The Steering Committee, UTGA's administrative branch, had organized the latest meeting and presented the assembly with draft proposals of organizational practices and procedures, as well as a basis of unity and a set of overarching principles for the assembly itself. The agenda and draft proposals were to be discussed and approved in the first hour of the three that had been scheduled, leaving the bulk of the meeting for discussions and presentations by working groups, the assembly's main bodies for setting policy goals and executing action plans.
However, despite the facilitators' requests to focus on the spirit of the proposal, discussions over semantics, phrasing, voting and amendment policies, and minute details of the drafts dominated much of the evening. Disagreements over the inclusion of “the historical denial of speaking rights to certain groups,” the merits of a two-thirds majority voting system, or the addition of a point to exclude law enforcement officers from proceedings even led to moments of frivolous sarcasm and time-wasting. The suggestion to include “anti-capitalist” in the UTGA's basis of unity was perhaps most divisive, drawing hearty applause from some, and frustrated criticism from others.
The working groups were eventually able to convene and announce, for example, plans for an anti-corporatization leafletting session, and co-operation with student unions for a flat fees strike vote. UofT grad student Ryan Culpepper summed up the challenges faced by the assembly in its early stages. “The UTGA is a big experiment, to see how we can govern ourselves without looking to other bodies,” he explains. “Self-governance is not something we're taught or really equipped to do, but we're seeing working groups get organized, and planning meetings in the coming weeks. We can see action coming out of this.”
The many disagreements raised through the course of the assembly illustrate that the UTGA is by no means an ideologically or philosophically uniform body. Even so, the constructive, albeit delayed, discussions by the various working groups, and general air of consensus towards the end of the assembly demonstrated that the ideas and ambition established in the first general assembly are still intact.