SCSU AGM 2019: Controversial motion to limit executive terms voted down

Questions on whether motion would remove president from office, procedural confusion dominate meeting

SCSU AGM 2019: Controversial motion to limit executive terms voted down

The 2019 Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 27 got off to an exciting start with the introduction of two emergency motions. It ended anticlimactically when a room booking issue meant the meeting could not be extended beyond 9:00 pm, thus leaving many items unaddressed.

Members only had time to debate one motion, which proposed preventing executives from serving more than one term — a rule which could have potentially removed current President Chemi Lhamo from her position had it not been voted down. Other motions, including ones that called for solidarity with Hong Kong, implementing online voting, and discussing SCSU pay were all left unaddressed.

Electoral Equity Act

The Electoral Equity Act, which sought to limit the number of terms executives could serve in their undergraduate degree to one, proved to be a controversial motion.

After it was moved, long lines formed behind both microphones, and a member motioned to call the question, which would immediately stop the debate and trigger an automatic vote on the motion.

A member who opposed the call to question, however, was found to be using another individual’s voting card, which had 25 proxy votes. This prompted calls for a revote wherein the opposition still prevailed. The question was not called, and discussion on the act continued.

In the discussion that followed, a member pointed out that the language of the motion, which specifies that it take effect “immediately,” might call into question the legitimacy of Lhamo’s position, since she served as Vice-President Equity in the previous academic year. After another member successfully called the question, the membership voted down the motion.

In an interview after the meeting, the mover of the motion, Annie Sahagian, explained that the intention was not to remove Lhamo from office. Referencing this interpretation of the motion, she said, “I was going to amend that.” However, there was not enough time to do so as the question was called.

The intended aim of the Electoral Equity Act was to encourage “student engagement, involvement and participation within SCSU,” explained Sahagian.

Sahagian is the sister of Carly Sahagian, the current Vice-President Academics and University Affairs. However, both parties say they did not collaborate on the motion, pointing out that this motion would prevent Carly from running for another term as well. Carly, along with Vice-President External Chaman Bukhari, were the only two executives to vote in favour of the motion. Vice-President Operations Ray Alibux abstained from voting, and the remaining three executives, including Lhamo, voted against the motion.

Emergency motion on Hong Kong protests

Shortly after the meeting was called to order and before the discussion on the Electoral Equity Act, Lhamo proposed an emergency motion be added to the end of the agenda. The motion, entitled “Student Solidarity for Hong Kong,” included resolutions to work with U of T to research “harassment within academic institutions of students who speak out against injustices” and to investigate “the pressure on students who are being instructed, manipulated or coerced into taking action by foreign influences.”

Lhamo told The Varsity that the investigation aspect of the motion seeks to protect international Chinese students from pressures by foreign influences, which she claimed the university was hesitant to do. The motion also calls for the SCSU to create a Lennon Wall on campus.

Lhamo also hopes this motion goes beyond the protests in Hong Kong, recalling the threats she faced and continues to receive, many with anti-Tibet sentiments since she is a vocal supporter of Tibetan sovereignty. She noted that she never received a report explaining the threats she faced, despite announcements that police had begun inquiries.

“I would hate to see that universities and external entities behave the way they did with me to any other students.”

Procedural hiccups

The night’s agenda saw two emergency motions, several re-arrangements, and an obscure order from Robert’s Rules. These hiccups were cut short at 9:00 pm, despite attempts to extend the meeting to 11:00 pm.

Alibux introduced the second emergency motion of the night, following Lhamo’s Hong Kong motion, which would commit the union to implement online voting. Alibux’s motivation to the chair for this being an emergency was two-fold: the climate crisis and a previous miscommunication within the team that prevented this motion from going onto the agenda.

The chair ruled against him, citing the timeliness required for an emergency motion, at which point Alibux challenged the chair, with the membership voting in his favour to contravene the chair’s ruling and allow the motion onto the agenda.

