Tensions run high at UTSU AGM

Last Thursday, the St. George campus student union, UTSU, held their Annual General Meeting (AGM), which saw approximately 75 students in attendance. The union represents approximately 41,000 full-time undergraduate students at both UTM and St. George.

The meeting, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., was delayed for approximately 45 minutes. Students in attendance became impatient and questioned the delay. The meeting was called to order at 6:47 p.m. by the chair Ashkon Hashemi, who followed Roberts Rules of Order for the proceedings.

The meeting began with student Alex Heuton, who sits on the UTSU board of directors as the Innis College representative. Heuton questioned why the meeting began almost an hour after the provided notice time. The chair explained that UTM students were on their way and traffic delayed their arrival.

Students questioned why the agenda for the meeting did not have an other business item, which would allow students to introduce new items for discussion. The chair allowed a vote to introduce the other business item which passed unanimously.

Several students lined up to speak at the microphone on issues the AGM attendees approved for the meeting.

Heuton took to the microphone again to address his concerns that amendments to bylaws and policies could not be made at the AGM without first being approved at a policy and procedures committee meeting. Heuton argued that an exception should have been made to introduce new policy amendments, because no policy and procedure committee meeting was called prior to the AGM. Heuton held an e-mail from UTSU President Sandy

Hudson, dated July 25, 2009, and stated that a request for a policy meeting was denied by Hudson because there was no chair of the committee. He argued that a policy and procedures meeting has been called for this week, to which Heuton said [It] doesn’t make sense to have a policy meeting after the AGM. Hudson responded by stating that any board member can call a meeting, and she had made attempts to call meetings but could not confirm attendance from members.

I take offence that you believe you completed your task as [UTSU] president, said Heuton.

You ran on a ticket called demand access when you have done so much to prevent it. Where is the access when no policy meeting occurred before the AGM? This meeting is outrageous.

The next issue raised was a discrepancy on the notice given for the meeting. According to the UTSU bylaws, Bylaw 3- Meetings 1.3- Notice, Notice shall be provided to members fourteen (14) days prior to the meeting in the campus paper and website. VP internal Adnan Najmi clarified that The Varsity printed their notice on their website 14 days prior to the meeting because there was no issue printed that week.

Hudson introduced executive members of UTSU during the President’s address, including VP internal and services Adnan Najmi, VP university affairs Adam Awad, VP external Hadia Akhtar, VP equity Daniella Kyei and VP campus life Danielle Sandhu. Hudson spoke about the accomplishments of the UTSU this year, including the recent Drop Fees for a Poverty-Free Ontario campaign, Orientation Week and homecoming. Hudson thanked students who signed petitions to lobby the TTC to lower fares for Metropasses, which she said resulted in a discount for post-secondary students starting next fall.

UTM student Walied Khogali was first to address the tension at the AGM. I want to bring the Mississauga love because there’s a lot of tension in the room. Khogali highlighted the successes of the UTSU and suggested that UTSU hold regular town halls for students to address their concerns. Let’s celebrate, not criticize. Let’s face it, students are busy studying. Not too many students show up to AGMs but if you criticize, we’re not going to win those battles.

James Finlay, gave an explanation on why tension existed in the room. This campus wanted another vision. Members on the St. George campus are not happy. The majority of students do not agree with people here. Finlay questioned what initiative Hudson has taken to bridge the gap and discontent on campus. Hudson maintained that the UTSU works with both colleges and clubs on campus, and wants to work with colleges to mend relationships.

Hudson received many difficult questions and comments during the meeting, especially when a student came to the microphone and asked Hudson to define solidarity, a common backbone to campaigns led by the UTSU. If someone disagrees, are they still represented by UTSU?

Hudson immediately said, Of course they are members. Solidarity means we are working to alleviate our issues.

Not all students in attendance were disappointed by the student unions actions. A student came to the microphone and gave a heartfelt speech on her experience with UTSU. I want to use this opportunity to show how thankful I am. I was totally lost, I could not participate in my college orientation and its good that you can go other places, said Masima G., referring to alternative orientation week activities organized by the UTSU.

Gabe de Roche, a fourth-year Trinity College student, was one who opposed UTM students having votes at the UTSU AGM. If it’s true that all fees paid by UTM students are repaid and they choose how to spend their money, is it fair that, with no financial stake, they can vote in our elections and stack this AGM? Hudson responded that students at UTM are members, and explained that UTSU and UTMSU work closely to collaborate on campaigns and services for students.

The meeting, which lasted over four hours, heard statements from students who have had unsuccessful attempts at accessing financial documents, as well as students who did not feel UTM students should have been allowed to vote.

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