Trinity College Meeting formalizes plans to leave UTSU
FEB 28, 2013 | BY ISAAC THORNLEY
Engineering Society VP Finance Pierre Harfouche addresses crowd at Trinity College Meeting on deferederation , Monday, February 25. MAJ MAJOR
Monday night’s Trinity College Meeting (TCM) voted unanimously in favour of holding a referendum to decide whether they should “defederate” from UTSU. The separation would redirect fees currently paid by Trinity College students to UTSU back to the TCM.
Advocates for defederation argue that by localizing allocation of student fees, services would be run more efficiently and with greater sensitivity to student needs, all while avoiding bureaucratic disputes with UTSU that have characterized campus politics in recent years.
Trinity is the first of four campus bodies seeking defederation, with Victoria, St. Mike’s, and the Engineers following suit and taking formal steps towards their own referenda.
“Our point of view,” explained Engineering Society president Rishi Maharaj, “is that if we can deliver the services that people care about for the same or less money, and in a fashion that obviates the need for anyone to care about the toxic politics of UTSU governance, we can offer our members a much better value proposition.”
Despite UTSU criticism as to the feasibility of an independently-run health and dental insurance plan, leaders from both Trinity and the Engineers are confident in their research. “I have every reason to believe that an engineering students-only health and dental plan would not be a penny more expensive than what we are paying today,” said EngSoc President Rishi Maharaj. “EngSoc can provide better value as a more local, more focused organization.”
Meanwhile, referendum plans continue at Trinity. Monday’s meeting voted to again request the UTSU to hold a referendum asking students whether they wish to continue their membership in the UTSU. If UTSU does not announce a referendum by March 15, the TCM would hold one between March 25 and 29.
TCM also voted unanimously in favour of putting aside $10, 000 for the potential costs of legal counsel, as well as to endorse their report released Sunday afternoon titled, “Advisory Report on the Proposed UTSU Referendum.” The Engineering Society and the Victoria College Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) are currently in the process of drafting their own feasibility reports, with VUSAC’s report set to be released at an open meeting Friday evening.
Monday afternoon, just hours before the TCM meeting, UTSU presented a public reply to Trinity’s report with a document entitled “A Response to Factual Inaccuracies in the Trinity College Meeting's ‘Provisional Report.’” The major issue presented in the response was the potential for ill-informed voting members at the TCM. The document stressed “[concern] that many students will be unable to view [this response]. Accurate information is crucial to the democratic process, and we hope that the Trinity College Meeting will respect this in the future.”
A concern for fair democratic process has underlined the rhetoric of both the UTSU and the potentially defederating organizations. “It is extremely important that this [referendum] moves forward with a level playing field, and with an informed electorate,” TCM Chair Jake Brockman emphasized.
The TCM made sure to provide members present with printed copies of both TCM’s Advisory Report and the UTSU response, despite the fact that Trinity College Co-Head Sam Greene called the UTSU Response “misguided.” The Trinity referendum, in addition, will allocate equal funding to both the “for” and “against” defederation camps. Specific details concerning campaign procedures will be decided at the next TCM, scheduled for March 11.
UTSU has already warned the leaders of the movement that a “clear legal precedent” stands in their way. “The UTSU cannot make changes if constructive feedback is not given… the conversations of splitting from the Union have not been initiated in good faith to improve the students’ union,” said UTSU vice-president internal Corey Scott.
If Trinity’s example stands, referenda can be expected to be held in the next few months, with the resulting evidence being put before the Governing Council University Affairs Board. Once the matter is on their table, the likelihood of defederation and potential for legal repercussions will become much clearer.
- Subtitle: Trin and EngSoc claim to be able to provide better services for less