The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 14. The SCSU membership passed motions about the unions’ bylaws on student referenda and a motion to wage increases for SCSU executives. SCSU executive members also mentioned initial plans to hopefully implement a U-Pass in the near future.
The SCSU tabled motions to review the union’s financial statement and appoint next year’s auditors to the union’s winter general meeting (WGM) because this year’s audit is incomplete. The union has not yet announced the date of its WGM.
The SCSU originally scheduled the meeting for 4:00 pm, but the 40 people required to officially start the meeting did not materialize at that time. After failing to make quorum last year, this year’s AGM met quorum and proceeded as scheduled at 5:00 pm.
How many votes for a referendum to succeed?
During the meeting, Harry Xu — president of the environmental activism club Regenesis UTSC, whose sister branch Regenesis UTM passed a referendum this past year through the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) — spoke on a change to the referendum process proposed by the club.
A referendum is a vote on a proposed change that the union conducts among all SCSU members. Currently, 10 per cent of the UTSC student body must turn out to vote on a referendum, with the majority voting in favour, for it to pass. Regenesis UTSC submitted a motion to lower this required quorum to three per cent of the student body.
The UTMSU and the University of Toronto Students’ Union currently require referenda to meet a five per cent turnout before succeeding. One student argued in favour of lowering the SCSU’s quorum amount because it would be closer to other university groups’ standards.
Khadidja Roble, SCSU vice-president external, argued in favour of maintaining the 10 per cent vote requirement, noting that the SCSU had managed to reach that turnout in previous referenda.
Kathy Nguyen, the board director representing anthropology, agreed. “I don’t really think it’s fair to use voter apathy to describe the overall demographic of our students and how they truly feel,” she said. Nguyen added that a lack of education, awareness, and understanding of the voting practices and procedures at UTSC impact voter turnout — all factors she believes this year’s SCSU executives have the power to change.
After consideration, students voted to maintain the turnout requirement to 10 per cent.
Originally, Regenesis UTSC proposed a motion to increase the amount of money advocates can spend during a referendum campaign from $250 to $1,000. However, Afshana Miah — vice-president, academics and university affairs — proposed meeting in the middle. “I think $1,000 per team is quite a bit. I remember when I ran for office, we got, I think, $100 a person,” she said.
Students agreed, increasing the amount of money advocates can spend during a referendum campaign from $250 to $500.
In October, the SCSU raised minimum wages for SCSU part-time staff and 1265 Bistro employees to one dollar above the minimum wage.
During the AGM, executive committee members proposed increasing executive members’ wages from $19.00 to $23.50 per hour. Vice-President Operations Akaash Palaparthy claimed that the executives’ timesheets reflected “more than 80 hours of unpaid work” per week during busy periods such as the Week of Welcome. Amrith David, president of SCSU, added that executives’ hours go unpaid after 6:00 pm. They moved this motion specifically to help executives meet basic needs.
Students passed the motion. David told The Varsity, “I’m really grateful that students actually voted in favour of this because, again, it reflects the work that we do as a union.”
The SCSU also gave a presentation on their achievements over the past few months and future plans. Executive members went over their National Day of Action campaign calling for free education and the SCSU’s statement on the violence in Israel and Gaza.
Roble mentioned that the union hopes to implement a U-Pass, which would grant students free access to public transportation after paying a levy similar to UTM students. The SCSU plans to make the U-Pass apply to all transit systems connecting to the UTSC campus including the TTC, GO Transit, Durham Region, and Brampton Transit. Roble did not specify when SCSU plans to implement its U-Pass or in what format.