On October 21, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) hosted a town hall for graduate students to ask questions and give feedback as executives continue to work on a proposal to restructure the UTGSU executives and board.
Members of the UTGSU Board of Directors heard a presentation on the proposal at the board’s July meeting, when the executive committee proposed a massive restructuring of the organization and reformation of its bylaws. The restructuring will help the UTGSU comply with the Canadian Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA). Additionally, the restructuring will streamline and update the UTGSU’s board structure so that it would more closely resemble other graduate student unions in Canada, with the same president and vice-president positions and a smaller board of directors.
Board members expressed concern over some of the proposed changes at the July meeting. In response, the executive agreed to host a town hall to explain the changes in further detail and get feedback from the community. The proposal outlined during the town hall had undergone some changes since it was first proposed in July.
The UTGSU executives hosted the town hall, delivering a presentation on the proposed bylaw changes and restructuring along with the UTGSU’s legal counsel Arbique & Ahde. Although the bylaw changes are available in drafted form on their website, final updates and tracked changes to the bylaws are not available yet.
The changes include whittling down the number of executives from eight to six, and shaping them into a more conventional structure with a president, vice-president internal, vice-president external, vice-president academic division 1, vice-president academic division 2, and vice-president academic divisions 3 and 4. Additionally, the executives are including the executive director position — which is currently an unelected staff member — in the bylaws to reflect the position’s importance in the union.
The proposal also replaces the current course union structure with a board of directors model that shrinks the board down from over 100 members to roughly 30 to 35. The board members will represent the different academic divisions, with additional seats allocated to historically underrepresented groups. The executive still plans to consult with the course union representatives.
Additionally, the union’s committees have been narrowed down to five: the Governance Committee, the Equity and Advocacy Committee, the Graduate Affairs Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Grad Minds Committee.
Changes also include adding bylaws regarding formal and informal conflict resolution, allowing for online meetings, and formally establishing the position of equity officer.
Questions from graduate students
During the question-and-answer period, one attendee expressed concern over representation on the new board of directors. There are a number of graduate students who spend most of their time working at the Royal Ontario Museum, and the attendee asked why those students did not have representation in the proposed board of directors. An executive and the legal counsel said that they will look into the question for the upcoming board meeting.
As the updated bylaws are continuously being tweaked in anticipation of the upcoming UTGSU Annual General Meeting in December, there will likely be more developments on these changes in upcoming meetings. Students can provide feedback on the changes until November 18 by accessing a Google form on the UTGSU’s website.