Eli Ridder | Report
In a story that went live late this week, IGNITE executives told the Humber Et Cetera why certain platform items central to their campaigns during election season last year were not fulfilled.
North Campus Vice President Jeremy Alfonso said he was unable to follow through on his plan to bring back the LinX Lounge as a student bar once again because the student union had a plan “in the works for months” to turn it into the now Linx Cafe.
Alfonso defended the re-branding, telling reporter Christian Aguirre that “the old bar had a lot of issues regarding security” and the pay-what-you-can soup bar that rescues unused food from business for students that need it.
Link: Read the Et Cetera Story
Guelph-Humber’s vice president, Maheen Nazim, ran on a platform that included the building of an IGNITE app with several functions, but soon after she was elected it quietly slipped off the map — she told the Et Cetera she found it was no longer viable.
“It came to my knowledge that developing an app would be associated with far greater costs than I had anticipated,” she said, adding that “If it were developed in my term, it would be at such a high cost you would actually be halting the development of other services.”
The article on the Et Cetera was titled “IGNITE progress report: promises made, promises kept”. An alternative progress report carried out by The Avro Post based on the facts known at the time found most the executives did not follow through on their platforms.
Several of the details found in the Humber Et Cetera report are the first-time they are being made public — The Avro Post reached out several times to the four IGNITE executives but never received a response.
The story published by the Humber Et Cetera went offline Thursday evening after it was made live on the website, but The Avro Post has a copy of the article which has been pasted below. It was written by Christian Aguirre.
IGNITE progress report: promises made, promises kept
Every year the students of Humber College elect a new IGNITE government. Once elected, these executives represent 83,000 students while fulfilling the mandates that brought them into power.
What many don’t realize is that the IGNITE executives work in an advocacy role and don’t have the power to make final decisions on important projects.
This reality causes some candidates promising things either outside the scope of executive influence or requiring years of planning.
The current executives followed through on some of their initiatives with great success but others initiatives are still in the early stages or can’t be accomplished.
For those asking why students never got expanded health care coverage or are wondering why LinX Lounge in North’s LX Building never re-opened as a bar or are still waiting for the IGNITE app to come out, the answers are below.
Humber Et Cetera followed up with the executives to ask about the projects they said they would fulfill while campaigning.
IGNITE President Monica Khosla
IGNITE President Monica Khosla ran on the platform of transparency and accessibility.
Khosla said multiple times as a candidate she did not want to promise anything because she didn’t know the limitations of her position but would push her influence to its limits.
So far Khosla has focused on the accessibility aspect of her campaign.
The President organized three focus groups last semester to talk to students about accessibility issues on their campus.
“I did one at each campus, in those focus groups we talked about barriers that students encountered,” Khosla said.
She said she got an “amazing” amount of feedback from the focus groups. Khosla told Et Cetera she will spend time this semester compiling and analyzing the data.
Once she is done she will report the findings as recommendations to the appropriate people.
Although the data is being analyzed, Khosla took that feedback and managed to advocate for the installations of accessibility buttons on campus.
“We installed a couple of buttons around the school for doors that are heavy,” she said.
Besides focus groups, other parts of her accessibility plan were to provide braille on signs and closed captions on IGNITE videos.
Braille has not been implemented around campus at the time of publication.
“Coming into the position I realized something such as braille on all our signage wasn’t going to happen as soon as I wanted it too, there are conversations that Humber College and Guelph-Humber are having right now to go under construction and change all of their signage,” Khosla said.
As for her plan to add closed captions IGNITE videos, Khosla said soon after she came in power she realized that all IGNITE videos already had closed captions.
She also campaigned on increasing the IGNITE student bursary, expanding healthcare benefits and creating a more transparent presidency.
Once in power the new IGNITE president realized that increasing the student bursary would take longer than she expected.
“I did my best to increase it but there were conversations that might have affected the students in a bad way by increasing it,” Khosla said. “Sometimes if you increase something you have to take something away and so I can’t speak on what that would be. I just didn’t think it was something that could happen immediately.”
On the matter of transparency, she prides herself in her quick replies of student inquiries.
“I made sure that every student inquiry that ever came my way, whether it was in person or on email or whether it was a phone call, they got a follow up from me within two to three business days,” Khosla said.
On expanding healthcare coverage, she said she is currently still looking into the possible benefits and possible harms before deciding to increase anything. But Khosla doesn’t think she can change healthcare benefits during her term.
She told Humber Et Cetera although IGNITE executives have “quite a bit” of influence they are not the ones who executes what they are advocating.
