UTSU AGM 2019: Opt-out rates and finances, mental health, CFS

Union announces average fall semester opt-out rate of 23.6 per cent for non-essential UTSU fees

UTSU AGM 2019: Opt-out rates and finances, mental health, CFS

“As of right now, the [University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU)] is performing stronger than ever,” said UTSU President Joshua Bowman at its 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 30 at the Innis Town Hall. During his presidential address, Bowman listed out achievements, like the First Year Council and the union’s various lobbying efforts. 

However, the conversation at this year’s AGM centred on other matters: UTSU finances in the wake of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI); student mental health; and leaving the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

UTSU finances, clubs, and the SCI

Under the SCI — the provincial mandate to Ontario universities and colleges to provide an opt-out option for certain incidental fees — a portion of the UTSU’s fees were deemed “non-essential,” while others remained mandatory for all members of the union.

In his presidential address, Bowman unveiled the fall semester opt-out rates for the non-essential UTSU fees:

The Advocacy, Training and Development fund, which has a fee of $0.19, saw an opt-out rate of 21.9 per cent.

Bikechain, a non-profit cycling organization with a $0.54 fee, saw an opt-out rate of 25.4 per cent.

The Blue Sky Solar Racing Car design team, which has a fee of $0.13, saw an opt-out rate of 27.1 per cent.

The CFS, which has a fee of $8.21, saw an opt-out rate of 26.6 per cent.

The Ontario Public Interest Research Group, which has a fee of $0.50, saw an opt-out rate of 23.7 per cent.

The Centre for Women and Trans People, which has a fee of $1.50, saw an opt-out rate of 25 per cent.

The Cinema Studies Students’ Union, which has a fee of $0.25, saw an opt-out rate of 27.6 per cent, although it’s worth mentioning that the UTSU is not its only source of funding.

Dollars for Daycare, which has a fee of $0.50, saw an opt-out rate of 25.4 per cent.

Downtown Legal Services, which has a fee of $3.29, saw an opt-out rate of 19.4 per cent, though the UTSU is not its only source of income.

Food Security for Students, which has a fee of $0.15, saw an opt-out rate of 21.2 per cent.

Foster Parents Plan, which has a fee of $0.05, saw an opt-out rate of 24.4 per cent.

Health initiatives in Developing Countries, which has a fee of $0.25, saw an opt-out rate of 22.7 per cent.

Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans people of the University of Toronto, which has a fee of $0.25, saw an opt-out rate of 25.8 per cent.

UTSU Orientation, which has a fee of $0.50, saw an opt-out rate of 22.7 per cent.

The scholarships and bursaries fee, which is $0.16, had an opt-out rate of 15.8 per cent.

The Sexual Education and Peer Counselling Centre, which has a fee of $0.25, saw an opt-out rate of 23.1 per cent.

The UTSU’s Clubs Funding and Resource Bank fund, which has a fee of $2.00, saw an opt-out rate of 20.9 per cent.

Students for Barrier-Free Access, which has a fee of $1.00, saw an opt-out rate of 23.7 per cent.

The University of Toronto Aerospace Team, which has a fee of $2.77, saw an opt-out rate of 27.1 per cent.

And finally, the University of Toronto Environmental Resource Network, which has an incidental fee of $0.50, saw an opt-out rate of 23.2 per cent.

The overall average opt-out rate was 23.6 per cent. Bowman told The Varsity that “any percentage of students opting out of our fees is… not great.”

During the executive Q&A session, Vice-President, Student Life Ameera Karim noted that two funding regimes had been added to the UTSU’s funding structure for campus organizations, including the abolition of automatic renewal of funding and a new semesterly funding application. Karim maintained that these changes were necessitated by the SCI.

Another point of contention arose around the UTSU’s guidelines for recognition and funding of clubs, with students questioning whether groups with ties to the Chinese government or anti-abortion student groups are eligible. While Karim’s answer indirectly referenced the fact that student groups that threaten student safety would not be recognized, Bowman — following a direct question from a student — clarified: “We will not recognize Students for Life.”

The UTSU’s operating budget

Former UTSU President Anne Boucher challenged the UTSU on its delay in posting an operating budget for the year. Bowman pointed to the SCI in response, emphasizing the lack of precedent and the resulting difficulties in financial planning. 

