During the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) last Thursday, the motion to implement online voting in UTMSU elections was rejected while bylaw changes, and the endorsement of separation between the UTMSU and UTSU passed unanimously.
While reflecting on the past year, UTMSU President Felipe Nagata criticized the decisions made by the university, specifically the Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (MLAP). The policy, approved by U of T’s Governing Council on June 27, allows the university to place students on a non-punitive but mandatory leave of absence for students who are exhibiting “serious concerning behaviour that is threatening or results in negative academic consequences.”
“[The MALP] goes against mental-wellbeing,” stated Nagata, “and it shows how much the university does not listen to the voice of students.”
Nagata also criticized the Ontario government for failing to represent students. He went on to cite the increase of tuition fees, a lack of investment post-secondary education, specifically in the cancellation of three university satellite campuses in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the minimum wage hike freeze, and the repeal of the Ontario Sex Education Curriculum.
Speaking on the goal of the UTMSU this year, Nagata stated, “Our goal is to make this campus feel like home to everybody […] Regardless of our backgrounds, of our stories, of our experiences, of our beliefs or political stances, we should be speaking as one united voice. Because students united will never be defeated.”
According to the UTMSU’s VP internal Yan Li, the union has seen a surplus in its finances for the 2018 academic year. The UTMSU made an excess of revenue over expenditure of $234,720 this year compared to $138,543 in 2017.
In 2017, the pub’s financial statements showed a deficit of $29,674. However, this year the Blind Duck Pub generated a surplus of $32,590.
Motion to Separate
During the meeting, the motion to endorse the separation of the UTMSU and the UTSU passed unanimously.
While defending the motion, UTMSU VP external Atif Abdullah stated, “Strength in numbers is what motivated the Associate Membership Agreement. We’ve come to a point where UTM has different needs than St. George.”
The agreement, signed into effect on April 30, 2008, was meant to “co-ordinate and streamline resources” between the UTSU and UTMSU.
By terminating the Associate Membership Agreement, both unions will become their own separate entities. The UTMSU will also need to renegotiate its health and dental plan.
Abdullah concluded his defense by stating that “the UTSU sometimes does not understand the needs of UTM students on this campus.”
The UTSU’s VP operations Tyler Biswurm, who read a statement on behalf of UTSU President Anne Boucher, stated, “it is time for the UTSU to let go of the reins it should not have held onto in the first place.”
The next step in completing separation will be for each union’s respective board of directors to agree with the settlement terms.
A motion to change the UTMSU bylaws to reflect the separation of the UTMSU and UTSU. The bylaw changes will merge division two and three of the UTMSU’s board of directors, as well as remove the UTSU designate position.
The only member-submitted motion was the implementation of an online voting system for UTMSU elections.
Ethan Bryant, the student moving the motion, stated that, “It’s important that we look at our current voting system and acknowledge that, effectively, it discriminates against those with disabilities. Elections, for all positions, have been criticized in the past for their toxic nature, and can be negatively competitive despite the election officer’s best efforts.”
Speaking against the motion, UTMSU VP equity Leena Arbaji stated, “easy and accessible are not the same things. If we want to make voting more inclusive, then we should be working toward improving our current structure, instead of starting from a new system.”
Rupin Liddar, a student in support of the motion, cited her personal experiences with social anxiety during the UTMSU elections. “You feel compelled to say yes when a candidate is standing near the polling station and pressuring you to vote for them.”
Debate on the motion continued for over half-an-hour until it was brought to a close by a call to question.
The motion failed with a large majority of the AGM members voting against it.