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Day 1 of strike at Humber, GH

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Monday commenced day one of striking for members of the Ontario colleges union that represents faculty, librarians, and counselors. 


Read the latest on the strike coverage page


Due to a deadline passing for negotiations between the Ontario Public Services Employees Union and the Ontario Employers Council on Sunday, a strike came into effect Oct. 16.

College staff are paid a stipend from a union pool funded by dues paid over the time of their union membership if they participate in striking, either through picketing or otherwise.

Humber professor Tyler Shipley said picketers were arriving as early at 6:30 a.m. to the picket line set up along Humber College Blvd. with most dispersing around 2:00 p.m.

Shipley, who has no official affiliation to the OPSEU, said that a “strike is something no one ever wants to happen”, saying it is the “most dramatic confrontation” most have had to ever experience in the workplace.

Humber picketers were warmed by the support of many students joining them in the sidewalks.

Shipley said every student he had talked to coming onto campus on Monday turned out to be supportive of the strike, hoping that faculty receive their demands so that the strike would end.

The local OPSEU chapter set up de-facto headquarters for the Humber campus strike in a Mobilease trailer in parking lot five outside the college.

Joanne Settle explained that Humber provided counseling and examination accommodations, among other services, to Guelph-Humber that are no longer available.

On campus, however, the Post found that GH-specific services such as the media cage, printers and computer labs were still available to students.

However, security requested GH students leave the building at 6 p.m. Monday evening.

Humber students started a Change.org petition requesting that colleges reimburse their tuition for every day lost to the strike that has garnered some 53,222 signatures online.

A Facebook group called “Students For Ontario College Faculty” has also gained signatures for their physical petition at several institutions including Fleming and Alqonquin colleges.


On campus

Outside of the University of Guelph-Humber, beyond the picket line at Humber Ave., the bus hub was quiet and the sidewalks appeared to be a ghost town.

 

Bus Loop

The bus hub at the Humber North/Guelph-Humber campus / Eli Ridder

 

Inside the school it wasn’t much different.

Besides a few students following what the school said by continuing to work on assignments and study, usually what would be a busy day at GH was otherwise quiet.

GH has requested students gain the most up-to-date information regarding their school on its official updates page.


The demands

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has demanded more full-time positions to a 50/50 ratio of full time to other types and an increased role of faculty in academic decision-making.

In response, the College Employer Council has offered a 7.75 per cent salary increase and improved process for contract faculty to become full-time.

Read the latest on the strike here

The Council said meeting the demands of the union would “add more than $250 million” to annual costs alongside the loss of several thousand contract jobs.

JP Hornick, chair of the OPSEU bargaining team, deemed the council’s statement as inaccurate.

“The colleges have had this year alone a $188 million surplus and the college presidents had not eight months ago gone to the government looking for increases of over 20 per cent for themselves,” Hornick said.

The province had dismissed the salary raises for college senior executives in January of this year.

The other major sticking point for the union representing thousands of college staff is the role of faculty and students in making academic decisions.

Hornick explained that the union seeks “a balance between faculty, administrators and students making the academic decisions in the college” with “everyone participating.”

The College Employer Council said OPSEU is seeking academic “control” by each individual staff member.

The council called the strike “unfair to hundreds of thousands of students” in a statement released on Sunday.

Some students have decided to join faculty on the picket line, some in support of their demand for more full-time positions, among other items of contention.


Guelph-Humber still open

Guelph-Humber, as with nearly all campus’s affected by the strike, is still open and some services are still available.

Printing papers, using computer labs and the learning resource space is still available, but the GH Cafe is closed.

Some 12,000 College staff are on strike as of Monday, leaving some 500,000 students without professors.

U of GH is in the exclusively unique position of having both Humber College and University of Guelph professors at its campus.

The GH administration said that because they could not offer all programs in full without Humber staff the university would shut down all classes in the event of a strike.

Late on Sunday, the strike was confirmed as moving ahead.