While a preliminary budget does exist, Bowman felt it wasn’t appropriate to post or approve a budget without knowing the UTSU’s opt-out rates. With the confirmation of the rates at the AGM, the budget will pass through the executive committee to be approved at the next UTSU Board of Directors meeting on November 17. 

Approximately 87 per cent of the UTSU’s budget was deemed essential under the provincial guidelines, with the remaining designated as non-essential. Bowman noted that the remaining non-essential budget is directed at “people-facing” initiatives, which indicates that those formulating the guidelines “don’t understand what campus life is all about.” 

Some substantial changes made in light of the SCI include cuts to club funding, student aid, and orientation. However, Bowman added that the UTSU would work to ensure that cuts to student aid would not impact those most reliant on the funds. 

Mental health concerns

In a discussion on the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, Bowman expressed his disappointment with the task force’s operations thus far. He further noted that its four student members have not been present at recent consultations with U of T community members.

Vice-President, Operations Arjun Kaul echoed this sentiment, commenting that “the mental health task force… has been extremely uncooperative” and has only reached out to the UTSU once. When questioned regarding whether the UTSU should develop a committee to hold the task force accountable to its mandate, Kaul asserted that the UTSU’s resources would be more effectively used toward new independent initiatives.

U of T Ombudsperson Dr. Ellen Hodnett’s comments at the October 24 Governing Council meeting — which defended the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP) and accused student activists of unfairly using campus deaths to criticize the policy — were raised repeatedly on the questioning floor. Campus groups, including the UTSU, have expressed outrage and called on Hodnett to issue a public apology. 

Kaul highlighted the lack of consultation involved in developing the UMLAP as well as the policy’s inappropriate nature: “I do believe that there are cases where it would be the student’s best interest to be removed from their studies, but it’s an inherently devoid-of-logic question to pair that with mental health.”

Questioning CFS membership

Vice-President, External Affairs Lucas Granger claimed that the UTSU executive team cannot initiate a referendum with union resources to leave the CFS, in response to a question from Ilya Bañares. Rather, that responsibility resides with student members. A petition to call on decertification must be signed by 15 per cent of the UTSU’s members in order for an exit referendum to occur.

Bowman told The Varsity that, speaking as an individual, if a member were to initiate such a referendum, he would be in support. 

With files from Hannah Carty and Andy Takagi

Disclosure: Ilya Bañares is The Varsity’s managing online editor and attended the AGM as a voting member.

Editor’s Note (November 12, 4:25 pm): This article has been updated to reflect that signatures from 15 per cent of the UTSU’s members, rather than 20 per cent, are needed for a referendum to leave the CFS to occur.

The Breakdown: UTSU’s 2019 Annual General Meeting

Member motions to address board attendance, equity collectives, climate crisis

The Breakdown: UTSU’s 2019 Annual General Meeting

The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held on October 30 in Innis Town Hall at 6:00 pm. The meeting is open to all UTSU members, which includes full-time undergraduate students, professional faculty students, Toronto School of Theology students, Transition Year Program students, and students on a Professional Experience Year.

The AGM requires a quorum of 75 members, of which 50 members must be physically present, with the rest being present through a proxy. The meeting acts as a forum for members to ask questions and raise items for discussion. Last year’s AGM was marred by long and heated debates, and notably lost quorum during the meeting. This loss resulted in a vote on policy without quorum.

According to the AGM’s agenda, UTSU President Joshua Bowman will give his address, which will be followed by an executive question and answer period.

The meeting will also see a proposal to change the union’s bylaws and elections procedure. One change to the bylaws will remove all mentions of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, as it separated from the UTSU at the 2018 AGM. There are also new outlines for abandonment of office for directors, which, for example, will occur if directors have two “unreasonable absences,” or other combinations of absences.

Member motions

On the agenda is a motion put forth by University College representative Lina Maragha to dissolve the UTSU’s equity collectives. The motion recommends this due to the perception that the equity collectives have not fulfilled their mandate since being introduced in 2017.

Instead, a “Equity Initiatives Fund” is proposed, which will provide funding to existing equity groups on campus. Three new community members will also be added to the Equity and Accessibility Committee under the new proposal.

