On November 26, the St. George Round Table (SGRT) convened to ratify their new constitution. Presidents from nine undergraduate student societies attended the meeting and formalized what has been an informal group of college council presidents for decades.
Members of the Round Table include the leaders of the seven college student associations as well as the president of the Engineering Society and the president of the Physical Health and Education Undergraduate Association. There are plans to extend membership to other faculties in the future.
The constitution outlines the rules of conduct and the guiding principles of the SGRT. Principle number one is "to act as the premiere forum for communication and sharing of best practices between divisions represented." In effect, and according to the minutes from their last few meetings, the Round Table primarily facilitates the planning of intercollegiate social events, like barbeques or pub nights, as well as intramural sporting events.
In one form or another, an assembly of presidents has been a fixture at the university for years. In the 90s the group was known as the Council of Presidents of the University of Toronto (COPOUT), and was dormant for most of the early 2000s, according to VUSAC President Catherine Brown. Last year it was reconvened as the President's Round Table. "Our constitution will help ensure stability and continuity for years to come," says Brown.
There has been some speculation about the motivation for the newly formalized SGRT. It was reported last week in The Varsity that mix-ups during the planning of Winterfest last year led to tensions between the college student councils and the UTSU. While some tensions do exist, officers of the SGRT were reluctant to publicly cite the UTSU as a motivator for ratifying their constitution.
"I think it's safe to say that as student council presidents, we are responsible to our constituents and we will have to address whatever concerns they bring to us," said President of EngSoc, Jimmy Lu. "If they bring up certain aspects of UTSU that can be improved then we will have to address those concerns with the best solution for our constituents."
"Our focus is on social events for now, but I think we will branch out," said the male Head of College at Trinity, and officer of the SGRT, Thomas Pinnington. "I don't want to get into details as to how, but hopefully that does not lead us into conflict [with other campus groups]."
The UTSU has a delegate who attends and speaks at the monthly meetings, but they do not have a vote. The UTSU is not mentioned anywhere in the five page constitution. The union is able to communicate with members at the meetings, but does not enjoy full membership privileges.
The next major initiative being taken on by the SGRT is Winterfest. Watch out for it on campus in January, 2010.