“We often take (ideas or plans) to stakeholders, we put it on their agendas and we speak on behalf of the students through us and then its up to them (stakeholders) to push that forward, unfortunately that means somethings will be either stopped and somethings will be a go but we advocate as hard as we can to get other people to do it,” said the IGNITE president.
Khosla is currently undecided if she will run for re-election.
Vice-President of North: Jeremy Largo-Afonso
North Campus Vice President Jeremy Largo-Afonso campaigned on the platform of increasing study space, reopening the LinX Lounge and achieving academic advocacy for students in event of another strike.
Over the course of his term he participated in a number of projects involving space allocation on campus. Largo-Afonso advocated for increased study space and as a result the H205 lab will be reallocated as study space.
“Currently there is over 100 seats (in H205) but as of September 2019 their will be closer to 175,” he said.
Largo-Afonso also advocated for renovations in J , H , B, E and F for work spaces and currently is looking into getting cell phone charging stations on campus.
He said reopening LinX as a bar requires compromise because a plan to re-brand the old bar into a cafe was in the works for months before he was elected.
Largo-Afonso defends the re-branding, saying the old bar had a lot of issues regarding security.
“The soup bar is a much needed initiative,” Largo-Afonso said. “It involves rescuing food from a lot of different restaurants and supermarkets and bring that fresh food to LinX in order to create soup and also other good stuff for students who cannot afford a lot of the stuff that goes on at Humber.”
A part of the Vice President’s campaign was to achieve “academic advocacy” in event of a strike, but IGNITE did not take part in internal talks involving strike policy. The VP says he did approach the Humber Administration early into his term and found out about the school’s strike policy.
Largo-Afonso said he was pleased with the recent policy changes which allow students to complete coursework during a strike but did point out that the departments can control how they allow professors to manage coursework during a strike.
“This is something that they worked out internally,” said the VP of North Campus “After I was elected I found out about a lot of the stuff within Humber, they already made shifts to accommodate for these type of issues that go on so that was actually a very good thing.”
When asked about the challenges that he faced as Vice President, Largo-Afonso said that since IGNITE executives work in an advocacy capacity they don’t actually have the power to make decisions.
“The biggest misconception is that we have a lot of power,”said the VP.
The executive used the issue of food changes on campus as an example.
“During our current executive year we were not able to effect any of the food choices that are downstairs primarily because Chartwells, our main food distributor handle a lot of the contracts,” Largo-Afonso said.
The VP also told Humber Et Cetera that although he does get to make decisions in advancing his initiatives he does not always get the final say as a lot of projects involve collaboration with other groups.
“There are a lot of ups and down, definitely for every three to four asks we send out we maybe get one yes, and one maybe,” Largo-Afonso said.
The executive said his biggest achievement was successfully advocating for a full fall reading week, which is starting in September 2019.
He will not be running for re-election.
Vice-President of Guelph-Humber: Maheen Nazim
The current IGNITE Vice President for the University of Guelph-Humber, Maheen Nazim ran a campaign advocating for better communication, accessibility, and leadership.
Nazim’s platform had many specific goals, including advocating for summer placements for Guelph-Humber students, creating a larger academic program representative group, creating an IGNITE app and partnering with the Information Technology department.
Once elected, Nazim realized the idea of an IGNITE app would not be viable.
“It came to my knowledge that developing an app would be associated with far greater costs than I had anticipated,” she said. “If it were developed in my term, it would be at such a high cost you would actually be halting the development of other services.”
Aiming to improve communication and leadership, Nazim and VP of Lakeshore Graham Budgeon, worked together on the creation of the “VP for me” initiative.
A topic is chosen and the Vice Presidents talk students about the it.
“Last month was wellness, so during exam season, how do you stay well and what kinds of campus services are you looking for us to develop,” Nazim said.
She also found success when advocating for summer placements for Guelph-Humber students.
“Five out of the seven programs are confirmed to have summer placements, the fifth starting this summer, which is justice studies,” said Nazim.
She said she hopes to advocate for summer placements for the remaining two programs before the end of her term and at least wants to get the proposals in place before she hands off her duties to the next vice president.
IGNITE is currently in talks with the Tech department and a partnership is being developed. Nazim told Humber Et Cetera the talks are still in the very preliminary stages and could not give further details.
Nazim tackled the issue of accessibility by taking part in the launching of IGNITE’s accessibility campaign.
Nazim campaigned on partnering with local off-campus restaurants to get discounts for students. So far no partnerships have been made.
Vice President of Lakeshore: Graham Budgeon
Graham Budgeon campaigned as “The Man with a plan.”
Budgeon had an extensive plan that covered mental health, housing initiatives, campus connectivity, societies, and student employment.
Part of his platform was a housing strategy that included building a landlord profile database, looking into employing “houseviewers” and having awareness seminars for international students.
