RSU will no longer be recognized as an official form of student government following its failure to address accusations of financial mismanagement. The Eyeopener reported last January that over $250,000 in expenditures were charged to RSU credit cards, with payments being made to nightclubs and bars.
The resolution holds that “recent events at the Ryerson Students’ Union have raised serious concerns around the harmful work environment perpetuated by its Executive officers,” in reference to accusations of discriminatory behaviour among the executives.
UTSU President Joshua Bowman commented that while this derecognition of the RSU is a good step from an oversight perspective, it is still a loss for student unions across the country. However, he rejected the assertion that Ryerson’s decision is counter to the principles of student democracy, highlighting over 1,000 student voices that called for change within the RSU in an online petition.
UTSU and Black community collaboration, funds allocation
The UTSU unanimously passed a memorandum of agreement with the BSA in a move that the BSA’s President Anyika Mark called “history in the making.” Per the agreement, the UTSU will allocate $15,000 to the BSA, waiving the $9,000 maximum for clubs funding.
In addition to the funding increase, the memorandum of agreement will strengthen ties between the UTSU and BSA by ramping up their project partnership throughout the year. In order to “foster collaboration and community building,” the UTSU and BSA will cooperatively organize at least one event per year.
The UTSU will also seek the opinion of the BSA on equity-related matters. The Executive Committee of the UTSU will meet with the BSA at least once per semester, and it will reflect at the end of each term on the UTSU’s progress concerning “allyship, collaboration, resources, and equitable services.”
The BSA has been granted a seat on the UTSU’s Clubs Committee and Equity & Accessibility Committee in the capacity of “Community Member.” The Equity & Accessibility Committee includes the Indigenous Students’ Collective and Queer Students’ Collective, among others. The BSA will be one of three community members to also take part in the committee. The Clubs Committee is made up of executive committee members, directors, and community members — of which the BSA will be one of four.
Vice-President position decision
The UTSU has moved to combine the Vice-President, University Affairs and Vice-President, External Affairs portfolios in order to create a new position: Vice-President, Public and University Affairs.
The impetus behind this motion is that “the roles of Vice-President, University Affairs and Vice-President, External Affairs share a significant overlap in duties and responsibilities” and “[deal] with issues that can complement [each others’] work.”
In view of the fact that the Vice-President, University Affairs and Vice-President, External Affairs are both part-time positions, the UTSU has put this proposal forward claiming its “need for a dedicated full-time Vice-President in order to better represent students in lobbying efforts and other forms of advocacy.”
The motion passed unanimously, but will be subject to approval at the SGM, set to be held on February 12 at 5:00 pm at the George Ignatieff Theatre. If passed, these amendments will take effect after May 1. This will avoid removing Lucas Granger and Avani Singh from office, the current Vice-President, External Affairs and Vice-President, University Affairs, respectively.
If this new position is approved, next year’s Executive Committee will be limited to six executives, rather than the current seven positions.
The UTSU attempted to combine executive positions in September 2017, when the resignation of then Vice-President, University Affairs Carina Zhang prompted discussion on merging the university affairs and external affairs portfolios into a new Vice-President, Advocacy role. However, fierce opposition from directors, executives, and general members caused the motion to fail at the 2017 Annual General Meeting.