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Here’s what you missed at this year’s AGM

By Gabriela Silva Ponte

The Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) failed to meet quorum at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), which took place April 26. 

According to section 3.4 of the TMSU bylaws, a quorum of 100 people must be met for a general meeting to take place.

“It is a minimum threshold of 100 members in order to conduct business. So what that will mean is, we are going to be doing portions of the agenda that are non bylaw related,” said chair Nicole Brayiannis. “Those motions will be referred to the next general meeting.”

Though a presentation still took place detailing financial budgets and executive updates, no voting was allowed and bylaws set to be amended in the agenda were not discussed.

Bylaw amendments included removing the vice president executive’s ability to call Board of Directors (BoD) meetings, reflecting bylaw changes on the TMSU’s website within two weeks and the removal of the requirement that international student directors be nominated by international students in their faculty only.  

Here’s what you missed at this year’s AGM:

Financial budgets revealed

Representative Tim Sothern from the Canadian accounting company BDO Global—the auditor for the TMSU—presented the students’ union’s 2020-21 and 2021-22 budgets. 

He detailed the challenges the students’ union faced in the 2021 and 2022 years. 

“2021, you had the right staff in place and the audit and the financials. Everything was smooth,” said Sothern. “2022 was a different situation. There [were] some less skilled people involved.”

Several questions were raised on the integrity of the report. 

One attendee questioned why the “Health and Dental Plan Insurance Premiums” in the “Expenses” portion of the report increased so dramatically from 2020 to 2021.

In 2020, “Health and Dental Premiums” stood at $8,055,692, but this increased to $10,367,467 in 2021.

Sothern attributed this to the increase in the number of students the TMSU has to pay for. 

Executive director Reanna Maharaj said the premium expenses do not translate into a change in what students are charged but rather the reserved monetary funds of the organization.

Another attendee asked if it is prudent to put in place financial staff soon. 

As previously reported by The Eyeopener, the TMSU fired financial controller Harj Grewal in late 2022. The position of finance coordinator also remains vacant.

Maharaj explained that, during the interim period, she and two other financial staff members—who have previously worked at the students’ union—took charge to ensure accuracy and timeliness.

“It is extremely important to have those two financial positions that we have available at the TMSU filled and it would be in the best interest of the organization to do so,” Maharaj said. 

She said this is something the students’ union is currently working on. 

“It’s absolutely imperative that you get someone of high quality in there,” said Sothern.

One last attendee asked why there were no changes in “Inventories” in the “Current” section of the report from 2021 to 2022. 

In both 2021 and 2022 the “Inventories” section stood at $30,891.

Maharaj said this portion of the budget mainly refers to CopyRITE, which was closed for the 2021 period and had no sales or inventory change. 

As previously reported by The Eye, the TMSU announced at December’s Semi-Annual General Meeting that CopyRITE was reopening after not being funded during the 2021 school year due to the nature of online learning. 

Legal action on financial mismanagement

In her remarks, TMSU president Marina Gerges announced legal action as part of the financial mismanagement investigation has begun. 

“This is with a hope that we will deter anyone from coming into the TMSU and holding a position of power only to abuse that power for their own benefits,” Gerges said.

She added a statement of claim has been issued and the TMSU is in the process of serving past executives. A statement of claim is the document that commences a lawsuit in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice.

As previously reported by The Eye, the lawsuit was filed against Siddanth Satish, Vaishali Vinayak, Tarmanjit Mann, Akibul Hoque and Maleha Yasmin. The TMSU announced in March that it was investigating possible financial mismanagement.

Membership Engagement Committee introduced

A general motion to install an ad-hoc Membership Engagement Committee for the 2023-24 year was discussed.

The committee will be established between the months of May and August 2023, during which the union will be preparing for intake and student consultation.

Five BoD members will sit on the committee as voting members, including the president of the students’ union.

The idea was brought forth by a member of the union looking to further engage general members of the TMSU and allow them to bring forth concerns and feedback more easily. 

The committee will be tasked with identifying “recurring themes” and presenting a report to the BoD.

“The motion is using existing resources to make members more engaged,” said vice president operations Spyros Zarros.

Gerges emphasized that there is almost no cost to this committee.

App to be new communication hub for student groups

Vice president student life Ozi Molokwu said the TMSU is working on bettering the communication between different student groups and associations’ leaders after being questioned about the disconnect between leaders on campus.  

Zarros announced the app’s name is Society. He said the company is a startup from the University of California, looking to create a space for student groups to have an online presence.

“That’s something that we’re going to be presenting to the next executives to see whether they’d like to take that on,” said Molokwu.

Gerges announced that student group leads should expect to see this in the summer.

VP education takes over VP equity position

Vice president education Nathan Sugunalan said he took over the vice president equity position after it became vacant this semester.

As previously reported by The Eye, vice president equity Areesha Qureshi resigned from the position in March of this year. 

Sugunalan said he was satisfied with the equity initiatives that took place this semester, especially coming back from a pandemic during which these were unable to occur.

Update on interim BoD

Kian Rastegar, a member of the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC), announced that interviews for vacant executive and interim Board positions were being conducted and continued throughout the week.

As previously reported by The Eye, the TMSU’s initial 2023 election was deemed “invalid” after misconduct took place. 

“The Elections and Referenda Committee determined that the integrity of the election was unacceptably compromised,” said Rastegar.

A byelection is set to take place in September and an interim BoD was appointed by the ERC at the April BoD meeting, as previously reported by The Eye. The interim Board has now been in place since May 1.

According to section 4.3 of the TMSU’s bylaws, the term for an elected executive commences on May 1 and expires on the following April 30.

The TMSU previously announced it would be hiring for the positions of president, vice president operations, vice president education, vice president equity, vice president student life and all faculty director positions. 

Applications for these positions were open until April 16, according to the TMSU’s website.

All full-time Toronto Metropolitan University students, including those disqualified from the initial 2023 election, were eligible to apply.

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