Another motion proposes that the UTSU endorse all upcoming Fridays for Future climate strikes, as they did for the Global Climate Strike in Toronto last month.

Outstanding issues to address

Some outstanding issues that the AGM might address include the UTSU’s Student Commons project, which has put the union in financial jeopardy before, and been the target of numerous construction and planning delays.

The possibility of the UTSU leaving the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which has been a major topic of discussion surrounding the UTSU for the past few years, could also come to a front. Debate over student funding for the CFS has emerged in the context of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) — a provincial mandate for universities that provides an opt-out option for “non-essential” incidental fees. The SCI has also created particular financial challenges for the union, as students can opt-out of certain UTSU fees deemed non-essential by the province.

The union has also been active in student advocacy, including a collaboration with city council on postsecondary transit fees, and pushing for the funding of increased mental health services.

The controversial university-mandated leave of absence policy has once again brought tensions to light between the union, Governing Council, and the university’s ombudsperson on the policy’s effects on student health — less than year-and-a-half after the policy’s approval.

Op-ed: Accountability, democracy, and samosas — attend the UTSU’s fall Annual General Meeting

All you need to know about the UTSU AGM

Op-ed: Accountability, democracy, and samosas — attend the UTSU’s fall Annual General Meeting

On Wednesday, October 30, at 6:00 pm, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) will be holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Innis Town Hall. This event is crucial for the governance of the UTSU, and gives our membership the opportunity to debate and ratify decisions and bylaws, and have their say in the direction and maintenance of our organization.

The UTSU AGM is one of our most important events, as it serves as a mid-year check on our progress as executives. As such, we work hard to ensure that the AGM is as accessible and open to our membership as possible.

Through measures like our online proxy system at utsu.simplyvoting.com, we want to make sure all members have a chance to engage with the UTSU on a personal level.

The AGM has been criticized in the past for being filled with “insiders” instead of general members. This is a valid criticism. In the past, the UTSU’s engagement skills were poor, and transparency was dubious. We’ve made strides this year to bridge this gap and want all students to feel comfortable at our AGM.

Our organization functions best when we hear your questions and criticisms, and we want to hear as many as possible. We’re here to listen.

The UTSU has a long history of packed AGMs with students raising their concerns with executives, irrespective of how receptive the executives may be. This has extended to the adoption of online voting — despite its initial failure — the proposed erasure of executive positions, the banning of slates, and the separation of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union from the UTSU.

Suffice to say, AGMs are wholly consequential to the operations of the UTSU.

Before I became an executive at the UTSU, I used the AGM as an opportunity to press my predecessors on the status of our membership in the Canadian Federation of Students, because I was under the impression that we would be pushing for a referendum to leave. As a general member, I was tired of the constant rhetoric — if the UTSU was pushing to leave, why were they still failing to deliver?

Furthermore, I advocated for resolutions that I found merit in, and spoke in opposition to points that I found to be unproductive. I found the AGM and the processes that preceded it to be extremely exciting: The Varsity’s bingo cards that predicted the events before they occurred, the samosas that sat lousily in the lobby of the event, the proxy cards that announced how many members were participating, et cetera. It was a lot to process my first time, and it was really one of the events that motivated me to get more involved with the UTSU.

The agendas are normally as follows: an address from the president and an executive question period; the presentation of audited statements and subsequent ratification of the auditor; the presentation of an annual report detailing the events of the preceding year; a package of bylaws to be discussed and ratified by the membership; and member-submitted motions.

The executive question period is a great opportunity to press executives on their actions or inaction. This period has addressed issues like a lack of water bottles at orientation, the inclusion of students from the satellite campuses, and whether the UTSU is democratic or not. This is a great opportunity, and has been historically utilized to a great extent by UTSU members.

Arguably, the two most consequential pieces of this upcoming AGM agenda are the audited financial statements and the Bylaw and Elections Procedure Code changes. The audit allows the UTSU’s general membership to see the financial health of the organization — where our money is being spent.

In addition, changes to the UTSU’s Bylaw and Elections Procedure Code are important, given that the UTSU’s Bylaws are legally binding and guide the organization’s general direction.

