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. ■
IGNITE stays neutral for now on SCI ruling
The approach is different from other student unions.
IGNITE responded to the court ruling that found the Student Choice Initiative “unlawful” on Friday afternoon, declaring neutrality until there is a formal response from the provincial government.
The Ontario Divisional Court ruled on Thursday that the initiative, known as the SCI, was an overreach by Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives.
The SCI established some ancillary fees “non-essential” and allowed students to opt out of funding parts of student unions, campus publications and other organizations.
“IGNITE will not speculate on the ramifications of this announcement as we await a response from the provincial government,” President Monica Khosla said in a statement released by IGNITE. ■
IGNITE confirms what TAP was cut off for
Board meetings will be cut off, in general.
IGNITE confirmed to another publication that the eventual plan is to close off Board of Directors meetings to students unless they are invited as guests, a development that The Avro Post reported on in October and was considered inaccurate reporting by the student union’s officials.
The Humber Et Cetera reported this week that Executive Director Ercole Perrone said “the intent is to move towards a more formalized non-profit organization style way to work”, meaning that meetings will be closed off from the general student body unless they gain access via permission from directors.
The Avro Post reported in October following a press briefing with IGNITE officials that Perrone said the plan for the student union was to move towards a more corporate future, saying that only directors have the right to attend the Board meetings, citing the Ontario Corporations Act.
Just days later on Oct. 15, IGNITE President Monica Khosla said the reporting on the Board being cut off was incorrect. However, the Et Cetera reported this week that only directors and “guests the [B]oard wants to hear from” will be allowed inside the meetings, confirming that, in general, meetings will no longer be open to any member.
It appears this change will be offered as a bylaw amendment at the January Special Meeting of the Members, however, it was not highlighted in the meeting minutes of September’s gathering when Board directors passed the proposals. A final approval from members, or students, will be needed on Jan. 16 to pass or deny all the amendments in a package.
The current bylaws state that IGNITE must post the times and locations of the Board meetings and that a student can attend as long as directors do not vote in a majority to ask the student to leave. IGNITE removed the times and dates of the meetings earlier this year after denying a student journalist entry to the September Board meeting, breaking their own bylaws.
The Board of Directors is a 10-member decision-making body elected by those enrolled at Humber College campuses and the University of Guelph-Humber. It is responsible for upwards of $8 million paid in student fees.
Among the changes to IGNITE’s governance is the end of executive elections. Officials say this move is meant to make the Board of Directors the face of IGNITE while the hired president and vice presidents will focus on leading operations as executive staff members.
Though it is rare, a few other student unions in Ontario also hire their executives. Khosla and Guelph-Humber Vice President Megan Roopnarine are on the record as being for the structural changes.
A third significant amendment that will be up for approval in January is a proposal to give the Board of Directors to pass amendments that will come into effect immediately. It can later be overturned at a large member meeting but it allows directors to have more unilateral power.
It is unclear if all the directors voted in favour of these changes or if it was a smaller-than-unanimous majority to pass the bylaw amendments.
There were some other items passed by the Board including, but not limited to, new classifications of IGNITE membership, document execution being under the control of the executive director and a vaguely worded amendment specifying that the “president term will be used for [B]oard chairperson”.
The new classifications come about because of the Student Choice Initiative and was expected.
The top classification is “Full-Time Enhanced Members”, which appear to be those that opt-in to IGNITE fees, though there is no specification for those that only opt-in to some.
“Full-Time Members” and “Part-Time Members” are those who pay only the mandatory ancillary fees. All three classifications are official members of IGNITE and so it is understood they will be able to still vote in elections and at special meetings.
It is unclear exactly what “executive documents being overseen by the executive director” means as an amendment but The Avro Post has reached out for comment from IGNITE for clarification.
Another hard-to-understand change is the “president term” being used for the Board chairperson. It is not clear via the meeting minutes whether that means the president’s term in regards to time or the terminology of “president” being applied to the chairperson.
Currently, the Board directors start and end their term at the same time as the executives so it would seem unusual for new amendments to specify that just the chair would have the same term timewise as the president.
It seems more likely that the chairperson position itself could be renamed to “president” to signify the Board’s importance from the student perspective, a goal that Executive Director Ercole Perrone and other officials have said they have committed to in the coming months.
These items will be flushed out in more detail at the Special Meeting of the Member and potentially press briefings that The Post will no longer have access to due to being cut off by IGNITE on Oct. 15 from briefings, interviews with elected student representatives and all other media requests.
There could be other items up for change come January but only the “highlights” of the amendments were noted in the Sept. 11 meeting minutes. ■
IGNITE confirms 80% opt-in, critical meeting date
The special meeting will be Jan. 16.
IGNITE confirmed that there was an 80 per cent opt-in for the Student Choice Initiative earlier this year to the Humber Et Cetera, confirming the number stated by Humber College President Chris Whitaker in September, and narrowed down the date of a critical public January meeting.
Officials at a press briefing with IGNITE on Oct. 4 were surprised when Post reporters asked if the student union would release official opt-in numbers, and said they would take it under advisement. Most Toronto student unions have released their numbers.
The Student Choice Initiative, or SCI, was mandated by the provincial government in January among a series of reforms that cut student grants and post-secondary education funding across Ontario under the Progressive Conservatives.
Another article found in the same edition of the weekly newspaper reported that the Special Meeting of the Members, pushed back to the new year so IGNITE has time to prepare significant bylaw changes, will be on Jan. 16, confirming the date for the first time.
“The intent is to move towards a more formalized non-profit organization style way to work, which is to say meetings with the Board of Directors and guests the board wants to hear from,” Executive Director Ercole Perrone said to the Et Cetera, confirming reporting by The Avro Post earlier this year that IGNITE officials said was incorrect before cutting the publication off.
A member of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union at Humber told a Post reporter last week that she had reached out to the student union in the past thinking they would be natural allies, but IGNITE was not responsive.
IGNITE has come under backlash from students for some of the bylaw amendments that were passed by the Board of Directors in September including ending executive elections and giving more power to the Board for unilateral decisions. ■
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