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UTSU SGM 2021: Elections code amended to increase participation

Discussion includes tuition advocacy, UMLAP, executive team transition
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The UTSU is working to ensure that the new members are properly acclimated to the UTSU. SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY
The UTSU is working to ensure that the new members are properly acclimated to the UTSU. SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY

On March 27, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held a special general meeting. The union held the meeting on Zoom, which featured discussions on amendments to UTSU bylaws and the Election Procedure Code (EPC), transitioning to the new executive team for the coming year, as well as the UTSU’s advocacy on tuition and the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP).

Bylaw and EPC amendments

UTSU Vice-President Operations Dermot O’Halloran highlighted amendments to the EPC, initially enacted for the recent 2021 elections, which were made permanent at the meeting.

The changes include allowing candidates to run for elections using their preferred names, and lowering the number of nominations that a candidate would need to run in a UTSU election from 25 to 20 for director candidates, and from 100 to 50 for executive candidates.

“All of the amendments that we propose this year were to make the elections more accessible and to increase turnout,” O’Halloran said. However, voter turnout in the 2021 UTSU elections remained the same as last year.

Additionally, from now on, election campaign expenses will be fully reimbursed as long as the candidate receives five per cent of the votes. Campaign expense limits have also been cut in half to ​$100 for director candidates.

Aside from clarifications and corrections, the UTSU has amended its bylaw on policies to simplify governance and establish clear policy definitions. O’Halloran said that the changes were made “so that [the UTSU] can continue to build a policy manual that is sensible and intuitive for incoming executive and board members.”

The UTSU also made amendments to bylaws regarding finances. This was motivated by the changes that had to be made and reversed because of the Student Choice Initiative.

UTSU President Muntaka Ahmed addressed the changes, mentioning that they’re aimed to be accessible to all members and to establish a framework allowing for members to more easily make changes to governance policy as necessary. “[The changes are] to make sure that our governance is consolidated in a space where it’s accessible to members… and a lot of it still remains relevant for years to come,” said Ahmed.

Tuition advocacy and the UMLAP

Vice-President Public & University Affairs Tyler Riches spoke about the UTSU’s work regarding the UMLAP. The UTSU, along with other unions and student groups across the three campuses, wrote a letter to the university to extend the consultation period to ensure that more students are aware of the consultations and are able to participate. 

“Many students are busy with final assignments these days and might not be aware that this review is even happening or what the policy is,” said Riches, adding that the extension was granted by the university.

Riches also highlighted the UTSU’s work on tuition advocacy, noting that the union has been advocating to cancel the university’s proposal to increase international tuition, to equalize tuition in deregulated programs like computer science, and to increase mental health funding. 

“The budget goes to government council on April 6, and we’re hoping to really make a last-minute push to try and get some of these recommendations implemented,” said Riches.

Transitioning to a new executive team

Ahmed spoke about the current work being done at the UTSU regarding the transition to the new executive team. The UTSU is working with its full-time staff to ensure that the new members are properly acclimated to the UTSU and are ready to move to the student commons.

Ahmed also mentioned that the UTSU is working on a long-term strategic plan to grow in capacity as the union moves to the student commons. “The strategic plan hopes to touch on the gaps within the UTSU as well as our strengths right now, and how within a five- to 10-year scope, we are going to be building in capacity,” she said.