UWSA Annual General Meeting Adjourned Early Following Contentious Discussion About Proposed By-Law and Policy Amendments and Former President’s Removal
The AGM, scheduled for Monday, April 25 from 5 to 8 p.m., abruptly ended at 7:28 p.m. after a majority of members voted in favor of a motion put forward to adjourn the meeting before all the topics on the agenda had been discussed. Of the 75 members present, 15 voted in favor of the motion, 8 voted against it, and 1 abstained from voting.
Students vocalized concerns regarding proposed By-Law and Policy amendments and asked questions about the former president’s removal. The By-Laws can be viewed here and the policies can be viewed here.
The motion to adjourn was put forward by former VP of Finance and Operations, Peter Bratic. Bratic served in this role from September 2020 to October 2021. Since nobody ran for VPFO in the 2021 UWSA elections, Bratic was asked to stay in this role until October 2021, which is when Alanna Olteanu was voted as VPFO in the by-elections. Olteanu was elected as UWSA President in the recent 2022 UWSA elections. Election results can be viewed here.
Bratic said he moved to adjourn because he saw “this going for another couple hours at this rate, but in any event, it’s up to a vote”.
Olteanu was the only executive to present their report. Executive reports allow UWSA executives to “briefly outline what they’ve been up to in the last quarter, a.k.a. the last six months,” according to Veronica Beia, Chairperson of the Board of Directors.
VP of Student Advocacy Yu Fei Qin, VP of Student Life Carly Markham, and General Manager Eric Johnston did not have a chance to provide their reports due to the early adjournment.
“I have things I want to report, and other execs want to share what they have been up to,” said General Manager Eric Johnston after the motion was proposed. “Of course, it’s up to the voters to decide if we’re going through once the motion is on the table, but some executives have put in some hard work this year and want to share with you what they’ve done.”
More specifically, the motion of adjournment was called after student John Owolabi asked Olteanu why the former UWSA President Jasleen Dayal had been removed. Dayal was absent from the meeting. Olteanu responded that she could not answer Owolabi’s question as it was not part of her report for the AGM.
As per the organization’s announcement on social media, Dayal was removed from office on April 4 for engaging in “actions that were contrary to the UWSA’s policies and values”.
As first reported by CTV’s Sanjay Maru, the former president was removed from her position following a workplace harassment complaint, although the details of the complaint have not been disclosed.
Prior to the adjournment, student Tiarnan Brennan also spoke on the topic of transparency and asked Olteanu about the decision-making process behind turning off comments on the social media post announcing the former President’s removal. Olteanu answered that she was not involved in that decision and that she had been on leave at the time because of the UWSA elections. Additionally, she “did not feel it would be appropriate to speak on the matter at the moment”.
“As President—I have not been acting President for long—transparency is something I value highly, and in the future, we will definitely ensure that UWSA remains more transparent, and that is something I look forward to improving on in the next year. Unfortunately, it’s only been two weeks since I’ve been interim President, so there haven’t been any changes—especially since it’s nearing the end of the year—when it comes to transparency at the moment, but that’s always something UWSA is looking to improve on.”
Another topic of contention during the AGM was item 8.1 on the agenda, which concerned a proposed amendment to article 14 of the Student By-Laws. Article 14 outlines the procedure to follow when “a disciplinary matter is raised concerning a Director or officer of UWSA”. The proposed amendment suggested this article “be revisited and revised by the incoming board and appropriate executives with support from legal counsel and HR representatives within the following year”.
Olteanu explained that the purpose of this amendment was to “add a bit more clarity” to the article, which was until then “vague”. However, student Tiarnan Brennan was not satisfied with the amendment, arguing that it too was vague and gave the UWSA “broad power” to make “any changes” to the disciplinary process.
In the chat of the meeting, Petar Bratic proposed a more precisely worded amendment to address these concerns: “BIRT [Be it resolved that] the Board be directed to review Article 14 of the By-Laws and call a Special Meeting of the Members to consider any amendments proposed by legal counsel no later than November 1, 2022…”
The revised amendment passed with 20 votes in favor, 1 vote against, and 0 abstaining.
Item 9 on the agenda, which revolves around policy amendments, raised a variety of student concerns as well.
Item 9.1 involved amending “the succession plan within the executive policy 5.0 […] to reflect the by-laws as follows: President, VPFO, VPSA, VPSL.” According to Olteanu, this succession plan was already added to the Student By-Laws the previous year, but it had not yet been added to the policies. Until then, the policies listed the succession plan as: President, VPSA, VPFO, VPSL. The purpose of the amendment was therefore to fix the discrepancy between the By-Laws and Policies. This amendment passed with relatively little debate, but an omnibus motion proposed shortly later in the meeting by Bratic for items 9.1 through 9.4 led to a re-vote on the matter.
