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UTSU Board of Directors suspends bylaw to hold earlier by-elections

Director criticizes lack of consultation with representatives running for re-election

UTSU Board of Directors suspends bylaw to hold earlier by-elections

In order to hold an earlier by-election after its general election failed to attract enough candidates to fill all executive and board seats, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors voted to suspend a bylaw to shorten its elections nomination period in an emergency online meeting on March 24.

The board approved the schedule of the UTSU’s Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC) for the union’s spring by-election. The nomination period will open on April 1 and close on April 5, campaigning will be from April 8–12, and voting will take place from April 13–15.

The union’s elections this year have seen the fewest candidates in recent history, with only seven of 28 directors winning seats on the board and three of seven executive positions being filled.

To run by-elections on the ERC’s schedule, the board voted to suspend Bylaw VI.5.b.i. According to the bylaw, the union must give notice of a by-election at least 14 days before the start of its nomination period. The union suspended the bylaw in order to give a seven-day notice ahead of the new nomination period.

Innis College Director and Vice-President External-elect Lucas Granger wrote to The Varsity criticizing the process of the emergency meeting. “I find it sad that the meeting couldn’t have waited until the end of the election period as to include more of the board of directors.”

Board members running in the union’s elections were required to take a leave of absence. This means that the six current directors who ran in the election could not attend this emergency meeting, as it was during the voting period.

“Many of us were on leaves of absence… I believe we could have added valuable input on the situation,” Granger wrote.

In response to Granger’s comments, outgoing UTSU Vice-President Operations Tyler Biswurm wrote to The Varsity that a delay of the emergency meeting “even by a day would have had unreasonably negative consequences,” by reducing the timeframe for prospective candidates and voters to plan for the by-election.

Biswurm further wrote that, despite the meeting excluding directors running in the winter election, “the meeting’s online session did not significantly impact attendance. Even with multiple directors on leave, attendance numbers for Sunday evening’s board meeting were on par with levels observed at other emergency meetings of the board.”

Opening of Student Commons building delayed to June

January board meeting sees UTSU scathingly criticize Canadian Federation of Students, review motion to protect journalistic rights

Opening of Student Commons building delayed to June

Another delay to the opening of the Student Commons building, a report on the National General (NGM) meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS), and a motion to protect independent press coverage were highlights of the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) January Board of Directors meeting.

UTSU President Anne Boucher wrote in her executive report that “unforeseen architectural challenges” reported by the UTSU’s contractor have pushed back the most likely opening date of the Student Commons building to June, rather than April — itself a delay from January, which was a delay from September of  last year. 

The Student Commons is a planned student-run hub to be located at 230 College Street.

Social Sciences Director Joshua Bowman moved to externalize Boucher’s note on the delay in her executive report, in order to discuss it in greater depth. “I’m not going to blame the current executive for that,” said Bowman. “I do believe that the majority of this is out of their hands.” 

He did, however, request further information on the causes behind the delay, and whether the projected June opening is a rough estimate or guarantee.

Boucher clarified that reports that she has made on the projected opening date of the Student Commons have “always been a projection,” rather than a promise. She said that June is a “reasonable opening date,” but noted that the projection may change again closer to June.

She reported that the UTSU’s contractor said that the delay is because of unanticipated “structural changes” due to the building’s age, such as piping in the basement.

UTSU scathingly criticizes CFS

Boucher, Bowman, and Vice-President Operations Tyler Biswurm also summarized a report on the UTSU’s attendance at the NGM of the CFS, a national student union that represents post-secondary student unions across the country.

Reporting a positive outcome of the meeting, Bowman said that the UTSU’s delegation submitted a resolution for the CFS to reaffirm its stance against antisemitism, in light of the October shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The resolution, noted Bowman, called for a revamping of the campaign against antisemitism and reprinting materials. The motion passed unanimously.

However, the UTSU delegation gave a scathing overall review of the CFS. In its report, the UTSU wrote that the CFS “has a limited tolerance of alternative viewpoints” and that it “exhibits partisanship in the rules and conduct of its meetings.”

The UTSU delegation took specific issue with the perceived support the CFS has given to the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), the embattled student union of the University of Ottawa, which has been faced with allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement.

The SFUO is facing a referendum in February by University of Ottawa students, to decide whether a new student union should replace it as a representative body.

“Despite what is happening at the University of Ottawa,” said Bowman, “members of the SFUO still felt the need to come to the CFS and essentially propose a thinly-veiled attempt to get bailed out by the Canadian Federation of Students.”

The UTSU delegation interpreted the SFUO’s request for support as a bid for the CFS to gain the ability to “step in when a member local is in danger of losing funding from is administration,” said Bowman, which is the case for the SFUO. The delegation asked “if this would allow the CFS to interfere with the upcoming student referendum at UOttawa,” despite their belief that the fate of the SFUO should be left in the hands of University of Ottawa students. 

Bowman reported that there was a lack of response from “a lot of people who had authority in that room,” which the delegation perceived as a “silent affirmation of the CFS’s support of the SFUO.”

In response to the UTSU’s criticism, the CFS told The Varsity that they do not “comment on particular matters relating to debate during National General Meetings.” 

“However, we would like to note that delegates are encouraged throughout the meeting to maintain decorum and express their support or lack thereof for a motion through debate and their vote.”

In regards to the SFUO, the CFS wrote that “Due to its debate exceeding the time allotted for our meeting, the motion was referred for recommendation by the National Executive. The CFS therefore does not have a current stance on it.” They will be discussing it at their April meeting.

Another criticism by the delegation addressed perceived favouritism at the CFS. 

“One person following the party line would receive a sort of raucous applause immediately after their statements because they fall within an allowed scope of opinions,” said Biswurm. “The the next person, ostensibly classified as voicing critique, would receive dead silence.”

