At the July Board of Directors meeting of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU), members of the executive committee, with the support of the UTGSU’s legal counsel, proposed a dramatic draft restructuring of its board and its executives, as well as amendments to its bylaws. 

In an interview with The Varsity, External Commissioner Justin Patrick described the primary motivations for these changes as a move from conforming to the Ontario Corporations Act to the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA). He added that the change would make the organization more closely resemble other student unions in other parts of Canada. 

Currently, the UTGSU has eight executives: internal, external, civics and environment, academics and fundings (divisions 1 and 2), academics and fundings (divisions 3 and 4), finance, university governance, and the executive member-at-large, an appointee chosen by the general council. 

The proposed changes, however, would reshape and overhaul these positions, creating a new executive structure with a president, vice-president internal, vice-president external, vice-president academic, and vice-president finance.

The model also resembles that of all other major student unions at U of T, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, and the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union. These student unions also have a hierarchy topped off by a president with vice-presidents below who have specified areas of focus. This is a significant departure from the UTGSU’s current structure, which does not have a president that leads its operations.

The other major proposed change involves restructuring its board and implementing a new Board of Directors model that would include 20 division-based seats, 10 additional seats, and five seats allocated for the executives. 

Additionally, candidates for the board would run for their positions during the same period as the executive committee positions’ elections. Currently, there are over 100 representatives in the General Council/Board of Directors that are elected through their course unions, and so these changes could reduce the time currently needed for the election process. After these changes, course unions would still be able to observe board meetings and put forward motions.

The other major changes include using provisions from the CNCA to update UTGSU bylaws regarding formal and informal conflict resolution, allow for online meetings to comply with the CNCA, as well as changing the position of CRO to an external hire. 

When these changes were proposed at the July Board of Directors Meeting, there was a mixture of support and apprehension from members of the board; while some were in favour, others had concerns about the plan and felt it required more consultations with members. A full report of the proposed changes is not publicly available. 

As such, members did not “approve” the draft restructuring at the meeting but rather chose to “receive” it. Members of the board spoke in favour of delaying the approval because it gives the proposal more time to be fleshed out and be discussed at greater length in front of a larger democratic body.

The UTGSU’s legal council estimated that the final bylaw edits will be submitted for the Annual General Meeting in December 2021.