The agenda’s re-arrangement was crucial in deciding the few motions that the membership would get to debate during the AGM — members raced to add new orders to the motions until the question was called and the agenda for the night was passed. The AGM saw the membership address one member-submitted motion — Sahagian’s — before being brought to an abrupt end by a member calling for the order of the day, requiring the membership to conform to the agenda, which meant that the meeting was over at 9:00 pm. Despite Alibux’s attempt to challenge the chair’s ruling in this matter, the room had only been booked until 9:00 pm, and the meeting could not be extended.

Among the motions that weren’t addressed at the meeting were pay bumps for executives, pay for SCSU board directors to attend meetings, and a motion alleging that the union is undermining its commitments to the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Israel movement — one which cited an Israeli flag in Bukhari’s office as an example of such action from within the union.

SCSU AGM 2018: Long debates to fund student organizations clash with financial realities

Motion to donate to Muslim Chaplaincy fails, funds for Women’s and Trans Centre’s 2019 conference set at $2,500

SCSU AGM 2018: Long debates to fund student organizations clash with financial realities

At the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s (SCSU) six-hour 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 14, motions to fund the Muslim Chaplaincy, as well as the UTSC Women’s and Trans Centre’s (WTC) 2019 conference Making HERstory, were proposed and met with controversy over whether to donate money.

Muslim Chaplaincy

The motions for the SCSU to give $25,000 annually to the Muslim Chaplaincy for operational costs were struck down by members in attendance.

SCSU Vice-President Equity Chemi Lhamo said that although there are other religious groups on campus, none of them are funded by the SCSU. Some other religious groups at UTSC include the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Jewish Student Life.

A union member at the meeting said that it is unfair to other religious groups for the SCSU to fund only the Muslim Chaplaincy.

Union member and 2018 SCSU presidential candidate Ray Alibux proposed that the SCSU should instead donate $25,000 for a multi-faith chaplaincy in order to make the motion fairer to all religious groups at UTSC.

“Having a single fund for a single group may lead to issues like people feeling excluded,” said Alibux.

Another member opposed Alibux’s amendment, saying, “We have no money, that’s why we amended the [previous] motions.”

Alibux’s amendment failed and other amendments to strike out the motions asking for the SCSU to donate to the Muslim Chaplaincy passed.

The same motion also proposed that the SCSU provide a permanent space for the Muslim Chaplaincy. Members expressed concerns that this motion may create conflict between religious groups at UTSC.

Lhamo proposed to amend the motion to say that the SCSU will lobby for U of T to pay for it, and permanent spaces would be provided for both the Muslim Chaplaincy and other multi-faith initiatives.

SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis spoke in favour of Lhamo’s amendment, and said that future plans for buildings like the Instructional Centre II will provide “ample opportunity” to lobby for the spaces.

After a long discussion, the much-amended motion was finally passed.

Women’s and Trans Centre

Shagun Kanwar, the Finance and Safety Coordinator at the WTC, moved for the SCSU to contribute $7,000 to WTC’s 2019 conference, Making HERstory. The motion was amended so that the monetary support was lower, after concerns from students about where the money would come from and where it would go.

When asked why the WTC needed $7,000 more if it already had $40,000 in levies, Kanwar said that much of the levies were spent on honorariums for WTC coordinators.

Each WTC coordinator receives $8,000 for two semesters.

“The honorarium in there is not reasonable,” said one student.

Raymond Dang, the Director of Political Science on the SCSU board, disagreed and said that WTC coordinators deserved to be paid this amount because “a lot of the time a lot of these coordinators pass their hours [for their pay].”

WTC External Coordinator Leon Tsai presented the budget breakdown for the conference, which showed that out of the total cost of $30,000, about $24,000 was allocated toward speakers and performances, while $6,000 was for logistics. Of the $24,000, over $20,000 of that would be paid toward the keynote speaker, whom the WTC members said was a highly regarded #MeToo figure.

According to Brayiannis, since most of the surplus money is budgeted toward building maintenance like roof repairs, most of the donations to WTC would have to come from the donations line.

