During the September 15 meeting of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU), the council voted to impeach its internal commissioner, Lynne Alexandrova, due to concerns about her inability to fulfill the duties of the position, mistreatment of staff, and “perpetuat[ing] anti-Blackness.”
This marks the second time that Alexandrova has been removed from the internal commissioner position. The UTGSU General Council pushed her from office in 2018 following allegations that she did not fulfill her duties as internal commissioner.
The UTGSU is in the process of planning a by-election, which will fill the positions of internal commissioner and finance commissioner.
September 15 meeting
During the council meeting, Alexandrova questioned the legitimacy of the impeachment process before the in camera motion began. She introduced a motion to table the discussion of the impeachment on the grounds that the documents she submitted to be discussed during the impeachment motion were not distributed to all the council members prior to the meeting.
However, Civics and Environmental Commissioner Danielle Karakas and External Commissioner Jacqui Spencer disputed Alexandrova’s assertion, claiming that Alexandrova had been asked repeatedly over email and in the executive meeting to submit the documents.
Karakas also claimed that the council had extended the deadline for submitting the documents for Alexandrova and that her access to the LISTSERV of UTGSU council emails was revoked due to “negligent” use.
Reasons for the impeachment
The motivation for the impeachment was discussed during an in camera discussion during the September UTGSU General Council meeting.
The impeachment motion alleged that Alexandrova has failed to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of her role as internal commissioner, which has created excess work for other executives and staff members.
According to the UTGSU website, the duties of the internal commissioner include “preparing and organizing Director and Executive meetings, chairing both the Policy and Operations Committee and the Building Management Subcommittee, managing records of proceedings, and tracking [its] Bylaw and Policy updates.”
The motion alleged that multiple members of the council, executives, and staff members of the UTGSU expressed concerns about Alexandrova’s “unprofessional behavior,” along with complaints about treatment of staff and short-term workers.
Furthermore, the council alleges that Alexandrova “violated confidentiality and perpetuated anti-Blackness” in her position as internal commissioner.
In an email to The Varsity, a council member who asked to remain anonymous due to the confidentiality of the impeachment details wrote that Alexandrova was impeached because she was unable to complete tasks and made people “feel unsafe/discriminated against/overwhelmed with work.”
The council member also claimed that Alexandrova “would demand people met [sic] her in-person, which has bad connotations in COVID times. She also would overwhelm people with work that led to a resignation within staff.”
In response to a question about the anti-Blackness line of the impeachment motion, the council member wrote that although they are not aware of any racist comments made by Alexandrova, “her actions and accusations of incompetence were usually directed at black people.”
The source agreed that Alexandrova should be impeached, writing that she could not effectively lead meetings or complete the tasks required of the internal commissioner. “She has been ousted from this exact position before, but this reflects worse on the voting population of UTGSU as opposed to her,” wrote the council member.
Response from Alexandrova
In an interview with The Varsity, Alexandrova explained that, as a person with disabilities, it can be difficult for her to attend live meetings and to complete her work. She claimed that the other executives wanted to impeach her because they did not want to have an August meeting, and therefore disliked that she put forward an agenda for the meeting.
When asked about the allegation of anti-Blackness, Alexandrova responded that the allegation arose from disagreements she had with what other members of the UTGSU wanted to do.
Alexandrova plans to continue her work with the UTGSU, which includes presenting motions at council meetings.
The UTGSU Executive Committee did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.
Editor’s note (September 21): A previous version of the heading of this article indicated that the internal commissioner was impeached for a second time. This has been corrected to indicate that the internal commissioner was removed both times, as they were vacated from office in the first case and only impeached in the second case. The two forms of removal are distinguished in the UTGSU bylaws.