I highly encourage all of our members to come out and attend the AGM, if not for the opportunity to keep executives accountable and assess the health of our union, then for the samosas. If anybody has questions about the AGM, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We hope to see you on Wednesday, October 30, at Innis Town Hall!

Joshua Bowman is a fifth-year Indigenous Studies and Political Science student at St. Michael’s College and current President of the UTSU.

UTGSU General Council meeting discusses SCI, onsite mental health counselor

Outgoing finance commissioner on incidental fees: “not necessarily what you thought you were paying for”

UTGSU General Council meeting discusses SCI, onsite mental health counselor

In a recent Board of Directors meeting, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) addressed holdover items from its September board meeting.

Branden Rizzuto the outgoing UTGSU finance commissioner whose resignation will take effect on November 1 gave a report on how many students opted out of the UTGSU’s fees, in accordance with the province’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI). The SCI allows students to opt out of incidental fees deemed “non-essential.”

The UTGSU’s mean fall 2019 opt-out rate for full-time students, across all optional fee categories, was 17.48 per cent and 25.95 per cent for part-time students.

“We’re actually in pretty decent shape,” said Rizzuto. He noted that he had planned for a “variety of revenue loss scenarios,” even considering opt-out rates of 70 per cent. “What is actually more of a threat to us, is not the overall revenue loss… but it’s that the University of Toronto has used the SCI to limit our financial autonomy.”

The UTGSU’s fees are separated into a number of optional fees categories which constrains the way the union can spend its money. Funds raised in one area, like “academic support,” cannot be used for any other purpose. Rizzutto explained that the university has determined where “80 per cent” of the UTGSU’s funding will go because of this categorization of fees.

Before the UTGSU was aware of how many students opted out of its fees, it proposed changes to its funding structure in anticipation of a significant drop in its budget. The first of the motions would have introduced a linear model for department head grants. This would have jeopardized the funding of small departments, and so another motion was proposed that would have evened out the distribution of funds to small departments.

After some debate, both motions failed. Members expressed that because the opt-out rates were manageable, they preferred to revert back to the original funding model.

When asked why the proposed linear model had two different sources of funding, Rizzuto responded, “The University of Toronto misled everyone and put hidden fees in all of the fee categories.” For graduate students paying their incidental fees, Rizzuto described the fee structure as being “not necessarily what you thought you were paying for.”

He explained that one of the UTGSU’s essential fees, “academic support,” contained within it a $4.87 fee that had to be used for department head grants. This is despite the fact that there is a department head grant fee within the UTGSU’s levies that was deemed non-essential. For this specific section of the budget, part of the funding was deemed essential, while the remainder was subject to student choice.

The UTGSU also passed a motion to increase mental health services for its members. “This is a little bit prompted by recent events, but this actually is a conversation that’s been ongoing between myself and the finance commissioner,” said Sophie McGibbon-Gardner. Due to Rizzuto’s resignation, McGibbon-Gardner was appointed Vice Chair Finance Committee at the meeting.

“We kind of have a vision of providing a service that is impossible to implement by administration, and that would be having an onsite mental health support system that is integrated into the GSU,” continued McGibbon-Gardner. She added that a lengthy consultation process to identify the needs of the GSU membership would be the first step in this process.

Rizzuto spoke in favour of the motion, saying that the UTGSU had enough funding for the proposal. Last year, the UTGSU added five dollars to their Health and Dental Administration fee. “We have the funds, I estimate that we might have upward of $100,000 to put toward these types of initiatives.”

Rizzuto was also appointed head of the UTGSU legal ad hoc committee.

Student groups adjust to reduced funding in face of SCI

Multiple clubs experience financial challenges, limitations in programming

Student groups adjust to reduced funding in face of SCI

As the fall semester opt-out period came to a close on September 19, levy-funded student groups are now receiving information on their funding for the semester. The Student Choice Initiative (SCI), mandated by the Ontario government earlier this year, designates certain fees as “non-essential” and requires universities to allow students to opt out of them as they wish.

The groups that are affected by this change include student unions, student advocacy groups, and campus media, among others. Many groups expressed to The Varsity that they are still unsure of the impact the SCI will have on their organizations, and that the winter opt-out period could yield different results.

