The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) met on October 8 for its Annual General Meeting (AGM). During the meeting, members voted to approve the audited financial statements from last year, as well as several bylaw amendments.
The executives also took questions from participants, including questions about how the UTSU would maintain its advocacy efforts after Vice-President, Public & University Affairs (VP PUA) Catherine Lai’s resignation. Many also complained that the timing of the AGM was inconvenient since it was over Thanksgiving weekend.
Fiona Reuter, the UTSU’s vice-president, operations, delivered the audited financial statements from the 2020–2021 academic year. Highlights included the UTSU’s strong financial position, an increase in the union’s health and dental reserve, and higher expenditure on employee salaries and benefits.
Reuter noted that increases in assets, cash reserves, cash flow, and student fee revenue signalled positive changes in the union’s finances.
The UTSU’s health and dental reserves also increased. According to Reuter, this means that the union is prepared for years when there may be more claims, such as the last academic year. Moreover, the union’s switch to the insurance provider Green Shield means they won’t need to increase fees for the next two years.
However, the revenue that the UTSU gained in several different streams decreased last year due to the pandemic. The union did not have the opportunity to earn money from advertising or sponsorships, and it did not run any TTC ticket sales.
Because of its move to the Student Commons, the union has had to increase its expenditures to pay new staff and furnish the building. While its expenditure on club subsidies decreased last year due to the pandemic, it hopes to provide clubs with more financial support in the coming academic year.
Reuter emphasized that the union also hopes to become more transparent with their finances. She encouraged students to ask questions, reach out to her, or visit the website for more information.
UTSU members voted to accept a number of amendments to the UTSU bylaws, which Reuter went over in a presentation. Amendments include getting rid of gendered language, making election procedures more straightforward, and changing the executive removal policy.
By combining the charter for referenda with the elections procedure code, the UTSU hopes it will become more accessible to students. The union will also add a clause that explains the procedures for how it fills seats that are left vacant after executive elections and internal elections.
The executives’ justification for changing the executive removal policy was that the current one encourages “toxicity.” The UTSU hopes that the amendments will place the accountability of executives into the hands of the membership by allowing them to vote out executives.
Questions for executives
Some attendees complained about the timing of the AGM, which they said was inconvenient since it happened over Thanksgiving weekend. They also questioned the requirement that student clubs must send a representative to the AGM in order to get a recognized club status. They added that attending the AGM can be difficult along with school and other responsibilities, and that attendance should be made optional.
UTSU President Alexa Ballis responded that the UTSU will review the policy, which has been in place long before this year.
Ballis also answered questions about the vacant VP PUA position. Members asked how the executives are prioritizing advocacy efforts without a VP PUA, who is usually in charge of advocacy.
Ballis answered that the executives are currently dividing the responsibilities of the vacant position, focusing on advocacy surrounding the return to campus. She pointed to current causes the UTSU has been paying attention to, such as the multi-tenant housing framework that the City of Toronto is voting on soon, as well as advocacy around sexual violence.
Ballis also clarified that if no one runs for the position of VP PUA in the fall by-elections, the position will be filled through an appointment process, as was done in the spring after the sole candidate for the position rescinded their candidacy.
In response to a question about the Student Commons, Ballis said that the UTSU is aiming for event space to be open by January, but hopes to have it available sooner.
Fatemeh Nami asked whether there were any additional screening and background checks for members of the Equity & Accessibility Committee. Ballis answered that there are none, but that the UTSU will look into putting some in place.