Items 9.2 and 9.3 proposed an amendment to make the VPFO a cardholder of the UWSA credit card alongside the General Manager, who was originally the sole cardholder.
Petar Bratic did not agree with items 9.1 to 9.3 being discussed at the AGM because he considers them “operational matters” that should “be referred to the Board for action” rather than be put forward at the AGM.
Additionally, Bratic said he opposed the amendment proposed under item 9.4 of the agenda, which involved adding an additional eligibility requirement for those wishing to run in UWSA elections. The UWSA Elections Policy can be viewed here. More specifically, item 9.4 of the agenda proposed the following: “That policy 30.02.02 within the Elections policy be amended to add the clause “Any Member who has resigned as a Director or Executive within the preceding twelve (12) months unless due to mental, physical, health and/or extenuating circumstances.”
Explaining the reasoning behind his opposition, Bratic said: “There are practical implications to making what I’ll call vague exceptions. For example, who decides what constitutes a mental reason? Who decides what constitutes an extenuating circumstance? Not only that, but those things actually attract liability under the Human Rights Code and other legislation, so my recommendation would be that before the Board acts on item 9.4 that they be instructed to have it reviewed by legal counsel for those two reasons so that a proposal that touches on those two matters can be brought back.”
Bratic said that he opposed the amendment despite understanding the thought process behind it. “The way the Policies and By-Laws work is essentially, there’s certain things that will disqualify somebody from running for office. And so, what I would presume this [amendment] is trying to do, is to prevent somebody who’s resigned to avoid responsibility for something, being able to later run for another position. So, that’s why it outlines exceptions that exclude those who have legitimate reasons for resigning from that ineligibility.”
The former VPFO therefore proposed the following revised amendment in the chat: “BIRT that items 9.1 through 9.4 be referred to the Board for action. BIFRT [Be it further resolved that] before item 9.4 is considered further by the Board, it be reviewed by legal counsel to consider implications of the Human Rights Code and other issues surrounding who makes the determination of eligibility.”
This omnibus motion, which covered items 9.1 through 9.4, was passed with 11 votes in favor, 0 votes against, and 2 abstentions.
Another major topic of contention concerned one of the points made by Olteanu during her executive report. Olteanu mentioned that one of the UWSA’s accomplishments in the past year was getting the RBC on-campus kiosk in the C.A.W. Student Centre.
“So recently, you may have noticed if you came to the Student Centre, there is a kiosk on campus for the RBC,” she said. “So, that is in liaison with the UWSA. So, we worked really hard to provide a cool opportunity for students to learn more about their finances through this kiosk. So, practically, this is just a place where you can learn more about finances and just become more financially literate.”
Many students were concerned about having a financial institution with its own interests on campus. Anumita Jain, who was voted as one of two Senate Student Representatives in recent UWSA elections, asked Olteanu why the RBC was chosen to provide students with financial literacy services as opposed to another group, such as the Enriched Academy Financial Literacy Program for Students, which is offered through UWindsor’s Office of Student Awards and Financial Aid.
Olteanu responded: “So, it’s about who comes to us and who requests to be within the Student Centre. And also, we take into account every single aspect of it. So, within the RBC agreement, it is stated that they will not be selling products, especially, that is not their goal, and their goal remains to provide financial literacy. Therefore, we went with them because that was their promise, and we felt that out of the options we had, that was one of the better options, for sure.”
Another student, Jana Jandal Alrifai, voiced environmental concerns regarding the RBC. “I have the general idea that the UWSA is generally progressive, generally cares,” she said, “and the RBC is very bad for the environment. They’re the number one fossil fuel supporter at the big five Canada banks, and I’m wondering, if we wanted to keep being on that progressive, caring, maybe not killing the environment side of things, why we would partner with RBC. I’m not sure if the student union has made any announcements in the past or any declarations in terms of the climate or the environment, but it seems weird to have, in a student centre, a bank or an institution that is effectively killing futures.”
RBC was in fact the fifth biggest bank worldwide financing fossil fuels in 2021, according to the 2022 Fossil Fuel Finance Report by Banking on Climate Chaos.
In response, Olteanu said: “RBC on campus is something that’s very common in a lot of universities, and in our thought, it benefits the student by providing financial literacy. As for the environment, it’s definitely not something we don’t care about, and there are different avenues that we can explore that in the future. But this is not something that we thought of being related to RBC when making the decision.”
Olteanu further clarified that the RBC was leasing the space they occupied on campus but did not feel it was appropriate to disclose the price of the lease.