Five-minute financials

There was not much discussion of the UTMSU’s audited financial statements at their Annual General Meeting last Wednesday in Council Chambers, with 132 people in attendance, most of whom were union volunteers.

Members of the union have the option to sign off their votes and delegate their voting power to other students. The designated proxies then represent the students through the attendees who vote in their absence.

The total attendance at the AGM by proxy was 522, meaning that 80 per cent of votes cast came from students that were not in attendance to receive the financial statements.

The quorum for the UTMSU Annual General Meeting is 40 for attendance in person or 75 for attendance by proxy. Each member is allowed to hold a maximum of 11 votes, including his or her own.

An AGM is meant to provide a forum for discussion and transparency of the UTMSU’s financial statements, which they are required to present at each year’s AGM.

UTMSU spent under 10 minutes presenting their 16-page financial statement during the one-and-a-half-hour AGM. The VP internal, Raymond Noronha, presented the 2012 financial statement.

In response to a question from  one of the attendees, Noronha talked about the contingency fund, an emergency fund, from which UTSMU withdrew when they launched the summer U-Pass two years ago. When negotiations went sour with Mississauga Transit, UTMSU subsidized the summer program with $140,000 from the emergency reserve.

At the commission meeting where the subsidy was approved, UTMSU proposed that the subsidy would be paid back by cutbacks in executives’ salaries and cuts to ministry budgets;  it was revealed at this AGM that the cutbacks were made in the ministries and not in executive salaries.

The Blind Duck’s losses were reduced by approximately $15,000 due to more club bookings, said Noronha.

“The pub is doing really well. I’m proud to say that […] losses are actually being reduced,” said Noronha. “This could be the first time ever that the pub breaks even—or you can see, actually, a surplus.” There was no further explanation or discussion of the statements during the question period following Noronha’s presentation of the financial statements.

In his opening remarks, president Christopher Thompson congratulated his executive team on projects such as Orientation Week, the cellphone charger project, the World University Service of Canada student refugee project, and Clubs Week. He also touched on projects that are currently underway, such as the co-curricular record, the 1.0 Drop Credit, the Student Centre expansion, multifaith space renovations, and the Work-Study campaign. He also announced that UTMSU has come to a “tentative agreement” with MiWay and the City of Mississauga to ensure that all students—both full-time and part-time—will receive the U-Pass next year.

During the question period, students had the opportunity to bring up topics germane to UTMSU. Students took the opportunity to promote events such as the U of T Students’ Union AGM, which takes place on November 22, and to congratulate and thank UTMSU on their work this past year.

Two students separately addressed the issue of the health and dental plan, saying that certain benefits do not come with the plan and that it does not cover certain needs.

“I found a lot of the [plan’s] coverage was, I guess, not pertinent,” commented Jennifer Ward, a UTM student.

Noronha stressed that it is possible to opt out of the health and dental plan.

Students also had concerns about whether the Student Centre would shut down during the renovations to the building. This is not likely, according to Thompson, as it will be more of an expansion of the current building.

Thompson ended the AGM by recognizing UTMSU’s sister unions, St. George’s UTSU and Scarborough’s SCSU, whose executives were in attendance at the AGM.

“I think this was a positive and impressive meeting, to be honest,” said Thompson in his closing remarks. “I think we can bring that to St. George as well and show them what UTM is all about.”

“I got to say that it was a whole lot of self-congratulations and stuff,” said Thomas Kristan, a fifth-year political science student. “I think it really dug into the time. It wasn’t until the end when people brought up really important issues like the insurance plan. I think it deserved more attention than everyone saying congratulations to the students’ union for another amazing year. We kind of got it after the first 10 students.”

Kristan did not proxy for anyone.

“I don’t believe in the proxy system, because generally what you end up having is the people who hold the most proxies are always board members or execs, and the thing is, I’ve seen them go out to ask students for the proxies. Students don’t really know what they’re giving this consent for,” said Kristan. “So the executives and board members will get their proxies, basically bolstering their vote. Meanwhile, the students who gave them their proxies have no idea what’s going on. I just think it’s undemocratic.”

Areej Ashraf, a first-year student, said the AGM was “very effective”.

“Just to be exposed to all the movements that they’re trying to inform the school, and the fact that it’s just a nice way to bring everyone together,” Ashraf added.

She was proxying for 10 people and had volunteered with UTMSU’s outreach to announce the AGM the week before. Ashraf said that people asked her what she was using their vote for and she informed them what it was going to be used towards. However, she said, they had not seen the financial documents beforehand.

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