At a tense meeting of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) Board of Directors (BOD) on February 22, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) representative and former candidate for internal commissioner, Adam Hill, was barred from further UTGSU BOD meetings over allegations that he has continually harassed members of the executive committee.
At the meeting, Hill continued to pursue an impeachment motion against current Internal Commissioner Sarah Alam, which failed after an in-camera discussion.
The BOD meeting, which lasted over three hours, also included discussions on the creation of a caucus for students who work at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the selection of the union’s chief returning officer (CRO), and the election of the executive member-at-large (EAL).
Hill’s ejection and failed impeachment motion
At the previous board meeting, Hill submitted an impeachment motion against Alam, which was tabled until the next meeting. In addition, he posted a video on YouTube explaining his dissatisfaction with the union, sharing it on Twitter and tagging various U of T accounts, including The Varsity and Jordan Peterson. The Varsity is unable to verify the credibility of most of the assertions he makes in both the video and his impeachment motion.
At the beginning of the meeting, Hill engaged in a verbal conflict with the board, after which the board voted in favour of removing him from the meeting. Shortly thereafter, University Governance Commissioner Lwanga Musisi read off a statement prepared by the executive team, which asserted, “the UTGSU has progressively become an unsafe working environment due to the frequent harassment of the Union’s staff and certain Executive Committee members.”
The statement also directly mentions Hill, reading, “the current CTLSA representative (Mr. Adam Hill) unceasingly targets specific members of Staff and Executive, an unacceptable behaviour that has been going on for over a year and continues to go on.”
Musisi concluded by stating that the executive requests the board take action to cease these “endless personally motivated and vindictive attempts.” After a break, the board moved in camera — a private portion of the meeting where guests and media were not present — and voted to suspend Hill from BOD meetings for the remainder of the semester.
In an interview with The Varsity following the meeting, Hill accused the executives of participating in “ad hominem” rebuttals, and alleged that they have been acting with “increasing authoritarianism.” He asserted that his actions did not constitute harassment but reasonable political discourse, and concluded by paraphrasing Winston Churchill, saying “[democracy is] the worst form of government except for all the others.”
Alam, the target of Hill’s impeachment motion, wrote in an email to The Varsity that she was “grateful to the board for making a just decision.” However, she wrote, “I am pretty concerned that this fixation will not halt and will continue to escalate whether I am serving as an executive at the UTGSU or not, as this has intensified beyond UTGSU corridors through public platforms.”
She rejected the notion that the impeachment was centred around genuine political disagreement, and that the UTGSU has an obligation to address all of its staff and executive members’ personal concerns. Additionally, she accused Hill of “misrepresenting subjective opinions, especially legal perspectives, as facts; disrespectful and threatening behaviour at meetings and in correspondence; and taking up so much space within the UTGSU that governance processes are severely hindered.”
Later on in the meeting, during an in camera discussion and vote, the board voted to keep Alam as internal commissioner.
Following Hill’s ejection from the meeting, the BOD voted on a number of other developments. A group of graduate students situated at the ROM successfully formed a caucus within the UTGSU, which was approved by the board and received an initial budget of $500. Additionally, the executive committee nominated Molly Simpson to become the union’s CRO in the upcoming election, and after some brief motivating remarks, Simpson’s nomination was confirmed by the BOD.
Lastly, there was a robust election for the union’s unfilled EAL position. Three candidates ran for the position — Sophia Zhong, Sierra Codeluppi, and Angela Liu. After candidate speeches, the board moved in camera for a vote and selected Codeluppi as the new EAL.