A University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) committee has recommended that the organization terminate its membership agreement with the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU).
“It’s really serious, and I want everyone to think about that, because it’s a big move in the way the UTSU is structured,” said Granger.
That recommendation is “contingent on expected negotiation results,” said UTSU President Anne Boucher at the board meeting. Both Boucher and UTMSU President Felipe Nagata declined to comment on the specifics of these expected results.
The agreement, effective since April 30, 2008, was a bid to “co-ordinate and streamline resources” of the UTSU and UTMSU. But on January 25, 2018, the UTMSU and the UTSU began talks to renegotiate the agreement, jointly citing a need for the UTMSU to secure greater independence in governance and to better represent UTM’s student body.
The goal of the talks was not to rip up the agreement, but to “strengthen the contract,” said then-UTMSU President Salma Fakhry. That sentiment was reinforced by then-UTSU President Mathias Memmel, who said that the UTSU was “cautiously optimistic that the current agreement can be amended to the satisfaction of both parties.”
But by February, the UTSU and UTMSU released an identical announcement that “the parties aren’t able to reach an agreement,” and that they “have agreed to hold a vote on whether or not to terminate the agreement.” If the agreement is terminated, UTM students will no longer be represented by the UTSU.
Talks stalled, so the previous executives agreed to leave further negotiations “to the new executive teams [of 2018–2019] should they choose to continue.”
The new 2018–2019 UTMSU executives first met with their board on April 27, and the new UTSU executives first met with their board on April 28. The Ad Hoc Negotiations Committee within the UTSU, chaired by Boucher, first met on July 20 to secure an agreement. The committee met a second time on July 27 to discuss the financial impact of a potential separation and to issue a recommendation.
Joshua Grondin, UTSU Vice-President University Affairs, estimated that the UTSU could expect a revenue decrease of $82,000 per year from a loss of UTM student revenue.
Where does the money come from?
UTM students pay one fee and three levies to the UTSU each year, according to the Membership Agreement. The UTSU then transfers the entirety of the UTM students’ portion of both the UTSU Daycare Levy and the UTSU World University Service of Canada Levy to the UTMSU, along with 75 per cent of the UTSU Orientation Levy and 85 per cent of the UTSU Society/Membership fees. The UTSU retains the remainder of the funds.
Where does this money go?
The UTSU has budgeted the remaining 15 per cent portion of the UTSU Society/Membership Fees, which amount to around $82,800 per year, for event-running and advocacy work.
Grondin said at the July 27 committee meeting that this advocacy work includes UTSU representation on behalf of UTM, since the 2008 agreement prohibits the UTMSU from representing itself in campus-wide negotiations, such as with Governing Council.
In the 2017–2018 period, the UTSU earned $1,950,508.62 in total revenue and gains. The non-remitted revenue from UTM students accounts for 4.2 per cent of that.
Boucher further projects that lost UTM student fees would result in a sub-10 per cent reduction of revenue that the UTSU would expect to receive in 2022.
In response to Boucher’s projection, Granger said that “it’s not that much of an impact,” to which Boucher agreed, adding that “the numbers are more positive than would have been anticipated.”
How will the UTSU make up for lost revenue?
The UTSU plans to cut spending to “pursue efficiencies,” with Boucher vowing that she “would never be able to responsibly make cuts to its advocacy, services, or programming that could contribute significantly to campus life.”
The UTSU also plans to request donations from alumni, as well as to increase cash inflow by opening for-profit services run by the UTSU’s commercial subsidiary, which include renting conference spaces and running a café. Finally, the UTSU is considering an increase in the UTSU levy to offset the loss in revenue.
What are the benefits of a UTSU-UTMSU separation?
For the UTSU, a separation would allow the UTSU to provide services currently offered by the UTMSU and vice versa, which is currently prohibited by the agreement.
According to Boucher, the UTMSU would receive increased freedom in governance and increased revenue from UTM students, enabling it to offer services that it could not operate before. Nagata did not discuss any benefits to the UTMSU from a separation.
How would the separation be ratified?
The recommendation of the ad hoc committee is non-binding. One of two processes must be undertaken for a separation to occur.
The first is a three-quarters majority vote in favour of terminating the agreement in a joint meeting between the UTSU and UTMSU Board of Directors, followed by another three-quarters majority vote in favour of terminating the agreement at the Annual General Meeting between the UTSU and the UTMSU board members and executives.
The second option is a two-thirds majority vote in favour of terminating the agreement in a similar joint meeting, followed by a simple majority vote in a joint referendum.