On March 13, after months of deadlock due to internal disputes over the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) nomination process, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) appointed a CRO to administer the union’s elections. 

The appointment occurred during a special meeting of the UTGSU Board of Directors (BOD), which the board scheduled to complete unfinished business from their February 21 general meeting. During the meeting, the UTGSU BOD also appointed a Chair and Vice-Chair to the Board of Appeals, where one of their responsibilities includ es responding to complaints about the union’s operations. It also appointed several students to UTGSU committees and doubled the award amount for the Graduate Community Development Fund (GCDF). The GCDF was created in 2017 in partnership with the University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies in an attempt to supply merit-based equity awards that recognize students and their contributions to the overall graduate student experience.

New appointments

At the meeting, the Elections & Referenda Committee put forward CRO candidate Justin Patrick, a graduate student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Patrick served as the UTGSU’s internal commissioner from January to April 2019. In motivating the motion, the UTGSU’s executive director Levi Clarkson noted Patrick’s “extensive experience” working in multiple student organizations. BOD members voted to appoint Patrick to the position.

Then, the BOD respectively appointed Noah Khan and Madalena Liougas to the Chair and a Vice-Chair positions, of the UTGSU Board of Appeals — the final body that responds to complaints and conflicts regarding the UTGSU’s operations. 

Finally, the BOD appointed students to a variety of UTGSU committees, including the U of T Committee for the Allocation of Student Activity Space, Finance Committee, Governance Committee, Graduate Affairs Committee, and the Elections & Referenda Committee.  

GCDF amendment

Danielle Karakas, vice-president academics and funding for the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) divisions 3 and 4, motioned to increase the award amounts for the GCDF from $500 to $1,000 per award. Karakas explained that the UTGSU must distribute $10,000 through these awards. At the existing amount of $500 per award across 10 awards, the UTGSU would only give out $5,000 in total. The BOD passed the motion. 

Elections timeline

With the CRO officially hired, the UTGSU sent an email to all graduate students on March 14, officially opening the UTGSU elections nomination period for the 2023-2024 academic year. 

The union struggled to fill vacancies in both the BOD and the executive team during the current academic year. The vice-president external position sat vacant for the majority of the school year, and the vice-president internal position became vacant for the second semester after Vice-President Internal Sarah Alam resigned from her position in early December.

Additionally, the several seats on the BOD remained vacant throughout the school year, which contributed to the difficulties of appointing a CRO. The bylaws stated that the BOD must comprise the Elections & Referenda Committee tasked with appointing the CRO. However, the lack of BOD members forced the union to pass a motion that allows them to recruit committee members from the general membership.

The nomination period for candidates running for the UTGSU executive and the BOD positions will remain open until March 31. The UTGSU elections include races for the six executive positions and 28 Board of Director positions. The union plans to run the elections campaign period from April 8–21, with voting opening on April 18.