By Jake MacAndrew, Gabriela Silva Ponte and Abeer Khan
This story has been updated to reflect comment from TMSU president Marina Gerges
Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) vice-president equity Areesha Qureshi resigned this afternoon, said TMSU executive director Reanna Maharaj in an email sent to The Eyeopener.
Qureshi resigned effective immediately at 3:31 p.m. today.
“I hope that my resignation sheds some light on constant mis-management and political in-fighting at the TMSU,” said Qureshi, in an emailed statement to The Eye.
She said when she ran for office, she had a few goals she wanted to work toward. “I wanted to serve the memberships and [cater] to the needs of the vulnerable population on campus, but I’ve failed to do so. My failure was not due [to] a lack of trying, but constant infighting and poor management.”
In an emailed statement to The Eye, TMSU president Marina Gerges said that she, executives and the Board have worked to better the students’ union.
“I had hoped and believed that [Qureshi] was part of this collaboration and fix. Which is why it is disappointing that she is trying to write a different narrative for the past few months,” she said.
Qureshi also alleged that during her term, neither her nor the Equity Service Centre staff received support from the rest of the team. “It has been a constant struggle to get any initiatives off the ground,” said Qureshi.
In her statement, Gerges said the Equity Services Centre staff did implement events, campaigns and projects but did not specify what.
“To say there has been no support is a misrepresentation of facts and disrespectful for the efforts that many members of the executive, board and staff team have put into empowering [Qureshi] over the past few months,” Gerges said.
Qureshi further alleged that the TMSU’s bylaws are constantly broken and that when questions about this are asked, they are not answered. However, she did not specify which bylaws were broken in her statement.
Gerges said that the students’ union recognizes its bylaws were “broken and conflicting.” But that these have been “proactively changed” through a new set of bylaws. The TMSU implemented a revised set of bylaws last December at their Semi-Annual General Meeting, as previously reported by The Eye.
“This Board took the courage and time to fix By-laws and [Qureshi] is choosing to belittle that process and the effort of the Board to hold itself more accountable,” Gerges said in the statement. “It is unfortunate that [Qureshi] has chosen to resign rather than abide by those By-laws—By-laws that she also voted to implement.”
Qureshi also made allegations regarding the workplace environment.
“The office environment has been extremely toxic since summer. I’ve personally seen and witnessed the mental health of many people deteriorate,” she said.
Gerges said it is “disappointing to see that [Qureshi] is making these claims after her resignation.”
“It is also unfortunate that [Qureshi] has resigned based on incorrect claims similar to those of a previous Board Member,” she said.
Qureshi said while it deeply saddens her to resign from her post, she said she “fully believes” her decision was the correct course of action. “I hope that my resignation sheds some light on constant mis-management and political in-fighting at the TMSU,” Qureshi’s statement reads.
Her resignation comes after the TMSU approved a motion to remove five of its Board of Directors (BoD) members for ‘abandonment’ of office, which passed with two-thirds majority of the vote on March 1.
Board of Governors representative Joel Kuriakose, Faculty of Arts director Kiera Gray, Faculty of Community Services director Zroha Khalid and Ted Rogers School of Management directors Aman Mathur and April West have been removed from the Board.
Removed BoD members will be ineligible to run for the BoD again. According to Section 4.4 of the TMSU bylaws, any individual that has “abandoned, been impeached or dismissed as a Director” is “ineligible for the Board of Directors.”
“It has become evident that board members were targeted and removed from their position so they won’t be able to contest in the upcoming elections,” said Qureshi, in her statement to The Eye.
She is the fourth TMSU member to resign this year. Former student groups director Ayra Rajpaul resigned before the abandonment motion was put forward. Prior to the fall 2022 semester, vice-president education Umar Abdullah resigned in July and vice-president operations Salar Syed resigned in August, as previously reported by The Eye.
Abdallah resigned after accepting an opportunity in his field. Salar resigned stating that he is leaving his position because “the last few months have been extremely challenging,” adding that the TMSU has “not been able to achieve anything impactful.”
TMSU president Marina Gerges told The Eyeopener in an email that the Board would be considering appointing a faculty director as interim vice-president equity in Qureshi’s place.
“Filling the position at this point in time does not leave much room for someone to learn about the TMSU and develop their own initiatives with less than two months remaining,” Gerges said in her email.
The TMSU will be holding elections later this year, with voting taking place between March 21 to 24.
“The TMSU is thankful for the time and work that Areesha has put into the organization and wishes her all the best on her future endeavors,” said Maharaj, in her email to The Eye.
With files from Prapti Bamaniya, Edward Djan and Thea Gribilas