In hopes of being practical with the donations line, which has a limit of $5,000 for all entities, Lhamo said that access to funding is already difficult anywhere. She emphasized the SCSU’s role as WTC’s co-collaborator and wanted to change SCSU’s donation from $7,000 to $2,500.

Lhamo’s amendment to lower the SCSU’s monetary contribution passed. Kanwar’s motion for the SCSU to assist WTC in advertising the conference also passed.

Recapping the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union Annual General Meeting

Heated discussion on agenda, amendments, motions funding equity collectives

Recapping the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union Annual General Meeting

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s (SCSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 14 focused heavily on meeting procedures, extended debates on amendments, and several equity-related motions. The six-hour meeting was also a platform for discussion on the audited financial reports from the 2017–2018 year, executive reports, and questions about space issues at UTSC.

The AGM began with welcoming remarks by Wendy Phillips, the Indigenous Elder at UTSC. She acknowledged the mishaps at the previous AGMs in the past and requested that everyone “be kind to one another” and to work with the SCSU.

SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis made the first motion for the approval of the agenda, which was uncharacteristically followed by a long debate and hostility from a few students.

Anup Atwal, President of the Scarborough Campus’ Union Reform (SCU Reform) Club, led the debate, arguing that his motions in the agenda were “heavily amended, edited, and didn’t reflect what he needed to say.” The SCU Reform Club was started this year in protest of what students saw as the SCSU’s lack of transparency, engagement, and good governance.

Atwal called for his motions to be removed, which was followed by a heated argument between him and the speaker about the legality of the bylaw committee to amend motions.

Ray Alibux, who was involved in last year’s controversial SCSU elections, tried to add another motion to the agenda, asking to remove SCSU Political Science Director Raymond Dang. However, the speaker halted his motion, claiming that it was slander.

After the agenda was approved, the AGM moved on to the auditor’s report of the 2017–2018 financial year, which was presented by Yale and Partners. The auditor’s report passed quickly, and the discussion moved on to the executive reports presented by the SCSU.

Executive reports serve as a platform to show all the work that has been done by the SCSU so far and give students a chance to address any concerns. Students asked questions about the lack of recreation rooms on campus, overcrowded study rooms, and the lack of 24-hour food options on campus.

The SCSU acknowledged that these problems existed and said that it was working with the university to find solutions.

The equity-related motions submitted by students included increased funding to the Muslim Chaplaincy and the UTSC Women and Trans Centre.

The motion for the former proposed funding $25,000 a year to the Muslim Chaplaincy, which students opposed because they said that it was not fair to favour one chaplaincy, and that funding should be the university’s responsibility.

This motion passed with extensive amendments, including striking the proposal for funding just the Muslim Chaplaincy, making provisions to open up discussions to give more support to all chaplaincies at UTSC.

The next motion, regarding changing the period for the Fall and Winter General Meetings, passed quickly with hardly any debate or opposition. This motion included presenting a revised operating budget at every meeting and including director updates in the upcoming Winter General Meeting.

Similarly, after five hours of discussion at the AGM, the Board of Directors-related motion made by Raymond Dang was directly called to question and passed quickly. This motion included the election of a Vice-President Campus Life and the introduction of one elected international student representative as a voting member on the Board of Directors.

Around 10:00 pm, the AGM finally arrived at the last motion of the day, which proposed a $7,000 donation to the UTSC Women and Trans Centre for its 2019 conference, “Making HERstory.”

Discussion was heavily focused on where the money would come from as well as what it would be used to buy.

SCSU Vice-President Equity Chemi Lhamo made an amendment to reduce the amount of funding requested by the Women and Trans Centre, as the SCSU usually has a cap of “$5,000 for all entities.”

Brayiannis agreed with her and said that “$2,500 was the most reasonable amount they could allocate to the conference.”

The amendment was passed and the contribution was decreased from $7,000 to $2,500. Subsequently, the AGM was adjourned, having run for six hours.