Multiple groups, like the Sexual Education Centre (SEC), also noted that their overall opt-out rate was around 25 per cent. “This means no new books for our library, fewer fun events for UofT students, fewer special products of the month, and more,” wrote Leah West, Executive Director of the SEC, in an email to The Varsity.

“We know that many people rely almost exclusively on us for free safer sex supplies and menstrual products. We worry that the current funding cuts will put these groups at risk by making these things even less accessible,” West noted of the SEC’s operations in the coming year.

“These cuts strike at the heart of our organization,” wrote Students for Barrier Free Access (SBA) Board Member Alisha Krishna in an email to The Varsity. “We cannot provide the same services as previously, especially since we were forced to implement staffing cuts. Not only does this mean we must reduce the services offered to our membership, but it is also significant because SBA has always tried to hire marginalized, disabled people who face barriers to employment, which is something we must now scale back on.”

Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans People of the University of Toronto (LGBTOUT) has also felt the impact of the policy. “The SCI has reduced the amount of money that LGBTOUT will receive this year by a fair amount, and it will definitely affect some of the events and programming we will be able to do,” wrote LGBTOUT Executive Director Cheryl Quan in an email to The Varsity.

Many groups’ levies are distributed through the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), including LGBTOUT and SBA.

“For the majority of these groups, we are their only source of income,” wrote Arjun Kaul, UTSU Vice-President Operations, in an email to The Varsity. He also wrote on the topic of UTSU’s opt-outs: “we are fortunate to be sitting at a relatively high percent of funds deemed ‘essential.’ We will likely have to trim some services, but fortunately, we have worked out plans to keep all of our services up and running, at the very least.”

Some groups expressed that while the SCI does not pose an existential threat to their organizations, they have had difficulty with the timeline of the opt-outs and the financial uncertainty before groups were made aware of their opt-out rate.

The Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) President Alexa Ballis wrote, “The biggest impact that the Student Choice Initiative has had on VUSAC is that it has made the budgeting process extremely difficult,” in an email to The Varsity. She added that “financial planning over the summer was almost impossible.”

Ballis criticized the process for not giving groups updates on their numbers before the fall opt-out period was over. She further noted that, because the fees must be itemized and funds cannot be moved around, this added difficulty for the VUSAC Commissioner’s planning.

University College Literary & Athletic Society (UC Lit) President Danielle Stella was more optimistic. “Our overall opt-out percentage is lower than expected and we believe the decrease in funding will be manageable,” she wrote in an email to The Varsity. She noted that the UC Lit is changing its budgeting system to accommodate the SCI, but are still reaching out to university stakeholders to address any shortcomings in funding.

UTSU September board meeting: remuneration policy, microtransactions, opt-outs

Changes also made to CFS–O media policies

UTSU September board meeting: remuneration policy, microtransactions, opt-outs

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its September Board of Directors Meeting last Sunday. It discussed the upcoming second semester opt-out period for incidental fees that were deemed non-essential by the Student Choice Initiative, new endeavours to support financially-insecure students, remuneration policy, and changes to Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario (CFS–O) media policies.

Opt-out period for the winter semester

The university set an opt-out period for the second semester which is a little less than three-months long, from November 1, 2019, to January 20, 2020. This opt-out period is 14 days longer than the fall period, which gives students more time to choose their opt-out selections.

UTSU President Joshua Bowman criticized the university’s decision. “I am extremely disappointed with the university administration for this decision,” said Bowman.

“This decision displays to me that they do not care about student societies, and quite frankly, the groups that are most affected by these opt outs.”

He noted that the UTSU had been in contact with the administration while preparing for the fall opt-out period, and said he will be holding an emergency meeting with the Office of the Vice-Provost and representatives from student groups.

Microtransactions initiative

Avani Singh, Vice-President, University Affairs, spoke briefly about her microtransactions initiative, which aims to support students whose classes require the use of third-party academic tools, such as Top Hat, WileyPLUS, and McGraw-Hill Connect. She has negotiated a number of free access codes from Top Hat to give to students in need, and is continuing dialogue with the university about the issue.

