UTSU Board bans candidates from using non-U of T student firms in election campaigns

Decision stems from previous slate’s use of Splash Effect last year

UTSU Board bans candidates from using non-U of T student firms in election campaigns

The February 11 meeting of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors upheld a decision by the Elections and Referenda Committee to ban candidates in UTSU elections from using marketing firms not run by U of T students during their campaigns.

UTSU President Mathias Memmel explained during the board meeting that candidates who violate this article will be penalized by up to 15 demerit points. He noted that the penalty is indicative of the seriousness of the violation.

“If we’re going to be reimbursing people for professional services, I would much rather those be students,” said Memmel.

Memmel said that candidates hiring non-university-affiliated firms to run their marketing campaigns is an issue the board noticed during last year’s elections.

The We the Students slate hired a student from Splash Effect, an external marketing firm, during last year’s UTSU executive and board elections. The slate did not reply to requests to clarify whether the student hired attended U of T.

Memmel said that last year seemed to be an anomaly, but he added that the union wanted to address the concern before it becomes a legitimate issue, especially after learning that other university students’ unions have dealt with similar issues as well.

The next UTSU Board of Directors meeting will take place on February 24.

The Breakdown: Governing Council

The structure and role of Governing Council in the lives of students

The Breakdown: Governing Council

Governing Council elections will run from February 5–16, and campaigning is already underway. There are 47 student candidates running for eight seats. With the elections coming up, here is a breakdown of how Governing Council works and how it affects U of T students.

Evolving history

U of T was previously governed by a senate and a board of governors, but the University of Toronto Act of 1971 merged those two bodies into one: Governing Council.

The University of Toronto Act stipulates that members of Governing Council and its boards and committees must put the interests of the university first, regardless of the constituency they represent.

More recently, the Task Force on Governance, established in 2007 by former U of T President David Naylor, established six themes by which Governing Council would shape itself: Oversight and Accountability – Quality of the Governing Council’s Meeting Agendas; Overlap/Duplication, Deficiencies, Ambiguities – Board and Committee Mandates; Delegated Authority for Academic Divisions – Lack of Clarity, Inconsistency; Delegated Authority in the Tri-campus Context – Levels of Oversight and Accountability, Redundancy; Quality of Governors – Experience Mix and Representation; and Roles of and Appropriate Interfaces between Governors and the Administration.

Structure

Governing Council’s role is to oversee academic, business, and student affairs. Its composition is based on the five ‘estates’ of the university: government appointees, teaching staff, alumni, administration, and students.

The council is composed of 50 members — U of T Chancellor Michael Wilson and President Meric Gertler are members by virtue of their positions. Sixteen members are appointed by Lieutenant Governor-in-Council Shirley Hoy, and two are appointed by Gertler. Thirty members are elected: 12 teaching staff, eight alumni, two administrative staff, and eight students. Of the eight student members, four are full-time undergraduates, two are part-time undergraduates, and two are graduates.

A series of boards and committees are part of Governing Council, though not all board and committee members are Governing Council members. The three main boards are the Academic Board, the Business Board, and the University Affairs Board. Students sit on all three boards, and the various committees are beneath them.

The Academic Board handles matters affecting the teaching, learning, and research functions of the university. It establishes priorities and objectives, plans initiatives, and determines how to effectively use resources in the interest of academic progress. There are 123 voting members of the Academic Board: 88 teaching staff; two elected librarians; four administrative staff; six “lay members,” who are alumni or government appointees to Governing Council; 16 students, four who are elected members of Governing Council and 12 who are appointed by the Academic Board’s striking committee; four voting assessors selected by Gertler; and the President, Chancellor, Chair, and Vice-Chair of Governing Council.

The Business Board is made up of 27 members, including two students. It oversees policy regarding funding, student fees or ancillaries, and approves Hart House’s operating plan. Governing Council’s website describes the Business Board’s responsibilities as “ensuring that resource allocations are responsible and cost-effective, and approving policy and major transactions in the business-management of the University.”

