At a March 18 meeting, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union’s (UTGSU) Board of Directors (BOD) voted to begin the removal process for UTGSU President Lynne Alexandrova, whom the board suspended from her role in September. The union will also vote at a special April 8 meeting on further sanctions against Alexandrova, including prohibiting her from attending BOD meetings and contacting UTGSU executives, BOD members, and staff.

After the meeting, the BOD resolved to contact Alexandrova and offer her a 24-hour window after the meeting to resign before it would start the removal process; however, the UTGSU did not receive a letter of resignation from her as of March 22. 

If removed, this will be Alexandrova’s third removal from office from the UTGSU: she was previously removed as the internal commissioner in 2018 and 2020

What does removal mean?

According to the UTGSU Constitution, the BOD doesn’t have the legal ability to remove a president by itself, without the input of the union’s general membership — only the ability to suspend them. The removal process is the only mechanism for impeaching an elected representative of the UTGSU. 

In February, the BOD amended the constitution to include a clause that prevents removed executive members from seeking any appointed or elected seat on the Board. 

If the BOD votes in favour of the removal process, the union will call a special meeting where all U of T graduate students can vote on Alexandrova’s removal. A vote for removal would disqualify her from seeking any executive office for the union in the future. 

The board also resolved to vote on additional sanctions against Alexandrova at a special meeting to be held on April 8. 

February amendments to article 10.5.3 of the UTGSU’s bylaws allow the BOD to discipline a member by issuing a written reprimand, requiring them to attend further trainings, prohibiting them from “UTGSU spaces, services and programs,” or disallowing them to run for the union’s offices. 

Based on these bylaws, the board proposed sanctions against Alexandrova that include prohibiting her from contacting any UTGSU staff apart from a special designate , accessing the UTGSU building, or attending UTGSU BOD or assembly meetings. The proposal states that any attempts to contact staff could be denied under UTGSU employees’ rights to “refuse service to individuals which behave belligerently or abusively.

Why did this happen?

The decision to remove Alexandrova stems from an internal union investigation of her that executive director Corey Scott, Interim Vice-President (VP) Internal Freidemann Krannich, and Interim VP External Jady Liang conducted after her suspension. The union has not publicized the investigation findings, and The Varsity has not obtained a copy of them. 

Krannich told The Varsity that the union conducted an investigation based on various allegations against the suspended president. He noted that the main allegation against Alexandrova concerned her failure to follow the union’s procedures and protocol. 

Krannich said that she had demonstrated a pattern of “unilateral action,” which made up “a big part of the investigation.” He said that on a number of occasions, Alexandrova operated outside of UTGSU procedures or did not consult with the necessary personnel when making decisions for the union. He added that the investigation’s findings included broader concerns on internal human resources matters confidential to the report.

In an email to The Varsity, Alexandrova declined to comment on the board’s decision to remove her until after the union’s spring 2024 election because, she claimed, the UTGSU’s governance model has been and still is “quite precarious.” Alexandrova added that she has submitted multiple invitations to the BOD to review and reinstate previous governance structures from before 2021. 

What does this mean for the union?

The UTGSU has had a tumultuous year of resignations and controversy. Since September, the UTGSU saw the resignation of two different executives, VP External Neelofar Ahmed and VP Internal Aanshi Gandhi, along with Alexandrova’s suspension. 

The decision to remove Alexandrova will have little to no effect on the activities of the BOD as it stands since Alexandrova has already been suspended. The current board term is expiring on April 30, and the election for the 2024 BOD will take place from March 26–29.