He discovered the platform was difficult because of the scope of the project.
Burgeon said the redevelopment of E building will provide a sufficient solution to affordable housing in the area.
Although part of Burgeon’s plan was to advocate for housing seminars for international students none have been hosted so far.
Another part of Burgeon’s plan was to create an IGNITE tab in MyHumber.
He says that project involves working with the college’s Tech Department and IGNITE is waiting on them to advance the project.
“We are anticipating that this will come to fruition, however, adjustments were having to be made and modified to our current platform which is Blackboard,” he said.
Burgeon said Nazim, the Guelph-Humber VP, was helping spearhead the project.
His platform also included a fee protocol which would allow students to opt out of certain student fees.
“That was something that was designed for health and dental benefits and that is something students can do,” he said.
Another part of Burgeon’s platform involved the idea of bringing “Societies” on campus.
He said the initiative was planned as an online portal meant to introduce students from different programs to each other and bring relevant polytechnic multidisciplinary projects to academics.
Societies will no longer be an online portal but will be embedded in a work integrated learning program currently under development.
Burgeon said that work integrated learning programs essentially cover the concepts behind the societies initiatives.
“Work-integrated learning which is the concept of bringing opportunities into the classroom,” he said.
Burgeon also wanted to improve student employment.
“Another big concept within work-integrated learning is being able to bring work study 2.0 on campus,” said Burgeon. The 2.0 version is more aligned with the vision of theInstitutional Learning Outcomes project.
“There is a new project in the works among multiple players within the institution and its called the institutional learning outcomes, which are essentially core competencies that the institution feels all Humber students should graduate with,” he said.
Budgeon tackled the issue of mental health by collaborating with on-campus partners to help develop wellness initiatives.
He said he worked closely with the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre, advocating changes and solutions for a new student assistance program called Therapy Assisted Online or TAO.
He is also helping develop the Student Wellness Calendar which will display holistic factors and holistic events for wellness on campus.
The Lakeshore executive said he has been working on the calendar, under development since November, will include events like fitness activities and workshops.
More details to follow. ■
Nominations open for 2020 IGNITE elections
Nomination packages are due by Feb. 14.
IGNITE on Tuesday posted details and nomination packages for its 2020 elections on social media, setting up its first ever election without executive positions.
There are 10 positions open for students to run for, all on the Board of Directors.
There are four positions open at North Campus, three seats at Lakeshore, two open at Guelph-Humber and a sole position available at Orangeville.
All nomination packages are due by Feb. 14 and can be filled out on the elections webpage. ■
A new era for IGNITE
The next generation of directors will have new challenges.
With the passing of several bylaw amendments on Wednesday at a Special Meeting of the Members, IGNITE on Thursday strides into a new era with five months of decision-making behind it.
Elections will start in a matter of weeks and, for the first time in its history, the student union will not be electing executives. There will only be candidates for the Board, which sits at the top of IGNITE.
There will be open seats at Humber College’s North, Lakeshore and Orangeville Campuses as well as at the University of Guelph-Humber. This next generation of directors will preside over a very different student union then the one the current term was handed last April.
In some ways, there will be more certainty.
They will enter a student union that has been reset with a new, more corporate direction moving forward through a new base rule: By-law No. 1 — which resets the rules for IGNITE with the bylaw amendments that students passed at the Special Meeting of the Members, combined with the skeleton of the previous Constitution.
That is not to say there will not be challenges. Chief among them will be the ongoing legal struggle over the Student Choice Initiative. Currently, the province is looking to appeal the decision made by the Ontario Divisional Court to strike down the initiative.
Several student unions, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union, have cancelled opt-out portals, ending its optional student fees and returning to the previous status quo of 100 per cent mandatory fees.
IGNITE reiterated its position on Wednesday that it would not end optional student fees while the SCI was in essential legal limbo.
If the Ford administration is successful in repealing the court ruling, student union officials said they would not want a scenario where they would have to flip-flop between mandatory and optional fees.
Directors will also have to manage hiring and overseeing the new student engagement coordinators, who will replace the current executive model.
They will be hired staffers within the student union and sit below the executive director and alongside part-time staff, according to graphics released by IGNITE. ■
Constitution formally replaced with ‘By-law No. 1’
It awaits AGM approval.
Following approval by the members of new bylaw amendments on Wednesday, IGNITE has replaced its Constitution with “By-law No. 1”, though it still needs confirmation by the members at the Annual General Meeting.
By-Law No. 1 contains eight pages of rules, a full five pages less than the previous Constitution. It states it will need confirmation by the members on Mar. 22, 2020, a potential reveal of the date set for the AGM, a normal timeframe. ■
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