The Board of Directors (BOD) for the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) began its meeting on September 28 with a vote to suspend the union’s president, Lynne Alexandrova, from office. Alexadrova’s suspension was the first item on a packed agenda for the board’s first meeting of the fall semester.
The union will also need to organize a byelection after two members of the UTGSU Governance Committee resigned. The board passed motions moving all meetings to a hybrid format and removing the union’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions caucus.
After the suspension vote, the board members moved on to discussions about committee appointments. Vice-President Internal Aanshi Gandhi informed the BOD that two members of the Governance Committee — a UTGSU committee that oversees the union’s bylaws, policies, and operations — had resigned from their roles, and the BOD would need to work out a process for electing new members. Gandhi also reminded the members that she had provided her own two weeks’ notice of resignation and would step down from her role as vice-president internal on October 4, 2023.
With three positions on the executive committee vacant, the UTGSU will need to rework how to redistribute the tasks usually assigned to those executives and staff the committee spots.
The union will also have to determine a process for hosting a byelection to fill the executive positions, a task that proved to be a challenge for the UTGSU last year. The union’s bylaws require the BOD to appoint a committee to find a Chief Returning Officer who could run the election, which would include a former Elections and Referendum Committee member, the Executive Director, and another BOD representative. Vacancies on the BOD last year limited the pool of potential committee members, leading the union to open applications for the committee to all graduate students.
Motions passed by the board
The BOD also passed a motion moving all of its future meetings into a hybrid format. The meetings have taken place in a strictly online format since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
Chris Rodgers, the BOD representative representing life sciences graduate students who moved the motion, explained that since COVID-19 restrictions have now mostly been lifted, the hybrid format would allow for greater accountability. The motion passed with objection.
The BOD also discussed a motion to remove the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) caucus as a permanent, funded caucus of the UTGSU. The BDS movement aims to end the Israeli government’s oppression of Palestinians and occupation of Palestinian territories through economic pressure.
In 2022, the university notified the UTGSU that it would withhold funding from the caucus, following a 2021 ruling from the Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies (CRCSS) that found the caucus’ fee — which the UTGSU charged to all graduate students — had violated UTGSU anti-discrimination bylaws, specifically its bylaw prohibiting discrimination based on nationality.
After some discussion, the members voted in favour of striking the caucus with opposition.
Tabled and dead motions
The meeting agenda outlined a motion to discipline Vice-President Finance Zoya Tawhidi for failing to meet the duties of the role outlined in the UTGSU Bylaws. Another motion on the agenda also sought to suspend Tawhidi from her role without pay until the union could hold a member’s meeting to review the suspension.
However, none of the members present at the meeting moved or seconded the motion, so the motion didn’t pass.
The members also discussed a motion to reinstate the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Graduate Students’ Union (OISE GSA) as a “recognized course union” within the UTGSU.
The UTGSU voted to de-affiliate with the OISE GSA in 2019, after the UTGSU’s investigation into the course union’s elections found that the OISE GSA had violated its constitution. The Social Justice Education Departmental Student Association broke off from the OISE GSA to create its own course union the same year, which is now listed as a course union for Division 2: Social Sciences. The board ultimately voted to table the motion and will discuss it further at a later date.