Reviews of the UTSU AGM
Photo Credit/ Stefan Bird
On October 7, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its annual general meeting (AGM), a chance for members to vote on policies, look at audits and hear from their President. Only some … okay, nearly none of that happened. Here’s how AGM rookies Hilary Lo, Barbod Pournajar, and Diandra Sasongko felt about it, and how AGM vet Zach Morgenstern felt it stacked up.
Samosas. BNAD. Spirit fingers.
By: Hilary Lo
What’s not to like about the AGM?
Going into this thing, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard that it was going to be a “shit show” and had prepared myself to watch people who didn’t give a flying fuck about the school yell obscenities at each other.
Well, yeah, this did happen, but the flipside of that was wholly unexpected.
What attracts so many people to the AGM year after year, even after they’ve graduated from the school, is its weird balance between complete and utter chaos and genuine, heartfelt emotion. Watching Madina Siddiqui, president of the Afghan Students’ Association, passionately plead her case for including her club in the budgetary process while simultaneously eyeing the students sipping on beers in the seats in front of mine was an exceptionally unique experience.
It seemed that for the large amount of people who attended solely for the free food and bad jokes, there were an equal amount who were using this time prudently to voice their concerns and proposals in a space where they were guaranteed to be heard (granted the BNAD [the Engineering Band] didn’t come crashing in halfway through).
I just wish it could have stayed that productive throughout the entire five hours.
As the meeting dragged on, the conversations around me shifted noticeably towards the negative; the vote counts became increasingly tedious, and as university students stuck in a lecture hall are prone to do, people started to grow exceedingly restless. The debates got sloppier, the kids next to me started eating pie, and the whole thing essentially went to shit.
I can’t wait for the next one.
Something every U of T student should experience at least once
By: Diandra Sasongko
I had no expectations going into my very first AGM. Entering the hall at OISE felt like attending a really rowdy lecture, and I thought that for the most part I would be indifferent to discussions held within those five gruelling hours.
I found myself feeling somewhat the opposite, as with each vote result I anticipated, I could feel myself becoming more and more emotionally invested in the issues being discussed and the motions being put forward.
A student who wanted to make structural changes to the UTSU urged for there to be better representation for international students. Another wanted to make these changes to also create a safer environment for LGBTQ+ students, who also often lack representation. It is interesting to see progress being pushed for, with these changes hoping to be made with intersectional approaches that tackle various isms and phobias.
Having to sit through hours of people using parliamentary language and being so confused by the terminology that I often lost track of what was being discussed was absolutely exhausting. However, it made me proud to know that I attend a school where students are passionate about ensuring that minorities are not at a disadvantage and, beyond this, that so many of them are eager to make a difference that positively impacts the whole U of T student body.
Of course, seeing the BNAD disrupt the entire thing and get chased out by security was really entertaining too.
The UTSU AGM: a review
By: Barbod Pournajar
The UTSU AGM was held earlier this week, and with it came the usual antics and rowdiness of a typical AGM. The early remarks were interrupted by the Engineering band, which upheld tradition by causing a ruckus.
There was one prominent student amendment on the agenda led by Afghan Student Association President Madina Siddiqui. Her motion revealed a fundamental problem with the UTSU’s annual budget proposal: it doesn’t include clubs on campus, which is problematic because clubs receive funding from the UTSU.
The AGM then moved to the main proposal, which was the restructuring of the board of directors to better represent LGBTQ+students, international students, etc. There were two proposals. The first was proposed by Khrystyna Zhuk and builds upon the current structure of the board adding equity positions. The second proposal was proposed by Grayce Slobodian and introduces new board positions, including one per college and eight representatives from UTM. Ultimately, Zhuk’s proposal was passed with the support of Trinity College students.
Many students showed astounding support for Zhuk’s proposal, claiming that it was based on consultations with many groups on campus, whereas, Slobodian' failed to consult major groups on campus such as Trinity students, who felt that college representation under Zhuk’s proposal was more prominent.
The motion initially passed but did not get a two-thirds majority, and therefore no board motion was brought to fruition at the AGM. What was alarming was that many of the Trinity students who came to the AGM left immediately after, which was disrespectful because it shows a major flaw in the college system: it is inherently segregational and divisive, and it encourages people to support the interests of their college/faculty rather than the interest of the student body as a whole.
The UTSU really displayed its inefficiency, as it took nearly four hours to vote on just one of the proposals presented by the UTSU. They got through three of the 18 points on the agenda. This is a result of outdated systems that enable bureaucratic nonsense in meetings such as this. The AGM predicates itself on Robert's Rules of Order, which is very outdated and nonsensical. There are so many laws and bylaws that it seems as if every word uttered is contradictory.
The AGM was ineffective, inefficient, useless and didn’t really change anything, and a part of the problem is that this current UTSU does not have a great reputation amongst students, and therefore many feel that they can undermine the authority of the UTSU. If the UTSU wants to be taken seriously, then it must really think about its branding and the way members carry themselves.
Grading the UTSU AGM
By: Zach Morgenstern
I attended three UTSU AGMs (and a special GM) before this one. I saw a meeting get shut down. I saw another get painfully filibustered. I saw one bombarded with aggressive cheers and vuvuzela calls, and another get bombarded with a young Conservative telling people not to worry about internship exploitation because “McDonald’s is hiring.”
The Beginning: A+ This AGM was as quirky as the others at the start. Madina Siddiqui protested the non-inclusion of a motion she’d submitted, and despite the chair’s insistence that it would be wrong for him to change the agenda without giving notice, Siddiqui got the floor to vote in her favor, defying UTSU procedural precedent. Siddiqui was followed by socialist freshman Jack Rising, who introduced an impromptu motion for the UTSU to agitate towards a strike for free tuition. Rising won a vote to challenge the chair and got his motion on the agenda.
The Middle: C+ The middle of the meeting, a sequel of last year’s debate on reforming the UTSU’s board of directors structure to comply with new corporate law, was predictable and slow. Khrystyna Zhuk and Grayce Slobodian pitched the competing proposals, with Zhuk’s appealing to the college-government demographic and Slobodian’s to UTM and the lefty-base of past UTSUs. While both made strong pitches, Zhuk’s supporters came in droves to the microphones. Zhuk’s proposal ultimately beat out Slobodian’s, but could not get enough votes to pass, leaving the UTSU back where it started … again.
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The End: ZZZZZ- The meeting dragged on past 10 p.m. and debate broke out as to whether or not it should end. The initial answer was; no-agenda items needed to be completed. After ten minutes of debating what it would mean to debate those motions, majority opinion changed and the membership voted overwhelmingly to adjourn. Gone for me were the happy memories of Siddiqui and Rising’s spirited victories, because they didn’t matter—nor did most of what was on the agenda.