President’s by-law amendments declared illegal at general meeting

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A significant series of proposed Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) bylaw amendments, which would have seen a complete restructuring of governance of Trent’s largest student union, were removed from the agenda at the start of last week’s TCSA Annual General Meeting before they were even discussed.

This removal was due to the fact that the proposal was submitted illegally by TCSA President Braden Freer.

The proposed amendments would have separated the governing body of the corporation into three separate entities; the Board of Directors (BOD), the Executive, and a Council) as opposed to the current structure in which the BOD is comprised of various College and Campus representatives, Equity Commissioners, as well as the three member Executive.

In Freer’s proposed structure, the amount of actual directors sitting on the Board would be greatly reduced. The BOD would comprise of the President, the Vice President, and six directors-at-large elected by the members of the student union.

The Equity Commissioners and the College representatives would then be relegated into a newly created Council that would deal primarily with campaigns, social, and academic issues.

Finally, in this new structure, the Executive would have been made up by the President, the Vice President, a representative of the Board, and two representatives of the Council.

This proposed motion never made it to official discussion at the Annual General Meeting, however, because of a presentation conducted by two Board Members from the TCSA—Boykin Smith (Vice President of Campaigns and Equity) and Betty Wondimu (Women’s Issues Commissioner).

Smith took the floor during the discussion of the agenda in order to highlight several issues he had with the amendments, and offered significant critique on the new structure as it was being proposed.

“The structure divides the union from the corporation, and the politics from the business,” he argued. “In the end, it gives more power to an elite few over the political and social work of the union.”

Wondimu followed up Smith by arguing against the fact that the new structure would eliminate important Equity Commissioner positions, particularly the Anti-Racism Commissioner.

TCSA president Braden Freer didn’t get the opportunity to address these concerns, however, because Smith also charged that the process by which Freer submitted these proposals was illegal according to the corporation’s existing by-laws.

The amendment proposal was presented to the Executive Committee on January 9 without a petition. For TCSA members, according to TCSA by-laws, a bylaw amendment must originate from a petition (at least 5% of the membership). For directors, there must be an amendment request signed by at least five directors. Neither of these steps were taken in this instance.

Next, for an amendment to make it to an AGM it must be approved by the Standing Committee on Organizational Review and Development and recommended for adoption. This step was also not taken. Finally, the amendment must be available for at least three weeks prior to the AGM, which it was not. For all of these reasons, pointed out by Smith, the Freer’s proposals were subsequently struck from the agenda.

In an interview, Freer expressed that the proposed bylaws were meant to improve communication within the TCSA’s governance.

The separation of roles (the Board from the Council) was meant to have the president focus on governance, finance, and services, while council would focus more on social and academic issues.

Following the AGM, Freer said “It’s unfortunate that I didn’t have a chance to defend the merit of what I was suggesting.”

Smith also commented on the issue after the meeting and actually echoed a similar sentiment.

“I wish he had an opportunity to speak because I believe in discussions and democracy. The fact that it was illegal though means that the bylaw shouldn’t have been there. I was just doing the best thing for the association to ensure that we as directors are following the by-laws and that we are being held accountable. At the end of the day I was just doing my job.”

He continued, “Hopefully Braden will be able to provide his opinions about his proposal through some other mechanism because I’m sure there’s reasons why he wanted to propose it, but I know there were strong reasons why I was against it. Mainly though, I had to point out the fact that it was illegal.”