The University of Toronto Graduate Student’s Union (UTGSU) met on November 28 for its monthly General Assembly (GA) meeting and on November 30 for its monthly Board of Directors (BOD) meeting. 

At both meetings, members mainly discussed the process for holding a by-election to fill 23 vacant director positions — an issue that UTGSU members and the executive raised during its October governance meetings.

The directors elected in the by-election will hold office until April 30, 2024. The positions up for election include seven seats for students from the humanities division, seven seats for the social sciences division, six seats for the physical sciences division, and three seats for the life sciences division. 

The election’s nominating period runs from December 1–5. A candidate must obtain at least 15 signatures from UTGSU members to apply as a candidate in the by-election. The voting period will begin at 7:00 pm on December 7, during the union’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), and end on December 8 at 11:59 am. Voting will take place online through the Simply Voting platform. 

GA meeting

During the GA meeting, the membership discussed and passed three motions motivated by member Pria Dobney from the Department of Physics. Two of the motions recommended the UTGSU BOD amend its bylaws to allow the union to fill vacant BOD positions during its AGM. 

BOD member Christopher Rodgers expressed concerns about the proposed bylaw changes, given that the GA attendees voted last month in favour of a motion recommending that the BOD refrain from making bylaw changes at the moment given the significant number of vacancies on the Board. Vice President (VP) Finance Zoya Tawhidi argued in favour of it, noting that the membership voted on last month’s motion because of underrepresentation on the board, which this motion hoped to remedy. 

The third motion, titled “Members in Bad Standing,” proposed that the BOD add several provisions to Article 10 of the UTGSU Bylaws, which discusses disciplinary proceedings for UTGSU directors and officers. The proposed additional provisions outlined reasons a member might be designated “bad standing” and procedures and sanctions for disciplining the member. 

The motion also included a provision that would automatically place any member who had been impeached, suspended, or removed twice in “bad standing” with the union. The motion also stated that if placed in “bad standing,” the member would be barred from acting as a director or officer of the UTGSU.

GA attendees argued at length about this motion, and some feared it could be misused. Ultimately, however, all three member motions passed in the GA and went to the BOD for discussion and voting. 

Board of Directors

The union’s BOD met the same week to discuss the member motions from the GA alongside other business that carried over from the previous meeting on October 31

The directors first discussed a motion for the UTGSU to redesignate the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) as a UTGSU course union. The motion also proposed reworking the GSA’s funding so it could receive the full amount it received before the UTGSU disaffiliated with the GSA in 2019. The motions both died on the floor after no one seconded them. 

The members also discussed the member motions put forward during the GA earlier in the week. While all three motions passed in the GA, the BOD only passed the first two motions at its meeting. This means that, at the union’s AGM, members will vote to confirm altering the bylaws to allow for the appointment of interim directors and interim executive officers. 

The BOD tabled the third motion regarding “members in bad standing” until the January 2024 meeting. Directors expressed that they wanted more time to discuss how to set up an appeals board structure and to put together a mechanism so members determined to be in bad standing could appeal their case. 

The BOD members also discussed and voted on a motion to hold a by-election for the vacant director positions during the AGM scheduled for December 7. 

The motion initially proposed the voting period would take place on December 7 from 7:00–11:59 pm. However, some directors raised concerns that the time period was too short to ensure adequate voter turnout. The BOD members decided to split the voting period provision into a separate motion and passed an amended motion to hold a by-election during the AGM. 

After some deliberation, the members voted in favour of a motion to extend the voting period until 11:59 am on December 8. VP Academics and Funding for Divisions 3 and 4 Mohammadamir (Amir) Ghasemian Moghadam explained that the union should refrain from extending the voting period any longer for the by-elections, as the staff would need time to ratify the results before the UTGSU closed for the winter term break on December 8. 

The UTGSU also passed a motion to hire Songhee Back — a graduate student at the Department of Nutrition Science — as the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) for the by-election. The union is also currently looking to find a CRO for the general election at the end of the winter term.