The University Affairs Board is also made up of 27 members, including nine students. It is responsible for non-academic policy that concerns quality of student and campus life. It appoints six members to the Discipline Appeals Board, while the other six members are appointed by the Academic Board. It handles policy involving campus security, childcare, co-curricular programs, and university-wide campus issues at UTSG. Ceremonials, equity issues, community relations, representative student groups, use of the University of Toronto’s name and incidental fees also fall under the purview of the University Affairs board.

Student candidates for Governing Council positions released

Seats to be hotly contested in February elections

Student candidates for Governing Council positions released

 

The candidates for this year’s Governing Council elections were released on January 17, with a total of 47 candidates running for the eight positions the council reserves for students.

Governing Council is U of T’s highest governing body in charge of managing the university, including its properties and assets. Its powers include setting tuition fees and deciding on policies like the mandatory mental health leave.

There are 28 students running for the two Constituency I positions, which represent full-time students in the Faculty of Arts & Science, UTSC, and UTM.

The two seats for part-time undergraduate students were claimed by Susan Froom and Mala Kashyap. Froom is the current Vice-President Internal at Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS), and has been a member of Governing Council since 2014; Kashyap is the President of the APUS and currently serves on Governing Council’s Academic Board.

The students running for Constituency I undergraduate seats are: Hussain Ali, Tejbeer Bhullar, Tyler Biswurm, Julia DaSilva, Academic Board member Arina Dmitrenko, Georgia Dryden, Elizabeth Frangos, Serena J. Gu, Edie (Yi Yi) Guo, Nicholas Heinrich, UTSU Vice-President University Affairs Adrian Huntelar, Carl Kersey, Mascha Kopytina, Audrey Lee, Jingjing Liu, Blair P. Madeley, Price Amobi Maka, former St. Michael’s College Director Georgina Merhom, Aidan Mohammad, Maha Rahman, James Rasalingam, Sukarmina Singh Shankar, Tasnia Syeda, Yousra Tarrabou, Tiger Wu, Leon Zeliang Zhang, Yufei Zhang, and Alan Zheng.

The students running for the two Constituency II undergraduate seats for students in professional faculties are Ramz Aziz, Chetanya Choudhary, Joshua Humphrey, Litos Li, Zhenglin Liu, Hanna Singer, Tom Sutherland, Twesh Upadhyaya, and Hanya Waleed Abdelgabbar Wahdan.

Liu currently serves on Governing Council’s University Affairs Board. Upadhyaya is currently a member of Governing Council as well as a member of the Academic Board.

There are five candidates for the single graduate student Constituency I seat, representing those studying humanities and social sciences: Emily Clare, Harry Orbach-Miller, Igor Samardzic, Yasseen Tasabehji, and Wales Wong.

There are three students running for the graduate student Constituency II seat, representing physical and life sciences: UTSU Associate President Nathan Chan, Sandhya Mylabathula, and Sabrina Sen.

The campaign period is January 22 to February 16. The elections are set to run from February 5–16. The students elected will serve year-long terms.

Disclosure: Nathan Chan served as the Photo Editor at The Varsity from May 2016 to April 2017.

Samantha Douek to lead new, “re-imagined” SMCSU

Election results released October 17, three spots vacant on council

Samantha Douek to lead new, “re-imagined” SMCSU

Samantha Douek is the new President of the St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU), the union’s first since it underwent a “re-imagining” process after its dissolution in December 2016. The election results were released on October 17.

The voting period for students at St. Michael’s College (SMC) ran on October 11–15. The new council will consist of six members, most of whom have not been part of SMCSU before. There remain three empty spots on the council for which there were no candidates.

The Varsity has obtained only the online results of the election. According to Chief Reporting Officer Erin McTague, there were 410 online ballots and two paper ballots cast. The results of the paper ballots are excluded from The Varsity’s count.