More details to follow. Image 1 from Cole Burston / Canadian Press. Image 2 from Eli Ridder / Self-publication.  ■

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IGNITE: A turning point for student participation

There are three decisions that further took away student participation.

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Photo of the IGNITE sign above the North Campus offices by Eli Ridder/TAP.

SPECIAL REPORT

There were three decisions made that lessoned student participation in their union.

As temperatures dropped below freezing and most of the hallways stood empty, six elected representatives of Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber’s student body passed a formal policy barring anyone but themselves from attending Board of Directors meetings, a move with significant implications that critics say brought an end to an era of more public, transparent governance.

This policy was passed by the Board, but it will never be revealed who voted for or against the decision. It was also not known that the policy was passed until the minutes came out over two months later in January, meaning one stalwart of democratic involvement came to an end in a shadowy, private meeting, its location hidden from the student body at large.

There were three significant decisions made in the last five months that, together, could contribute to a shift from the more open, traditional style adopted by organizations at post-secondary institutions across the country in the 1970s and 1980s to a new structure that is closed, corporate and, according to Executive Director Ercole Perrone, modern.

These decisions include the policy to cut off the student body from Board meetings and two bylaw amendments that, if passed, would grant the Board of Directors unilateral power to pass future amendments and would spell the end of executive elections in favour of hiring newly titled student engagement coordinators instead.

Eight directors gathered at Humber College North Campus on Oct. 9 to hold a busy Board of Directors meeting. Though The Avro Post seeked out the location of the gathering in an attempt to at least try to attend as granted by the Constitution of the student union, four reporters were unable to find the directors, and thus none of what occurred was known until records were released later in the year.

However, to understand the significance of the conversation that took place at the meeting, as recorded in the minutes, the context of what occurred prior is critical.

Starting in the spring of 2019, The Avro Post began to send journalists to Board of Directors meetings for the first time since the previous academic year following the announcement of the Student Choice Initiative by the provincial government.

Like many other student unions, IGNITE at the time stated on its website that they allowed and even encouraged student attendance at the meetings of the directors, who are elected by the student body and are paid a stipend of up to $3,500 at the end of their terms, funded by students paying fees at the beginning of each semester.

When Post reporters went to a Board meeting in February, they were able to break the story that the annual budget was delayed until the opt-in rate was known, so that the student union would know how many dollars they had to make decisions with.

That meeting was on the same day when the election “mix and mingle” events were held. Not only were reporters in attendance, but so was then-candidate, now-director Erika Caldwell, who wanted to get a sense of what the Board was like and how it operated. There was no objection to journalists being in attendance at the time.

It was when the new term started in May that IGNITE’s approach changed. A reporter from The Post travelled from Guelph to be present at the first meeting of the current Board but was denied at the door for not being a student. The reporter was denied entry, however, because the executive director claimed that the journalist was not a student. The reporter in question was already accepted in Humber College at that point, but it was a grey area.

But September was definitive. A fully enrolled second-year student and reporter with The Post, Kristy Lam, was sent to Lakeshore Campus to cover the first meeting of the fall semester, one believed by editors to be critical to the fiscal plans of IGNITE following whatever the results of the Student Choice Initiative would be. Lam was not allowed in.

The reporter was told by Leadership Initiatives Coordinator Kristine Gavlan that she would not be allowed in because the policy had changed in regards to who could actually attend the meetings. This came as a shock to the staff of The Post as the policy posted at the time stated any member can attend the Board, and can only be removed with a vote or if the directors vote to go in-camera.

It was at this meeting that seven bylaw amendments were passed by the directors. Two of those items, if passed into the Constitution at the Special Meeting of the Members on Wednesday, would hand the Board power to pass future amendments without needing approval from a members meeting to come into force and end executive elections in favour of hired Student Engagement Coordinators.

A new policy, in secret

At the next meeting in October, one that Post reporters attempted to find, the process to cut off students from the Board of Directors was first recorded. Amid updates on the opt-in rates from the Enhanced Student Experience fees, two policies were proposed. One of the proposals had to do with visitors at the Board.

