Last Wednesday, the UTMSU executive committee overturned a decision made by VP external Henry Ssali to send UTM student Stefanie Marotta to the Canadian Federation of Students semi-Annual General Meeting that will be held this weekend.
The reasons for rejecting Marotta as a UTM delegate were twofold. Firstly, the executive committee expressed a concern about Marottas affiliation with The Medium as Assistant News Editor, even though Marotta made it clear to Ssali when signing up that she would attend the CFS semi-AGM as a student and paying member of UTMSU and the CFS, and that she would not cover the meeting for The Medium.
Secondly, members executive committee argued that it would cost extra money to send Marotta to the event. Marotta, a white female, does not belong to a constituency group, a category created by the CFS that includes Aboriginal students, students of colour, francophone students, students with disabilities, international students, mature or part-time students and students who identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ community. The UTMSU pays $325 for students who identify as members of the constituency group, but the cost goes up to $400 for students who dont fall into this category—students such as Marotta.
According to Joel Duff, the CFS Ontario organizer, the purpose of this subsidy, a discount of $75, is to encourage delegations to bring diverse group members. This year, all of the delegates sent by UTMSU to the CFS semi-AGM identify in one or more constituency groups.
Following news of Marottas rejection, Ssali called an emergency board meeting to appeal the decision. Ssali meant for the meeting to be held last Friday, but Walied Khogali, the speaker of the board of directors, cancelled the meeting based on a policy surrounding emergency meetings for UTMSU. According to the policy, emergency meetings shall be called within seventy-two hours notice by the Executive Committee or President or with a written request by a majority of the Directors.
In an interview with The Medium, UTMSU President Joey Santiago said that Ssali made an error in judgement by not consulting his list of delegates with the UTMSU executive prior to the meeting last Wednesday.
This needs to be done because there is a cost associated with attending and we need to deal with student dollars as efficiently as possible. Those who are sent to the CFS meetings are either elected leaders or are extremely experienced ministers and members who will represent students the best at CFS, said Santiago, adding that the UTMSU does not discriminate against students or where they work.
There is a limited amount of people we can send [to the CFS event] and we want to make sure we send people who will represent UTM students at the federation. Those who have had the experience of going and are elected or trained student leaders are best suited to go, said Santiago.
Ssali disagreed. In a statement issued to The Medium, Ssali, who as VP external overlooks all matters related to the CFS at UTM, said that he felt disheartened that the executive committee voted to deny a fellow student [also a UTMSU stakeholder] from attending the CFS semi-AGM because of her affiliation with another campus organization. I dont understand how we can eliminate differences by creating more differences among students.
Ssali claimed he followed the same procedure for registering delegates for the last three CFS meetings and there has never been a problem, because I never registered any student out of the constituency groups. As a woman, Stefanie is a potential ally to the movement and myself being a progressive feminist, I doubt whether the executive committees decision to eliminate her favours the movements values.
After learning that she had been taken off the UTM delegation, Marotta said, CFS is wrong to implement these policies, but it makes it even worse that UTMSU accepts these policies. Their idea to encourage diversity is having the opposite result, and instead CFS is exacerbating social differences.
Unbelievable. Ssali for President next year (though without the support of the current President, he unfortunately won’t have a chance). It’s time to start a true change at UTM, to find true representation for the students. After years of nepotism, it’s time to say goodbye to the Khogali group and welcome in some fresh faces with no ties to past administration.
UTM needs a student council that is concerned with the actual needs of students, a student council which recognises each student’s opportunity to participate in affairs which concern them. Ms. Marotta paid her dues to the CFS (as we ALL did) and shouldn’t have been turned away because of her affiliations or her race. Being a part of the Medium doesn’t show that she can’t represent students as well as an “elected student leader”. We all know elections at UTM are a joke anyway. Marotta’s involvement with the Medium actually adds to the case that she should have been sent to the meeting. As assistant news editor and UTMSU stakeholder, I imagine that Ms. Marotta is well informed about student priorities and would be well suited to represent her fellow students at such a meeting. She shows a keen interest in student politics, and her different background (and perhaps a fresh perspective) could have been an asset to the AGM.
While I understand the need for student leaders to attend the conference to represent students and the need for diversity, excluding someone over the extra cost of $75 as they don’t fit into a minority caucus group, is a form of discrimination in itself and a bad excuse for saving money.
I doubt the student population would deny someone attendance at a conference for reasons that they were a member of the general student population (instead of a leader at UTMSU) and because they were not getting a discounted rate as a minority group. I applaud UTMSU’s recent work in representing minority groups but discrimination against an individual of Caucasian background, is still discrimination. Subsidies are created to assist individuals that otherwise would not attend; they are not intended to exclude individuals to attend that dont meet the subsidy requirements. This defies the whole purpose of a subsidy.
I think the solution to this problem would have been simple. Remember what happened in June of last year? If Marottas had decided to play in traffic and get arrested, UTMSU would be more than willing to pay up to $1000 in expenses, easily covering the extra $75 charge.
Diversity is not diversity if someone is racially excluded. Hopefully the new UTMSU executive body will know that.
I don’t see why Stefanie Marotta should be denied participation in the conference, if she has taken the initiative to represent students and speak up for us, then she should be given a chance.
I don’t see a long line-up of students who are willing to attend a CFS event to ensure that UTM’s voices are heard.
In the article, I liked this: “I dont understand how we can eliminate differences by creating more differences among students.”
“As a woman, Stefanie is a potential ally to the movement . . .”
Are you suggesting that men are automatically less valuable to “the movement?” Is it possible for Marotta to attend this meeting without anyone bringing up whatever “constituency” to which she belongs? I might be a woman, but I’m no friend to whatever united student movement you’re trying to convince yourself exists.