Douek defeated Jeremy Hernandez-Lum Tong, SMCSU’s former Religious and Community Affairs Commissioner. The presidential race was the closest of the three contested positions, with Douek receiving 46 per cent of the vote and Hernandez-Lum Tong receiving 44 per cent. The two-percentage-point difference means Douek won by a margin of six votes. There were 40 spoiled ballots that accounted for 10 per cent of the presidential vote.

Kate Strazds won the election for Vice-President with 56 per cent of the vote and Peter Tao placed second with 35 per cent. The difference between the two candidates was 87 votes. Thirty-five votes, totalling nine per cent of the ballots cast, were spoiled.

Alison Feise won the election for VP Academic Affairs, securing 54 per cent of the vote. Rida Hasan placed second with 30 per cent. The difference between the two candidates was 101 votes. The vote for VP Academic Affairs had the highest amount of spoiled ballots among the contested races at 67, which accounted for 16 per cent of the vote.

Three candidates ran uncontested for their positions. Hiromitsu Higashi will serve as VP Communications, having garnered 82 per cent of the vote; John Russell will serve as VP Community Life after receiving 81 per cent of the vote; and Maher Sinno will take on the VP Arts position with 80 per cent of the vote.

Samantha Douek

The Varsity interviewed Douek on the results of the elections and plans for the future.

“I’m really thankful to everyone that supported me,” Douek said. “I really look forward to working with everyone and sharing my ideas… I just really want to make sure that everyone has a really great year.”

With regard to her marginal victory, Douek explained that, even before she began her campaign, she knew that the race against Hernandez-Lum Tong would be very close. “[Hernandez-Lum Tong] is… very involved in St. Mike’s and he’s a really great candidate,” she said. “I really respect his ideas and what he stands for, even though I hold different ideas.”

Still, Douek said that she was “able to earn the trust of the students and, even though it was a slight majority, it was a majority.”

When asked about the union’s three vacant positions, Douek stated that the elected members will “discuss which next steps to take to fill these positions.” She continued by saying, “I’m confident that between [the elected members] we can come up with a plan on how to move forward in a way that’s fair.”

Hernandez-Lum Tong said that he was “very disappointed” with the results of the election.

“It does hurt and probably will hurt for some time,” he said. “But putting my sadness aside, I do wish to extend a huge congratulations to Samantha and the rest of the students who won.”

Demand Better wins most UTSU executive positions, unofficial election results show

Carina Zhang of We the Students, independent Anne Boucher also  elected

Demand Better wins most UTSU executive positions, unofficial election results show

The unofficial results of the University of Toronto Students Union (UTSU) elections, which were released shortly after 7 pm Thursday, show that the 2017-2018 executive will comprise mostly individuals associated with the Demand Better slate.

The voter turnout was 11.8 per cent, an increase from last year’s 9.7 per cent.

Demand Better presidential candidate Mathias Memmel was elected over opponents Andre Fast of We the Students, John Sweeney of Whomst’d’ve UofT, and independent candidate Joshua Hands. Reboot candidate Micah Ryu was not on the ballot after being disqualified on Monday.

Voting was conducted using the single-transferrable vote, in which students can rank candidates in their order of preference. Fast received a plurality of first choice votes in the first round but lost to Memmel as the rounds progressed, with Memmel accumulating more second choice votes after Sweeney’s elimination.

Daman Singh of Demand Better was elected Vice-President Internal in the second round by a margin of 354 votes after former Reboot candidate Jessica Leung’s 823 votes were redistributed to Singh and We the Students candidate Jackie Zhao.

Carina Zhang, the only We the Students candidate elected to the executive, won the Vice-President University Affairs position handily after she received a total of 3,447 votes after redistribution.

Independent candidate Anne Boucher was elected Vice-President External, receiving more second choice votes than her opponents from We the Students, Demand Better, and Reboot and winning the position after four rounds.

Chim Alao, Demand Better’s candidate for Vice-President Equity was elected by a margin of 1933 votes to 1621 over We the Students candidate Michelle Mabira. Former Reboot candidate Keelie-Shay Eaid was eliminated in the first round with 576 first place votes.

Stuart Norton, also of Demand Better, was elected Vice-President Campus Life after two rounds.