“Amendments brought forth were made by IGNITE’s lawyer, including board meetings are not available for visitors and clearer language stating minutes are approved at subsequent meetings,” the records state, confirming what Director Eden Tavares told The Post earlier in January. 

The minutes continue: “Some members agreed with the advice provided by the lawyer and expressed that meetings being closed allow for board members to speak freely, honestly and candidly without feeling uncomfortable.”

However, the record notes that there was consensus among the directors that the language proposed on Oct. 9 was not explicit enough. The directors decided that the policy would “be reviewed by GRC and presented again for approval at [the] next board meeting.”

Included in the record was a reference to “IGNITE Media Days”, that the minutes say “allow for student[s] to ask their questions to IGNITE directly and receive responses”. It is unclear what this is referring to as there have been no events The Post is aware of that went by such a title. 

However, there was a press briefing on Oct. 4 that officials said would occur on a monthly basis. It is unclear whether these briefings continued as The Post was cut off by the student union for what President Monica Khosla claimed was inaccurate reporting.

It was during the November Board meeting at the University of Guelph-Humber when directors passed the policy that formalized the end of open meetings.

“Discussion, as per last meeting, resulted in a consensus from the Board that the policy is to explicitly state that board meetings are strictly for board members – language reflecting this was added,” Vanessa Silaphet wrote in the records.

The motion to approve the policy, along with two others, was moved by Chair Neto Naniwambote, of North Campus, and seconded by Julia Ciampa, of Guelph-Humber. It was carried and passed into existence. From that point on the previous policy of allowing students in was trashed and a new policy of private meetings cemented.

It was earlier in October when The Post first reported that the union planned to move towards a more corporate direction and cut students off from the Board meetings. Within the same month, Khosla claimed that the reporting was inaccurate and stated that because of this and other reporting, The Post would be cut off from IGNITE. This meant that they would no longer respond to interview requests or general inquires during a critical time of change.

Despite the reporting later verified by the Nov. 13 meeting minutes as absolutely accurate, Khosla never walked back her accusations. The Post’s editor-in-chief published an open letter to the student union on Monday pointing out the inaccuracy behind the president’s claim. There has been no response at this point.

Executive Director Ercole Perrone, Acting Communications Director Unika Hypolite and directors who have spoken to The Post and other on-campus press maintain that the  reasoning behind having private meetings has to do with the representatives being able to make decisions with “frank” discussion and the ability to not feel the pressure of reporters present. 

It’s not clear what changed from every meeting since 2016, when IGNITE was formed as the Guelph-Humber Student Association was shuttered and the Humber Students’ Federation was rebranded. However, IGNITE’s relationship with student media has been strained since the rebrand because of a few controversial decisions and particular incidents, including at a press conference when an employee of the student union appeared to assail a reporter.

While student reporters will never stop asking, it could be possible that the public will never know if there was a specific circumstance that caused the policy change to come about or if it was a thought that came over time.

The decision to clamp down on visitors to the Board of Directors meetings is one that is only reversible by a vote of the directors to undo the policy. As for handing the Board more unilateral power and the end of executive elections, they are still in a process of being proposed and could be denied by the larger student body on Wednesday.

However, there are still other ways that students can be heard by their representatives, if not keep close tabs on them. Elections will continue for the Board and that is something unlikely to change. 

There will also still be Annual General Meetings when students will have the opportunity to make their voice heard and vote against bylaw amendments that the Board passes. Even with the new proposal to give the Board the ability to pass amendments that will instantly go into effect, there will still need to be approval from the student body. However, if students vote against the amendments, it is unclear how IGNITE would handle retroactively undoing any change they passed at a meeting.

When it comes to the history of IGNITE as a whole, this year marks a turning point. With opt-in rates around 80 per cent, events filling up and a general positive opinion of the student union amongst those at campus, it appears likely that the amendments will be approved on Wednesday. However, there are critics who criticized the new Board of Directors policy and others who will vote against the amendments.

Only time will tell what the impact of these decisions will be. ■

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Factbox: Every decision made by the Board this term

A fact box regarding the Board of Directors.

