The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) General Assembly convened online on November 22 for its second meeting of the academic year.

The meeting began with a lengthy discussion concerning amendments to the agenda. As a result, the agenda was not adopted until approximately an hour and a half into the meeting. Additionally, the General Assembly voted to censure two of its members.

Agenda antics

The meeting began with a motion from Adam Hill, the representative for the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) Division 2. Hill motioned for the agenda to include discussion of what he described as “improper officer conduct,” referring to the union’s failure to conduct a quorum check at the most recent Board of Directors (BOD) meeting after one director left.

UTGSU President Lwanga Musisi immediately countered the motion, saying it was out of order and that the proper opportunity to discuss this matter would be at the Annual General Meeting, which is scheduled for December 6.

UTGSU Chair Sandhya Mylabathula added that similar discussions about officer conduct that took place at the BOD meeting had served to delay the proceedings, so the motion would be ruled out of order.

In response, Hill put forth a motion challenging Mylabathula’s ruling. However, Hill’s challenge was not upheld by the General Assembly and his motion to include reports of “improper officer conduct” to the agenda of the meeting was dismissed.

Chris Rodgers, a representative from Pharmaceutical Sciences, motioned for a special members meeting to consider the removal of Vice-President Internal Sarah Alam due to “violations of UTGSU bylaws.” Rodgers took issue with Alam’s statement during the October 25 UTGSU BOD and General Assembly meeting. According to Rodgers, Alam stated that the Chief Returning Officer candidate had been selected by a UTGSU staff committee and not by the BOD, as outlined in the bylaws.

In an email to The Varsity, Musisi wrote that the motion was not added to the agenda because the executive committee determined it was out of order.

The censure

Danielle Karakas, vice-president academics and funding for Divisions 3 and 4, proposed a motion to censure Hill and Rodgers for holding up the meeting with adoptions to the agenda. Some other students expressed similar concerns in the Zoom chat.

In an interview with The Varsity, Hill said he empathized with the students’ concerns but he thought it was important to raise the issue with the members.

Musisi wrote in an email to The Varsity that Hill and Rodgers were not engaging in accordance with the UTGSU equity statement. According to the UTGSU’s Policy Handbook, the UTGSU does “not condone or tolerate behaviour that undermines the dignity of any individual. Expressions of hate such as intimidation, harassment, offensiveness or hostility will not be tolerated.”

“It was the will of the Assembly members as they considered Adam Hill and Chris Rodger’s behavior not in line with the equity statement, despite the Equity Officer’s several attempts and calls to the members to conduct themselves within line of the Equity Statement,” wrote Musisi.

The motion to censure Hill and Rodgers ultimately passed and they were barred from speaking for the rest of the meeting.

Additional business

The remainder of the meeting consisted of reports from course unions and committees. Karakas gave an update on the Graduate Student Advisory Council, which had been reviewing the route for graduate students to address potential conflicts with their supervisor. She mentioned that students would need to address any conflicts with their department head first and then the SGS. She added that the UTGSU would be able to provide support to students as well.

The last item regarding the appointment of committee members was struck from the meeting agenda after it was brought to Mylabathula’s attention that the General Assembly did not have the ability to appoint committee members. The meeting adjourned just before 9:15 pm.

Editor’s note (January 21): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Hill put forth a motion challenging Mylabathula’s position as chair. In fact, Hill’s motion challenged Mylabathula’s ruling on his earlier submission.