UTSU exec resigns and students won’t get to elect successor

For a group of people who continually complain about U of T’s Governing Council not being elected, they have a funny way of showing their commitment to grassroots democracy


The Varsity reports the vice-president university affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, Binish Ahmed, has resigned for personal reasons. But students shouldn’t expect to be able to elect their new representative.

UTSU bylaws do not require elections to be held for vacancies that occur during the academic year. The bylaws do require an election if the vacancy occurs in the summer. The resignation was submitted on August 22 but didn’t become effective until September 8.

So the University of Toronto Students’ Union has decided since the resignation is effective September 8, they will not give students the opportunity to vote for Ahmed’s replacement.

Instead, the UTSU will appoint their own VP uni affairs (who will likely be one of their own).

The bylaws do not stop the UTSU from holding an election, but merely make it optional.

For a bunch of people who love to complain about the university’s highest governing body, the Governing Council, not being democratically elected, you’d think they would be committed to grassroots democracy.



UTSU exec resigns and students won’t get to elect successor

  1. Again, a spurious parallel — surely for rhetorical/political effect, as usual. The UTSU Executive Committee includes five members who are elected at-large. (One executive member, the VP Campus Life, is appointed by the Board of Directors.) All other voting members of the Board of Directors are elected by their respective constituencies. We are talking about DOZENS of people — all elected democratically, grassroots-style. So, ONE person resigns one-third of the way through the year and a replacement is appointed — by the democratically elected Board of Directors. And this is the same as a majority on Governing Council that is entirely appointed?

    I think not. Your online diary is such a joke.

  2. The UTSU had a choice here and they choose to keep things in house. Why not allow the student body to elect the executive? The UTSU had over two weeks to prepare for an election.

    Most student unions hold October by-elections.

    The fact of the matter is, much like the university, the UTSU prefers control over the unpredictability of the electorate.

    Were you guys afraid the student body might take advantage of a by-election to send the UTSU a message?

    Your campus is divided about the merits of the “Fight Fees 14” and the role of the UTSU in supporting their now famous protest.

    Who knows what would have happened, and we’ll never know what the student body thinks at the present time; the UTSU didn’t ask them.

  3. Here’s a better question.

    Do you have a life?

  4. What a progressive question Rick. Is that how you would respond to students on at the U of T asking a similar question? Or would you just pop a vessel and accuse them of being an agent of Joey Coleman?

  5. I doubt there are many “agents of Joey Coleman.” Apart from you, that is, always running to the rescue like big neoliberal brother. Always a pleasure, Joey Carson.

  6. The pleasure is definitely mine. But seriously, why is the fact the board is elected relevant to whether or not an election should be held for this position?

    The University of Toronto Act stipulates that only 18 of the 48 members of the governing council be appointed. Of those 18, 16 are to be appointed by the government (there are 14 government appointees currently on the council.) Following Rick’s defense of the UTSU, this should be okay. Those 16 government appointees should not be much of a problem because the government is elected.

  7. Yet another false analogy. I thought you were a political science student, no? I mean, I see the “political” part. But the “science” part? Not so much. As usual, your rhetorical strategies are so transparent that you might as well just come out and say it: “We are ideologically opposed to progressive student leaders so we’re going to publish as much criticism of them as possible, even if that requires the deployment of endless informal fallacies and other intellectually dishonest tactics.” Reading your blog postings is like watching Fox News coverage of Obama and the Democrats. So skewed it’s almost entertaining. Almost.

  8. While Joey can criticize UTSU’s decision without referring to the Governing Council, I think there might be a problem with drawing the parallel, in the sense that you compare an “exceptional” case where one position is not elected at-large, to a situation where the absence of election is the norm for a large number of positions.

    Also the proper comparison to the Governing Council would be the UTSU Council, not its executive, but that’s a minor point compared to the above.