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This is a specific list of every known decision made by the current term of IGNITE’s Board of Directors, since May 2019.

The items are organized by significance, but are accompanied by time stamps.


Who’s who?

Ercolé Perrone is the executive director of IGNITE and the top paid staff. He has worked at the student union for over a decade.

The Board of Directors is a governing body made up usually of nine directors, but this year it is 10 because, for the first time, there is an Orangeville director.

The executives are made up of one president and a vice president from North and Lakeshore Campuses as well as the University of Guelph-Humber.

Kristin Gavlan is the Leadership Initiatives Coordinator.

IGNITE is the student union for members at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber.


Major items first:

  • Sept. 11, 2019: Directors pass package of seven bylaw amendments that change the structure of how IGNITE will govern. More on these proposals here.
  • Nov. 13, 2019: Directors pass Board policy update banning all non-members of the Board from attending meetings, a move highly unusual for a student union. More here.
  • Oct. 9: First talks in minutes regarding closing off the Board of Directors meetings and the proposed “Media Days”.

  • At each meeting the minutes of the previous one was passed. IGNITE is then, according to its bylaws, to post the approved meeting minutes from the month previous. However, the student union has been late, sometimes by over 50 days, each time this academic year.
  • May 9, 2019: Neto Naniwambote chosen as chair of the Board and Nav Sidhu chosen as vice-chair. More here.
  • May 9, 2019: Motion to approve the appointment of Vanessa Silaphet as the Board Secretary for 2019-2020. More here.
  • May 9, 2019: Motion to approve the appointment of Monica Khosla – President and Megan Roopnarine – Vice President Guelph-Humber, as the alternate signing authorities.
  • Sept. 11: Approval of May 9 meeting minutes. However, these minutes will not be posted for some time. More here.
  • Sept. 11: Approval of hired Vice President Shay Hamilton after election Simran quit over the summer.
  • Sept. 11: BDO issues a clean audit report. 2018-2019 Audited Financial Statements approved.
  • Sept. 11: Executive Director Ercole Perrone presents an update for the revised budget with students currently interacting with optional fees. October meeting will have update.
  • Oct. 9: Budget approval, revealing the opt-in rate for optional student fees. More here.

Below is a link to each set of Board of Directors meeting minutes that have been released so far.

May 9

Sept. 11

Oct. 9

Nov. 13 ■

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IGNITE ramps up promotion ahead of Special Meeting

A new poster was released on Friday.

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Photo of IGNITE banner in the North Campus Student Centre on Jan. 16, 2020/TAP.

IGNITE on Friday ramped up its promotion of a critical Special Meeting of the Members with new posters calling on students to “voice your opinion” and vote on a package of proposed bylaw amendments that would bring significant changes to the structure of the student union if passed.

Any Humber College or University of Guelph-Humber student with their post-secondary identification is allowed entry into the meeting taking place in North Campus’ Student Centre, with a live stream taking place in Lakeshore’s K Building. It starts at 11 a.m. on Jan. 22.

Photo of IGNITE poster on Jan. 17, 2020.

Beyond the new poster, encouraging students to “amplify your voice”, IGNITE has in the past week published a blog post giving “three reasons” for its members to show up to the Special Meeting, or SMOM, and posted a formal, though scarce agenda. Also, freshly printed literature was first seen on Thursday that outlined what the new structure of IGNITE would look like with hired executives.

An email went out on Friday afternoon to all students from the student union encouraging students to attend the SMOM. “IGNITE will propose policy updates to align ourselves with the Ontario Not-for-profit Corporations Act,” the email read.

At the Special Meeting, several bylaw amendments previously approved by the elected Board of Directors will come forward to the student body at-large for approval. The proposed changes include hiring executives instead of an election process and giving more unilateral power to the Board, among five other items.

The amendment to end executive elections and other policy moves being made by the student union to cut off Board of Directors meetings are part of a process to move IGNITE towards a more corporate future that officials claim is in the “best interest” of students and align the organization closer with the Ontario Non-for-profits Corporations Act. ■ ■

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