A study conducted by the previous Vice-President, University Affairs found that the biggest problem with these mandatory online programs was their financial inaccessibility. Singh’s initiative was launched on September 13, and received around 30 applications. “We received a lot of positive feedback on it,” said Singh.

Remuneration policy

The Board of Directors discussed the remuneration policy, which would have allowed executive members to receive pay at their hourly rate if they work over 40 hours a week, rather than having their paid hours capped.

Lina Maragha, University College Director, said, “A lot of the concerns [with the policy] stemmed from false statements being published by The Varsity. The Varsity did put out that it was overtime, which is literally the wrong word.”

The UTSU has criticized The Varsity’s decision to use the term “overtime“ since under Ontario law overtime pay must be allocated at time and a half, and that was not the policy’s intention.

However, according to the Government of Ontario, “overtime pay” is a general term that encompasses multiple forms of compensation. The Varsity’s initial article defined overtime pay according to the UTSU’s meeting minutes as “any additional hours worked shall be compensated at the same hourly honorarium.”

Earlier in the meeting, Maragha questioned multiple UTSU executives on their reported hours, saying that she was concerned about the optics.

The consensus was that criticism of the policy arose because of concerns from U of T community members that the policy was being passed secretively, as well as in an untimely manner. “A lot of people were just disappointed with the fact that it happened during the Student Choice Initiative,” said Bowman.

“Moving it through the executive committee may have been perceived negatively,” said Bowman, but he maintained that every policy is created “with the intention that it does go to the Board of Directors.”

Bowman and a handful of others voted in favour of repealing the remuneration policy. A majority abstained, and none voted in favour of keeping the remuneration policy.

The remuneration policy was then struck down.

CFS–O media policies

Vice-President External Affairs Lucas Granger reported on the CFS–O Annual General Meeting. He proposed five motions at the meeting on behalf of the UTSU. Two media proposals passed, one requiring that the CFS–O begin to publish minutes.

Recognized student media groups are also now able to attend plenary sessions and tweet about them. Another proposal by the UTSU was a low-income constituency group, which failed.

The UTSU’s Annual General Meeting will be held on October 30.

Editor’s note (September 9, 11:36 pm): The article has been updated to clarify The Varsity‘s position on the term “overtime pay.”

UTGSU Finance Commissioner announces November resignation

General Council votes to de-affiliate with OISE GSA at September meeting

UTGSU Finance Commissioner announces November resignation

During a lengthy General Council meeting on September 27, University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) Finance Commissioner Branden Rizzuto resigned from his position effective November 1.

At the same meeting, following extensive debate, the council voted to de-affiliate with the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) on the recommendation of the UTGSU’s Ad-hoc Committee after it found 20 constitutional violations in April’s GSA elections.

Rizzuto’s resignation

“It is my personal opinion that the UTGSU has, for quite some time, suffered from a lack of accountability in its internal operations,” said Rizzuto, announcing the end of his fourth term as an executive elected to the union.

The commissioner cited an inability to continue properly executing his duties due to “multiple personnel and bodies in the UTGSU [neglecting] their duties and responsibilities for excessive periods of time.” He further described an inequitable and unsustainable workload. With the developments of the UTGSU’s legal challenge against the Ford government, and the Student Choice Initiative, Rizzuto intends to remain until November 1 to ensure that particular duties are fulfilled before his departure.

“I feel that, while I have made earnest attempts to address and resolve the issues I have stated in this letter, I have ultimately remained unsuccessful,” concluded Rizzuto, who read from a letter. Council members thanked Rizzuto for his work, but also sought to know more about his allegations — to which Rizzuto also declined to specifically name any individuals.

The Finance Commissioner position will be filled through a process voted on by General Council, which will be held at a future Council meeting, according to an email from the UTGSU Executive Committee.

Rizzuto and the Executive Committee declined to comment on the announcement.

De-affiliating with the OISE GSA

On the recommendation of the Ad-hoc Course Union Investigation Committee (adCUIC), General Council voted to de-affiliate with the OISE GSA, following an investigation that found a total of 20 constitutional violations in the April GSA elections. Out of four recommendations made by the adCUIC, the union passed the only punitive measure in the last 30 minutes of the meeting. Heated debate preceded the vote, which saw disagreement between advocates for de-affiliation and concerns from members that felt they did not know enough to vote.

