Jabs exchanged, but votes decisive at UTSG dominated event

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) hosted part 2 of its Annual General Meeting (AGM). This meeting contained solely bylaw-oriented items, as an earlier attempt at a 2015 AGM ended prematurely and unsuccessfully, leaving the UTSU non-compliant with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act.

UTSU AGMs almost never lack drama. This round perhaps lacked the energy of October’s affair, but it certainly had tense moments.

The event began (one hour and 45 minutes late) with a short address from President Ben Coleman. He cited the UTSU’s recent eXpression Against Oppression week, particularly an event called Fuck Your Bigotry: Why I Refuse to Accommodate Your Intolerance, and argued that meeting attendees should pass his motion to reform the UTSU’s board of director’s structure in order to allow the union to move on to focusing on equity work and activism.Coleman argued that the motion’s structure had been endorsed by students when it beat out another proposal at the previous AGM—all it needed was a little tweaking. This was arguably his most controversial statement, as this was a subjective interpretation of the October vote, where the motion was defeated because it lacked a two-thirds majority.

 Coleman faced a number of questions of varying intensities. Liseann Henry asked what had been done to address rape culture at meetings after a student exposed himself in October. Coleman responded that there was zero tolerance for such actions, and that the student was warned about his behavior by the union’s executive director.

Madina Siddiqui asked why one executive was being investigated for intoxication when she had reason to believe other executives had engaged in similarly inappropriate behaviors. Siddiqui’s remarks struck chair Brad Evoy as overly specific, and Victoria College director Stephen Warner unsuccessfully called for her to be censured.

This tense outbreak was followed by another question in which a student said “it’s an objective fact” that the UTSU is “an extreme leftist” organization, and asked why his Facebook comments had been censored by the organization. Coleman responded that the member should privately consult the union about its anti-harassment policy.

After the speech, tension faded as audits and auditors were approved. When the contentious board debate came about, the disagreements did not come where they were expected. Jonathan Webb and Victoria College director Auni Ahsan moved to replace Arts and Science at Large directors with enrollment category (e.g., life sciences, humanities) academic directors.This motion was criticized by ASSU executives, with Natalie Petra arguing this motion would simply duplicate the service of her organization.

The amendment was passed, and soon thereafter Madina Siddiqui returned to the microphone to ask why U of T Mississauga (UTM) students did not seem to be present at the meeting. Ben Coleman explained that the UTMSU had asked for their members to Skype in, but failed to book a room to allow this to happen. The UTMSU had previously voted (with essentially a unanimous mandate) to call for the meeting to be postponed due to its poor timing for UTM students, who had just had their local AGM.Without much of UTM in the room, there was no large demographic to oppose the proposed board structure, which decreases the proportion of seats they hold on the board.

The board structure was overwhelmingly passed amidst what Anti-Oppression officer Ellie Adekur claimed were anti-UTM jeers in the seats.Following that vote, a number of bylaw amendments were passed with relative ease. Chair Brad Evoy called for quiet and for a kazoo player to stop kazooing, and then the meeting was adjourned.

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