Summary

  • After negotiations between UTSU’s lawyers and U of T’s lawyers, Governing Council will vote on approving the Student Commons Agreement next Thursday February 26 (Meeting starts at 4:30pm in the Simcoe Hall Council Chamber).
  • The major change from the original agreement is that the Management Committee will now be comprised of seven (7) students chosen by the members of the UTSU board of directors who are St. George students and six (6) students chosen by the UTSU Executive, along with one (1) non-voting Facility Manager.
  • All voting members must be full-time undergraduate students registered at the St. George campus, except for up to one member-who is an UTSU executive (or the UTSU executive director).
  • I will be voting and speaking in favor of approving this agreement, so that the student commons project can move forward.  I feel that the previously identified concerns which fall under Governing Council’s jurisdiction have been adequately addressed.
  • Estimated (revised) schedule is:
    • Governing Council – February 2015
    • Design Team Selection – May-July 2015
    • Construction Award – August 2016
    • Occupancy – September 2017

Background

I may add a section later which explains the whole story behind how the agreement finally got to this stage, but for now, if you have questions, feel free to pose them on my Facebook post.

What Has Changed?

You can view the agreement below, with the changes highlighted:

Concerns Identified: Have They Been Addressed?

For the Fall 2014 AGM (this year), a motion was submitted which aimed to address some concerns about the student commons management.  You can see it below:

I feel that the first requirement of this motion has been adequately addressed by the changes.  Although it is not exactly the same, the requirement for the majority of members of the management committee to be full-time undergraduate students from St. George has been met, and the proposed Appointments Committee is representative of the faculties and colleges of St. George, fulfilling the spirit of having an election.

The second requirement is not within the purview of Governing Council.  It should be up to the UTSU to create adequate ethics and conflict-of-interest bylaws for the management committee members, as it has done for its board of directors.

Furthermore, the concerns raised by the Executive Committee of Governing Council in October of this year seem to have been adequately addressed:

Given the conflict over whether the UTSU should keep divisional representation on its board of directors, Governors were concerned that the UTSU would not remain directly representative of students who paid the commons fee.  With the addition of the Appointments Committee, the management committee is now much more representative by design.  Furthermore, UTSU must retain divisional representation as outlined in the agreement in order to continue to control the student commons.

EDIT: As it was pointed out to me, if you read the wording carefully, it only stipulates that the members of the appointments committee have to be (a) from the UTSU board of directors and (b) registered in one of the listed constituencies.  Therefore, for a board composed of “at-large” representatives, the board members registered in the divisions listed would make up the members of the Appointments Committee.  The net effect would then be to ensure that the board members on the committee are from commons fee-paying constituencies, not that the board itself has to retain representatives for each division.

Additionally, some Governors expressed concern about the potential for financial mismanagement, given the high turnover and potentially low business experience of student leaders.  Although the period for which the commons can operate at a deficit has not been changed, a paragraph has been added (4.6 (b) (ii) A.) which requires that all voting members possess the professional skills required to properly run the building.

There are still many aspects of how the commons will be run that need to be decided, such as how the Appointments Committee and UTSU Executive Committee will actually select management committee members, how conflict-of-interests and ethical conduct will be addressed, and how financial and operating reports to UTSU members will be made.  However, I believe it is appropriately up to UTSU to decide these matters through the creation of bylaws and policy, and that the agreement presented to Governing Council is good enough to be approved.

If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me on my Facebook post, or by email at ben[dot]coleman[at]mail[dot]utoronto[dot]ca.

Further Reading

Project Plan and Building Details

Governing Council Executive Committee Minutes, October 2014 (skip to p. 10)

Original Referendum Question

Original Student Commons Agreement

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