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Almost 15 per cent of sitting UTSU board members resigned or deemed resigned in the past year

Seven out of 48 board members effectively resigned, decrease from previous years
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The UTSU saw an increase in attendance when compared to 2018. Andy Takagi/THE VARSITY
The UTSU saw an increase in attendance when compared to 2018. Andy Takagi/THE VARSITY

According to attendance records supplied by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), out of the 48 sitting members on the UTSU Board of Directors, four have resigned, while three have been deemed to have abandoned office in accordance with UTSU bylaws in the past year. This amounts to almost 15 per cent of sitting members, a decrease from The Varsity’s 2018 analysis, when a third of members missed enough meetings to effectively abandon office. Six members have been replaced, and one position remains vacant.

Board members who handed in their resignations include Trinity College Director Arunoshi Singh, Victoria College Director Thomas Siddall, Applied Science & Engineering Director Eran Vijayakumar, and Architecture and Visual Studies Director Jennille Neal.

Life Sciences Director Honesty Senese and Transitional Year Programme Director Valerie Dawe were both deemed to have abandoned office, while Professional Faculties at-Large Director Hasma Habibiy was deemed to have resigned under bylaw 10.3, Ineligibility, as she had switched to part-time studies and thus was no longer a member of the UTSU.

The union’s bylaw 10, section 2 outlines the criteria for abandonment of office for a Division I or II director as “deemed to have delivered their resignation, confirmed by a simple majority vote of the Board” when directors have failed to send their regrets for two missed meetings, or failed to attend three consecutive meetings, or any four meetings, regardless of sent regrets. If a director is unable to attend a meeting, they must send regrets to the speaker within 48 hours of receiving the agenda. Directors receive an excused absence if they cannot attend due to academic obligations, work, or religious observations, among others. Otherwise, they are deemed absent.

Board members were marked present about 58 per cent of the time. About 33.3 per cent of absences were unexcused. Directors sent regrets for 18.7 per cent of absences, and 41.8 per cent of absences were excused.

In total, there have been 11 meetings of the UTSU Board of Directors since June of 2019. This includes eight regular scheduled meetings, three of which took place over the summer, as well as an emergency meeting, the Annual General Meeting, and the Special General Meeting.

A resignation by a director can be blocked if a simple majority of the Board of Directors votes against the motion. Instead, the director is put on probation for the next two meetings. Directors can speak for five minutes in their own defence or submit a one-page statement to the board.

UTSU President Joshua Bowman called the increase in attendance from previous years a “step in the right direction,” attributing the increased attendance to the elimination of slates. Writing to The Varsity, Bowman expressed his belief that directors sought their positions outside of the support of a collective slate, and thus “have their own reasons for participating in the UTSU at this level. They are here because they want to be, not because a slate or a Presidential candidate told them to.”

On the enforcement of bylaw 10 and attendance at meetings, Bowman wrote that the policy’s implementation has “been equal parts accountable and empathetic. We encourage elected members to attend all meetings, but understand when life gets in the way.” He also emphasized that meetings are scheduled around the majority of availability among directors, who are “made aware immediately and informed of the procedure” when in danger of contravening the union’s bylaws.

“As a Director last year, I remember a lack of information being made available for Board members. We didn’t know what Bylaw X was until it was essentially too late,” wrote Bowman.

Crediting last year’s Vice-President Operations Tyler Biswurm’s attendance formula for clarity in the processes and guidelines of the bylaw, Bowman wrote that directors were informed of the criteria for abandonment of office from the beginning. “I am happy that our attendance is increasing, but I will truly be satisfied when our elections are contested and seats aren’t left vacant.”

Editor’s Note (March 24, 6:28 pm): This article has been updated to correct that Habibiy was deemed to have resigned from office under the UTSU’s bylaw 10.3.