Finally, Shivani Nathoo of Demand Better, receiving first-place votes in all four rounds, has filled the Vice-President Professional Faculties position.

Of the elections for UTSU directors 13 Demand Better candidates were successful, according to the unofficial results, along with three from We the Students, three from Reboot, and two independents.

The results will be official once they are ratified by the UTSU board of directors.

Also on the ballot were referendum questions, the first asking for a 50 cent levy to fund accessibility services at the UTSU, and the second from the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT) asking for a $2.77 levy to send a satellite to space. Both referendums passed, with 54.8 per cent support for UTAT’s referendum and 67.6 per cent support for the accessibility levy.

This story is developing, more to follow.

 

At least six Reboot candidates withdraw from slate

Withdrawal motivated by risk of disqualification

At least six Reboot candidates withdraw from slate

Several candidates from the Reboot U of T slate have withdrawn from the slate during the first day of voting. Keelie-Shay Eaid, Vice-President Equity candidate, and Jenny Yue, Vice-President Professional Faculites candidate, have issued statements on their Facebook pages indicating that they have withdrawn from the slate.

Eaid and Yue are each 10 demerit points away from the maximum allowable for executive candidates.

Victoria College Director candidate Alex Bercik, Dentistry Director candidate Joanna Man; Professional Faculties at-Large Director candidate Tony Ye, and Social Sciences Director candidate, Jane Tien have also declared their withdrawal from the slate. These candidates have accrued 20 demerit points, the maximum allowable amount for director candidates.

A portion of the statement written to The Varsity on behalf of the slate reads: “Many Reboot members have decided to disband in order to avoid further demerits for the whole slate, altogether. The ERC/CRO has placed many Reboot candidates on the edge of disqualification and has hence forced them dissociate. In light of the recent disqualification of 5 members, other Reboot members were placed in a very tight spot. However, the members still have the same platform goals even as individuals.”

On March 13, five candidates from the slate, including the presidential candidate, Micah Ryu, had incurred enough demerit points to be disqualified. A statement on was issued on Reboot UofT’s Facebook page, saying that the candidates were withdrawing from the UTSU elections. They are still able to appeal the ERC’s decisions.

Eaid says that she and others have decided to “dissassociate [sic] with the slate in order to avoid any further demerit points from comments that were/are being left on our (Facebook) page.”

She notes that they had incurred 8 demerit points for one comment on a post and 10 on another. She also said that she will not be disavowing the slate’s platform, and she did not believe the other candidates would either.

“For some candidates that still have a very solid chance at winning their seat, continuing on as a slate was no longer worth the risk of being targeted. In particular, our former Dentistry candidate is running unopposed and the faculty would have no board representation for several months if she was disqualified, and based on the way the DROOP quota system works, we think it’s very likely for some of our college directors to win their seats as well,” Eaid explained.

“We came together because of shared ideas. We are splitting up so we no longer have to be liable for each others’ actions. This isn’t a betrayal of ideas, it’s a dropping of liabilities,” Eaid went on.

Avinash Mukkala, the slate’s recently disqualified Life Sciences Director candidate, also echoed Eaid’s reasoning, saying that the Elections and Referenda Committee had “placed us in a very tight spot at the edge of disqualification for many individuals.” He also noted that his disqualification meant that “further affiliation would be at too high of a risk.”

Riley Moher, one of the slate’s disqualified Engineering Director candidates, said that he would not be appealing the decision because of what he had heard from other slate members’ experiences trying to overturn decisions.

“I think the role of the ERC and CRO is too great, and the application of the rules of the election can be subject to too much subjectivity and political influence,” Moher said, adding that he was not hopeful of  “stamping out corruption and politicization within the UTSU within the current student politics climate.”

According to Ryan Gomes, Chair of the ERC, these actions may not be perceived by the ERC or the appellate board as truly disavowing the slate.

“I think that they would have a harder time convincing the ERC or the appellate board that this actually was a disbanding of the slate, especially considering that they’re still all on the website and they’re not disavowing their platform and the names on the ballot still say Reboot… I think it would be a difficult sell,” Gomes said.