“We saw the CFS as enforcing a political agenda established by its national executives,” he said. “And certain other student leaders who seem to have a close relationship with those in power in the CFS structure, generally.”

In direct response to this criticism, the CFS wrote, “The direction of the [CFS] is determined democratically by its member locals. General meetings are chaired by a third party who is mandated to conduct the meeting in accordance with CFS Bylaws, Standing Resolutions, and Robert’s Rules of Order.”

Director proposes motion to protect journalistic rights to cover UTSU meetings

Innis College Director Lucas Granger also moved to protect the rights of student journalists to cover UTSU board meetings.

“I want to replicate what we already do,” said Granger. He specifically moved to amend the UTSU’s policy manual to guarantee privileges granted by the UTSU to members of the student press, in writing.

Granger noted that, in the UTSU’s policy on board meetings, the only reference to the press is a guarantee that the board “may be filmed, recorded, and/or livestreamed only by members of the media.” 

He further noted that, in the UTSU’s policy on its Annual General Meeting, guarantees for campus journalists are limited to permission to attend regardless of UTSU membership, and a requirement for the press to register for the minutes.

Granger moved to pass a resolution that would guarantee in writing that “members of the campus press” are allowed to attend both board and annual general meetings “regardless of their membership status,” that they are “permitted to report meeting proceedings in whatever medium they deem fit,” that they receive notice of meetings and access to meeting materials in a reasonable timeframe, and that they are required to allow meeting attendees to opt out of photography.

These proposals come after moves by both the Graduate Students’ Union and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union to limit open media access to meetings.

In response to Granger’s proposal, Boucher moved to send the resolution to the UTSU’s Governance Committee, which discusses UTSU policies and presents recommendations to the Board of Directors.

While noting that she does “appreciate the motivation behind it,” Boucher said that further inquiry was necessary to probe the consequences of the resolution in its current form. She cited concerns of “allowing any kind of recording media” by student journalists as an example.

Granger agreed, continuing that his motivation for presenting the resolution at the board level was to recommend interim guidelines for allowing journalistic coverage to the board, as the proposal is reviewed by the Governance Committee. The Board then passed a motion to send the proposal to the committee for further review.

Tensions abound at September UTSU board meeting

Accusations of lies, discussions of forced resignations take centre stage

Tensions abound at September UTSU board meeting

Once again, tensions ran high at the monthly Board of Directors meeting for the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). Directors confronted executives about bad communication and discussed motions to force the resignations of 11 directors under Bylaw X.

Ongoing negotiations to separate from the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), the resignation of one director, and the hiring of another to fill the vacancy were also discussed.

Accusations over miscommunication

Academic Director of Social Sciences Joshua Bowman accused Vice-President Equity Ammara Wasim of falsifying her July Executive Report, which detailed the work she completed that month.

In the report, Wasim claimed that she sent a Google Form to “more than twenty U of T-based equity focused clubs” in order “to spread the word on the Equity collectives and get more students to join.” An equity collective is an advocacy group that discusses issues of social justice.

“I would like to encourage the VP Equity to not blatantly lie,” said Bowman. “I have my inbox in front of me right now — a contact was never made to [the Indigenous Studies Students’ Union (ISSU)]. I’d suggest against doing that in the future.”

But Bowman, citing his position as the President of the ISSU, insisted that “it’s not enough to say that you’re going to reach out to them and not reaching out at all.”

“If we want to bring these voices to the table that have been disenfranchised, you have to do more of the legwork as the UTSU.”

Chair Billy Graydon recommended Bowman “avoid direct accusations against other members of the assembly,” as “usually these things are misunderstandings.”

Wasim later found records indicating that she did indeed send the materials. She identified the source of the conflict as an unintentional mix-up between email addresses for the Centre for Indigenous Studies and the ISSU. According to Wasim, the incorrect email address appears in the first Google result for the query, “Indigenous Students Student Union email.”

Wasim added that “instead of waiting a whole month to accuse someone, it might have been wise to just reach out.”

Bowman clarified that he had emailed President Anne Boucher earlier, which Boucher confirmed, but followed with an apology for his earlier statements: “I believe I overstepped by using the word ‘liar’ and I’d like to apologize for that.”

Attempts to invoke Bylaw X

Also on the agenda were motions to force the resignations of 11 directors, as allowed under Bylaw X. Chengye Yang, one of New College’s three UTSU directors, voluntarily sent in a letter of resignation.

According to Section 2 of the union’s Bylaw X, a Division I or II director “shall be deemed to have delivered their resignation, confirmed by a simple majority vote of the Board” whenever said member has failed to send regrets for two missed meetings, failed to attend three consecutive meetings or any four meetings regardless of sent regrets, or failed to attend any three committee meetings.

During the discussion, Bowman noted that absence should not be conflated with a lack of work outside of meetings.

After spending 30 minutes of its two-hour meeting discussing whether or not to force the resignations of the remaining 10 directors, it was decided that the board would adopt a more lenient interpretation of the bylaw and be more tolerant of absences in the summer. As such, the board determined that the 10 motions were out of order.

Immediately after, the directors voted to accept Yang’s resignation. Graydon mentioned that positions left vacant at this time could be put up for by-election.

Other business

The UTSU also went in camera to discuss their negotiations to separate from the UTMSU. In camera meetings only allow board members to sit in. The UTMSU delegation, which holds seven appointed positions on the UTSU board, left voluntarily.

A motion from Innis College Director Lucas Granger to hold the October board meeting at UTMSU failed, due in part to conflicts with midterm exams. According to the UTSU’s bylaws, the board must hold at least one meeting per session at UTM.

The UTSU also hired a new Faculty Director of Law, Alexandra Hergaarden Robertson.