Effective from the time of the council’s vote, OISE GSA’s four representatives on General Council are no longer allowed to vote; they do not have representation on council in any course union, but all students will remain UTGSU members with access to the union’s services.

Desiree Sylvestre, on behalf of the outgoing OISE GSA executives, wrote to The Varsity in an email: “The issues we are presented with at the OISE GSA are multi-layered and complex, involving different approaches and expectations regarding the priorities and style of student governance.”

While the UTGSU Executive Committee abstained from the vote to de-affiliate, Sylvestre maintains that the Committee did not reach out to mediate following the election investigation. The outgoing GSA executives also alleged that the Committee “exponentially aggravated” tensions when suggesting that the GSA rejoin the union as a course union, which would cut down the amount of union dues that the GSA collects from its members through the UTGSU. The UTGSU Executive Committee asserts that its members “[remain] pointedly separate from any discussions happening internally at OISE or elsewhere within the University.”

Sylvestre concluded, “I am truly disappointed in the UTGSU, they operate in a punitive environment with no hope for solidarity. My hope is that OISE students will become more involved and take steps to successfully challenge the systems that exist within the UTGSU, beginning with their Executive Elections.”

Due to only getting through a quarter of the agenda items for the September 24 meeting, the next General Council meeting will occur before the October 29, according to the Executive Committee.

UTSU Executive Committee to reverse decision to allow overtime pay

Union hesitant to change pay structure following consultations

UTSU Executive Committee to reverse decision to allow overtime pay

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Executive Committee has announced that it will repeal a recently passed amendment that gave executives the ability to receive overtime pay.

The amendments to the executive remuneration policy were passed at the committee’s meeting on August 19. The change reads, “any additional hours worked shall be compensated at the same hourly honorarium,” without providing an upper limit on hours.

However, the committee later decided to overturn the change. “After consultations with our Board of Directors and our membership, we have come to the conclusion that there are far better and more effective ways to achieve our goals,” wrote UTSU President Joshua Bowman in an email to The Varsity.

Explaining the context to the amendment, Bowman wrote: “We want to empower individuals who decide to get involved with the UTSU with the opportunity to make tangible and meaningful change.” According to Bowman, the Executive Committee will repeal the amendment that expanded executive member overtime pay at their next meeting.

Bowman remains optimistic about future pay policies, and stated that the UTSU will continue to ensure the well-being of their staff members. In order to achieve this, a Time Keeping Management Policy is planned to be approved at the next Board of Directors meeting on September 22.

The intended goal for both the overtime pay amendment and the new timekeeping policy is not only for transparency in executive pay, but also to properly compensate executives for their work, wrote Bowman.

The Hudson lawsuit

The proposed policy change comes four years after the UTSU was involved in a legal battle with former staff and executives regarding overtime pay.

Former Executive Director Sandra Hudson, along with former President Yolen Bollo-Kamara and former Vice-President, Services, Cameron Wathey, were all accused of committing civil fraud after Hudson was terminated by Bollo-Kamara and given a compensation package totaling to $277,726.

Of this amount, $29,782.22 was given as a payment for the alleged overtime hours she worked. However, records for additional hours worked could not be found, and according to the UTSU, Hudson’s termination had no legal grounds, as she only ever had positive reviews from her employers.

Bollo-Kamara and Wathey settled with the union separately in 2016, while Hudson continued the legal battle until the lawsuit was settled in October 2017. Hudson agreed to pay a portion of the money back, and accusations of fraud and theft were not proven. It was later revealed that Hudson had filed a claim for damages alleging that former UTSU President Mathias Memmel broke a mediation agreement after he discussed the details of the lawsuit during an April 2016 Board of Directors meeting.

Editor’s Note (September 16, 2:04 pm): Article was amended to reflect that assistant vice-presidents would not have received overtime pay under the repealed policy.

Clarification (September 19, 12:04 am): According to the Government of Ontario, “overtime pay” is a general term that encompasses multiple forms of compensation. While under Ontario law overtime pay must be allocated at time and a half, it is not the only possibility that exists. The article defines overtime pay according to the UTSU’s meeting minutes as “any additional hours worked shall be compensated at the same hourly honorarium.”