At the time of the interview with Gomes, the candidates’ profiles were still shown on the Reboot UofT website, however, the candidates page was empty at press time.

Ryu confirms that they were “looking into disbanding the slate.” He also brought up the example of Reboot UofT’s former Dentistry Director candidate, saying that she had “done nothing with respect to any of the violations, and isn’t gaining any advantages from those violations since she’s running unopposed.”

“They keep handing out points as a slate and that was about to disqualify a lot more people. Our 3 engineering director candidates were only put over the top… because of how many points they gave us for not policing our Facebook page comments well enough,” Ryu said.

Presidential candidates face off in UTSU debate hosted by The Varsity

Micah Ryu announces departure from Reboot UofT

Presidential candidates face off in UTSU debate hosted by <em>The Varsity</em>

On Monday March 13, The Varsity hosted a presidential debate featuring presidential candidates for the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) election.

The debate was moderated by The Varsity’s Editor-in-Chief Alex McKeen and News Editor Tom Yun, and featured Mathias Memmel of Demand Better, Andre Fast of We the Students, and John Sweeney of Whomst’d’ve UofT, and Micah Ryu, who announced at the debate that he was no longer affiliated with Reboot UofT.

 Although The Varsity reached out to independent presidential candidate Joshua Hands inviting him to the debate, he did not attend.

Advocacy, Equity, and Free Speech

The presidential candidates were asked questions about what role the UTSU would play in the areas of advocating initiatives, ensuring equity, and promoting free speech. Each candidate agreed that the UTSU should be active in these areas, but differed either in the methods or priorities in dealing with the topics.

Memmel insisted that the UTSU should work on the “broad level issues” which are often “policy-related issues”, such as tuition. He also stated that the UTSU should deal with issues “that have to do with supporting and representing marginalized students on campus.”

In regards to free speech, Memmel said that the UTSU should not provide “a platform” for “bigoted ideas to be elevated.” He believes that some groups on campus have “now become magnets for hate speech” and that “they have nothing to do with free speech at all.”

Sweeney believed in a more input-based approach. Sweeney asserted that, if elected, he would “collect input” from students to learn “what they want and how they want us to carry out these advocacy efforts.”

When asked about the topic of free speech, Sweeney answered by saying “I agree that free speech is very important especially on university and that people should be willing to hear opinions that they don’t necessarily want to hear. But that being said, it is not acceptable to be in any way threatening or abusive towards any other groups of students.”

Fast specifically advocated for ensuring help and equality for marginalized students.

“The type of work that we feel that the union should be working on is the type of work that would support those students on campus that are most marginalized; that’s the big theme of our campaign,” said Fast.

Arguing for a different approach, Ryu stated that clubs, and not the UTSU, should handle issues regarding advocacy, equity, and free speech. Ryu stated that “the UTSU should step back from these issues and empower smaller groups to advocate for themselves through club’s funding”.

Management within the UTSU

A question that was submitted by email asked the candidates how they would intend to operate with less staff, a platform point for both Memmel and Ryu.

Memmel answered by saying that his experience at the UTSU has taught him that not all of the positions are “necessary and that we can still provide the same quality of service in a more resourceful and more efficient way”.

Memmel noted that the UTSU spends “almost 50 per cent of its budget on HR” which makes it difficult to “do anything else that’s meaningful.” The actual amount that the UTSU spends on human resources is closer to 40 per cent.

Ryu expressed skepticism over some of the current full-time positions, saying, “the question sort of falls apart on itself when you look at some of the positions that currently exist.”

Sweeney’s answer to the question was based off his experiences with the Engineering Society at U of T. He suggested that, like the Engineering Society, the UTSU “could utilize more volunteer work” in order to reduce costs and “increase the efficiency of the services” that the UTSU provides.

In contrast to the other candidates, Fast’s response was more supportive of the current jobs in the UTSU. He said that “it’s really important that we have people [at the UTSU] who do know how these services work and are able to implement them.”

