A considerable portion of the meeting was dedicated to the discussion of proposed amendments to Bylaw VI, Article 2.b (i), specifically the distinction between “newspaper” and “publication.”
“In Bylaw I [Article 6], there's a specific definition of what a campus paper is, and that it's either the newspaper or The Varsity,” said Michael Scott, Trinity representative on the UTSU Board of Directors. “[Campus] publication doesn't have this definition in Bylaw I, which means that publication could be interpreted rather broadly.”
Scott was not alone in this concern. Several other students took to the microphone to plead that the motion amending the bylaw not be passed, claiming that this lack of definition could potentially be abused. For example, UTSU could define “publication” as a pamphlet tucked away on a rack in their office, effectively hiding it from the majority of the student population. “I think that the newspaper and The Varsity are good ways to publicize events that we want U of T students to know about,” Scott said.
Curiously, the AGM package only indicated what the bylaws in debate would be amended to read, and did not include the phrasing as it appeared in the original document. With regards to Bylaw VI, Article 2.b (i), the clause in question, “by publication in a campus newspaper,” was to be changed to read, “by campus publication and Union website.” While there is a clear definition of “campus newspaper” in Bylaw I, neither “campus publication” nor “Union website” are clearly specified.
Despite vocal opposition, the motion carried. In fact all motions to enact the proposed amendments to the bylaws were passed.
“Collectively, members approved a change to provide notice of elections not only in newspapers such as the newspaper and The Varsity, but in other campus publications as well,” explained UTSU president Danielle Sandhu in a formal response to the newspaper. “[This change is part of] an ongoing effort to increase engagement of our members.” Her full comment can be viewed below.
Some students in opposition to the motion, such as undergraduate Brent Schmidt, were frustrated by defeat and did not receive the result as amicably. “It seems like we're getting voted out - like we're getting stifled out - just because we happen to be against,” he said. “I don't appreciate being in this atmosphere where if I'm speaking against [the motion], all of a sudden the issue doesn't matter. I think this is a problem with these meetings and with the union in general.”
AGM Chair Ashkon Hashemi, however, felt that such outbursts might have been excessive. “There are some areas of the UTSU bylaws that are very unclear or contradictory,” he said. “It seemed to me like the amendments were just designed to make them more transparent and clearer. There were no big changes to them [the bylaws], just housekeeping that was long overdue.”
“Students showed up, for the most part acted respectfully, and voted on the issues,” Hashemi concluded. “Whatever the outcome was, at least it was a reflection of the will of the students.”