    Of course no parallel is perfect. But putting two situations on the same level creates the risk of underestimating the more serious situation (lack of participation in university governance) and overestimating the less serious one (a single by-election in a students’ union). I’m not sure I would do as Rick and blame a political bias here, whether one does exist or not. I’ve noticed that student journalists (of all stripes) usually feel more free to strongly criticize student politicians than university administrators. One possible reason is that it’s always “safer” to attack weaker people.

    (On that same topic, I did quite a bit of research on this at the University of Ottawa. The result I got was that most university-run committees were mostly formed by unelected individuals appointed by committees mostly formed by unelected individuals. Any exception was a low-level committee that could be overturned by the a higher-level, majority-unappointed one. Thus the concept of “self-appointed ruling group” applied very well to U of Ottawa and any claim of democratic governance could be easily contested.)

  9. [I was also a student journalist and I had this impression before, i.e. that is what easier to pick on other students. I found this psychologically similar to people frustrated with their work who will feel more comfortable to get angry at their peers than at their boss, even though the boss might be the cause of their frustration as much as the peers. There are power dynamics there, obviously.]

  10. Hi Philippe,

    I’m not sure the point about it being easier to criticize peers holds fully. There is a much more direct power relationship between student papers and the student union. The papers are generally funded through the union, either directly or through a levy the union collects on its behalf. Autonomy agreements have to be agreed to by the union. And though there are a usually (though not always) a lot of checks in place, the union will sometimes have the power to take away the paper’s assets if it is found that student money is being misused. The papers will often operate as independent corporations, but it is of a peculiar type. The power relationship between the papers and the administration is there, but it is by no means as direct.

    Also, I think it is plainly just easier to criticize student government. They are run by people who might be cutting their teeth for the first time, and they make many mistakes, and sometimes blatantly obvious ones, and given the rhetoric countless contradictions can often be found. Further, some might argue that the student paper has a more direct responsibility to cover the affairs of the union. These people after all are elected to represent students, and it is students who the campus papers are written for.

    As an aside, when I worked at the Manitoban, criticizing the administration always provoked an email or a phone call, but criticizing the student union often provoked name calling and sometimes screaming and threats.

  11. I hereby trademark the name “Joey Bear” in honour of Papa Bear. Joking, O’Reilly and Olbermann are good entertainment – I enjoy both.

    In terms of having a life… responding to that is below my pay grade.

  12. I guess the experience depends from the University. In Ottawa, the admin. sued La Rotonde once (and threatened to sue another time more recently) during the time I was there.

    But that aside, the part of your message I agree the less is:
    “Further, some might argue that the student paper has a more direct responsibility to cover the affairs of the union. These people after all are elected to represent students, and it is students who the campus papers are written for.”

    Students pay around 5000$ a year to their university compared to around 100$ to their students’ association. In addition, I would say a large portion of the student population doesn’t care that much about the union. Of course more union coverage in the paper might improve participation rates, etc., but at some point if the student paper is all about the little scandals of “student politics” it might start to be seen as less relevant itself.

  13. Philippe,

    Sure, any paper, not just student papers, can devolve into pettiness, but the one’s that do it well exercise judgment on what’s relevant and what’s not. As for your broader point, I have heard this often from student politicos responding to criticism arguing that the administration should be the focus, but this is more of an evasive dodge than anything. And it often takes the form of trying to get this or that paper to boost the union’s cause. Further, when papers cover positive things about the union, they aren’t likely to say don’t write that, write about the administration. Both should be covered.

    When I say some might argue that there is a responsibility to cover student representatives, I don’t mean so it can improve participation rates, but simply that regardless of how much in fees is paid to the student union, they are elected to represent students and are in control of numerous student services. Of course, a paper that focuses exclusively on the pettiness that often arises can be alienating to the readership, but few papers actually do this. But, most will have the goal to cover what happens on campus as the primary goal. And that includes mistakes that student representatives make.

  14. The Varsity article mentions fall general elections. If the appointment of this exec is only for six weeks or something like that, then it’s perfectly reasonable. A byelection consumes a lot of SU time & resources. As much as I hate to support expediency over principles, this isn’t really a big deal if it’s that short of a time.

    Now, if that appointment is until, say March or July or something…

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