Fast also stated that he believes in “the value of student jobs.” He continued by saying that “it’s really important that students are able to find employment in our student union to help pay for the costs of tuition and rent.”

UTM

A question submitted online by a student from the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus (UTM) sparked some heated discussion during the forum. The question referred to UTM students often feeling alienated from the UTSU elections.

“Frankly, UTM students should fuck off,” said Ryu in response to the question. “They have their own student union, they don’t belong in the UTSU. We’re two different campuses with two totally different campus cultures and it’s really a shame that the two organizations are linked together at all.”

Fast immediately repudiated Ryu’s statements: “I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s acceptable that someone can sit up here and tell a huge part of our membership — and I think that it’s important that, as the moderators of this debate, you don’t allow this platform to be used to tell something like a quarter of our membership and disrespect them in that way.”

With regards to UTM, Sweeney said that his slate would pursue a process for UTM to leave the UTSU if UTM students agree.

Memmel stated that he had reached out to UTMSU vice-president Internal Jackie Zhao — who is currently running for vice-president Internal with We The Students U of T — twice this past year and both times “was met with hostility.” He followed-up saying the UTSU needs to “reevaluate how we’re supporting students at UTM.”

Future Relationship with Administration

The Varsity asked the presidential candidates about the balance between student union autonomy and administration-led accountability measures. This issue comes as the passing of the Policy on Open, Accessible, and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations last summer, which gave more oversight to administration. In addition, a new policy at St. Michael’s College now has an academic advisor — who is a member of the administration — designated to each of its three student organizations.

Sweeney answered the question first, highlighting Whomst’d’ve’s view on the matter. He said, “Long story short, we’re committed to a decentralized approach to letting smaller groups take governance of themselves.”

Fast argued for student-union independence saying that “there’s a lot of cases, as a student union, where what’s best for students isn’t necessarily being represented by the admin.” Fast mentioned U of T’s investment in fossil fuel companies and U of T funds contributing to the United States prison system.

Memmel stated that he was in support of the Policy on Open, Accessible, and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations. He added that autonomy in student organizations is “in principle, a core function of any student group.” However, Memmel added that administration should have the power to “withhold fees free these organizations when corruption is internalized…”

Ryu argued that the UTSU is not effective in influencing the administration because the “admin doesn’t see the UTSU as a proper representative of the student body any more than the students themselves do.”

Voting is open until March 16 at utsu.simplyvoting.com.

Reboot UofT issued 10 demerit points

CRO says slate violated rules against pre-campaigning

Reboot UofT issued 10 demerit points

The executive candidates for Reboot UofT, a slate running for the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) elections, have been issued 10 demerit points for violating pre-campaigning rules, as ruled by the Chief Returning Officer (CRO).

On February 14, The Varsity revealed Reboot’s tentative platform and list of executive candidates. Reboot’s presidential candidate, Micah Ryu, spoke to The Varsity about some aspects of his platform, including clubs funding and a plan to dissolve executive positions in the future. 

The CRO presented a ruling that issued 10 demerit points to each executive candidate based on “gross violation of the Elections Procedure Codes Article VI pertaining to pre-campaign (1a) and Fair Play (1g, sub-section v1).”

The ruling noted how Ryu acknowledged in the article that speaking to The Varsity could be considered pre-campaigning, and he “knowingly proceeded to violate the rules.” The ruling considered Ryu’s decision as a “lack of appropriate judgement and respect.”

Reboot UofT’s director candidates were not issued demerit points, as they were not mentioned in the February 14 article.

Ryu told The Varsity that he plans to appeal the decision.

Demerit points are issued when candidates violate election rules found in the UTSU’s Elections and Procedures Code. Any executive candidate who earns 35 demerit points will be disqualified from the election. 

Last year, the 1UofT slate was disqualified for failing to provide notarized translations of Chinese campaign material into English to the CRO.

Voting in the UTSU elections will run from March 14–16 and will be available online at utsu.simplyvoting.com.

— With files from Tom Yun