Student-at-large Victoria Romero has been suspended from attending UMSU board of director meetings for the remainder of the 2023-2024 academic year.
During the Jan. 25 UMSU board of directors (BoD) meeting, board members were presented with motion 0590 that, following amendment, was moved by the executive committee to suspend Romero from meetings until fall 2024.
During the Jan. 11 BoD meeting, Romero questioned UMSU president Tracy Karuhogo about the UMSU statement addressing the death of Afolabi Stephen Opaso. In the discussion that followed, Romero characterized the provided mental health resources as inadequate, saying students deserve more timely support “when they want to kill themselves.”
Following this, Karuhogo made a request to not make “such triggering statements without a warning,” which was echoed by UMSU chair, Elbethel Masresha.
Following Romero’s statements, vice president finance and operations Vaibhav Varma was unable to give his board report and left the council chambers. During the following recess, Masresha asked Romero to apologize to board members, which they declined to do.
Masresha used Robert’s Rules to remove Romero for the remainder of the meeting.
In an interview with the Manitoban, Karuhogo said the executive decided to put forward the motion based on board members’ and other students’ feedback.
She said the executive committee did research and that it wanted to ensure it brought the facts to the board.
Of the 20 BoD members who voted in the secret ballot, 11 voted in favour of the amended motion, seven voted against, and there were two abstentions.
In the motion, Romero was accused of violating the safe environment policy for alleged harassment toward board members, related to the “insensitive comments” made at the Jan. 11 BoD meeting, which Romero was removed from.
At the Jan. 25 meeting, Romero said the terminology was “ambiguous and in a very negative light.” The wording was changed to remove the term “insensitive.”
“Saying they were insensitive comments is an opinion. It is not something that has been voted on by the board,” Romero said at the meeting.
During debate, Karuhogo requested that two recordings be played — A video posted on Romero’s Instagram and a recording of the comments in question from the Jan.11 meeting.
In the Instagram stories, Romero explained the situation from their side, saying that they had been “kicked out” of the meeting “for discussing student suicide.”
“It is incredibly disappointing to see student leadership respond to my comments in this way,” they said later in the video.
Now, Romero is ineligible to run in the upcoming UMSU election, as they are not a member in “good standing” with UMSU, which is one of the criteria to be able to run in the election.
When asked about their plans to return to UMSU following the suspension, Romero told the Manitoban, “elected or not, next year I will be back in there.”
Romero said they appreciated that board members acknowledged that a one and a half year ban was “outrageous,” however they wished the motion had not gone through at all.
As of Jan. 27, Romero intends to appeal the decision of the board.
“As disgusted and appalled as I am about this motion, at the very least it is tangible evidence I find of mistreatment,” they said.
“It is something I can use as a catalyst for change, hopefully, and hopefully make right what has been done.”