UTSU, Annual General Meeting falls flat, tripping on its own toes
This UTSU AGM was less of a forum for decision making and more of a stage for ideological posturing as a low-level performance art.
I don’t mean this in a trite sense. Yes, a marching band did interrupt the meeting, and the ensuing pandemonium did entertain, but the real performance was far more deliberate and far less entertaining.
In order to spot what I mean we have to look at the background of the two proposed board structures, Zhuk and Slobodian. The substance of both of these proposals are continuations of a gradual restructuring in student representative titles. In the course of this shift, Zhuk favors a representation by college with non-specific equity positions, while Slobodian favors a system based on representing identities on campus such as LGBQ and Indigenous groups.
While these seem different, the pitch for these slates has been tweaked in such a way that their proponents sound quite similar. Recognizing her camp's vulnerability to accusations of being anti-equity, Zhuk has focused her efforts on being very sensitive to the concerns of marginalized groups on campus. In a sense, Zhuk borrowed this strategy for broad appeal from their opponent Slobodian.
The two parties are playing from the same side of the court, and in the meeting it showed.
With sights set on appearing as the more inclusive contender, advocates for both proposals went to every length to posture themselves as defenders of “fairness.” This attitude set the tone for the meeting as a whole, which was endlessly cluttered with calls for stricter adherence to procedure and intermittent reiterations of appropriate conduct by the anti-harassment official.
On its face, these sorts of delays are fairly standard to any moderated forum. However, this AGM addressed only a minority of the resolutions listed in the agenda, a problem that can, or at least should, be considered exceptional. Much of this had to do with the charged issue of “equity” being the centerpiece of both platforms.
Let me illustrate
Toward the front half of the meeting, there was a call to question vote with less than 50 per cent in favor of voting on which board structure to approve (a little confusing, I know). Since this vote required a two-thirds majority, there were concerns that proceeding with discussion on either of the slates would contradict the legal rules of union status. A legal counsel spoke on this issue, assuring members that it was fine to proceed and await a second call to question.
Nonetheless, the meeting was then again slowed by two members of the union standing to voice concerns with proceeding with the meeting on the basis that they were uncomfortable with the prospect of breaking the law. While the legal counsel responded with humorous assurances that “no one will be going to jail tonight!” these delays were largely tolerated since proponents of either board structure wanted to portray themselves as sensitive to fairness, equity and comfort concerns of members.
As the meeting drew to a close, members faced the downside to presenting themselves as focused on fairness and accommodation. Having proceeded slowly and carefully, the majority of items had not been reached as the the clock approached 10 p.m. Voices in the audience began to raise concerns that—since most UTM members would soon have to leave to catch the bus to Mississauga—the remainder of the meeting would leave them underrepresented. With this issue raised, no one speaking for any board structure could posture as inclusive.
The 2015 AGM was adjourned.comments powered by Disqus