Eli Ridder | Report
IGNITE has come under fire for not well-advertising, not livestreaming and having poor accessibility supports for their Annual General Meeting that was held on Wednesday, the last major public event the student union will hold ahead of optional student fees that come into effect this fall.
Several students posted publicly and also told The Avro Post that they were disappointed in the advertisement for the AGM, where at least 50 students have to be in attendance for quorum to be reached.
A $5 million stopgap budget was introduced at the meeting by student union executives, a budget that will be refurbished by the next Board of Directors come summer due to the lack of details from the province on the Student Choice Initiative which introduces optional student fees come fall.
A casual poll by The Avro Post following the AGM on social media found that 78 per cent of 18 respondents do not find IGNITE to be transparent and eight students over five were not “happy” with the meeting.
IGNITE posted about the event on Facebook once and it was on the day before on Mar. 26, and there was no event page for the forum. IGNITE never posted about the AGM on its most popular social media platform, Instagram.
The managing editor of IGNITE Alena Blanes, who also works in University of Guelph-Humber public relations, said on social media that the AGM advertisement has been on the IGNITE website since Mar. 8 — however, The Avro Post found the AGM event post at the bottom of their homepage.
Also, there was no page linked to the Annual General Meeting event listing on the governance section of the IGNITE website where each Board of Directors meeting is listed.
“My issue with this AGM was that I had not seen an announcement of it at all until the day of, and as a student with classes and time that needs to be managed, something as important as this should have been announced in advance,” first-year psychology student Arnold Samson told The Avro Post.
Samson, who attends Guelph-Humber, said he had signed up for a blood donation appointment before knowing that the meeting was taking place and explained he would have adjusted his schedule to attend if he was aware it was taking place.
IGNITE reportedly would only allow students in if they came on time to the meeting.
Previously, IGNITE has live-streamed the Annual General Meeting on their Facebook page, most recently in 2017. When a student inquired why they did not run a live video during the event this year, the union said that they did not want those who do not pay student fees to watch.
“My other issue with the AGM was that it was not made available to students in the public via a livestream or with immediate follow up as it should have been something all students should have had access to,” Samson said.
In a comment on IGNITE’s response that they did not want non-fee-paying members to watch an AGM livestream, first-year public relations student Michel Figueredo expressed his disappointment in IGNITE’s response.
“Can’t believe IGNITE said this,” the Humber College Lakeshore Campus student told The Avro Post, adding that it was “completely ridiculous as we pay tuition fees that support this ‘union’.”
“The fact that the Humber [administration] allows this type of behaviour is just an example of how the Ryerson [Student] Union were able to do what they did,” he added, referencing a financial scandal that engulfed the Ryerson student government after executives inappropriately spent some $250,000 of its budget.
Arnold Samson had messaged the IGNITE Instagram page asking if a livestream was possible, but never received a response. The student union has livestreamed several events in the past, most recently the IGNITE Real Talks event with Phoebe Robinson.
“I understand that space is hard to plan for, however, we literally live at the height of technology where anyone with a mobile device and either a Wi-Fi connection or a cell data plan can access a livestream,” Samson said.
“Again, I find it hard to believe that a student group that I am paying money to could not organize a free livestream from a free app such as Instagram, or through a free website such as Facebook.”
Guelph-Humber student Emelia Maceášik, sensible drug policy club president and former Senate candidate, pointed out to The Avro Post that, though the president focused on her accessibility initiatives at the AGM, there “was no live or real-time capturing services” like there has been for previous IGNITE events.
Student activist Hannah Derue, a fourth-year who has also ran for Senate in the past, said on social media that if she was returning to the University of Guelph-Humber in the fall she would opt-out of funding the student union, saying the “lack of transparency is sickening.”
In a statement to The Avro Post, Arnold Samson said that it was “disappointing” to someone “who is interested in student government and policy” that he could not rely on the student government to have “open communication” with the student body.
Samson eventually heard from IGNITE that he could get the minutes of the Annual General Meeting after they were approved at the next Board of Directors meeting on April 11. Calling that response “off-putting”, Samson said “I now have to wait for the approval of publications for decisions that have already been made”.
“It looks to me — at least on the surface — that IGNITE has hit a huge speed bump, and something needs to be done otherwise many students such as myself will loose trust in IGNITE and choose to opt-out of extra fees come fall 2019.”
The Avro Post reached out for comment from the IGNITE executive director, Ercole Perrone, and the elected student representatives for comment, but did not recieve a response. Guelph-Humber Director-elect Erika Caldwell said she did not have a comment on the AGM.
Image of the Annual General Meeting from The Avro Post.
Editor’s Note: It should be noted that The Avro Post reached out to as many students as possible to try and get a varied spectrum of opinions on the Annual General Meeting.
Full disclosure: Hannah Derue is a partner of Eli Ridder, editor-in-chief of The Avro Post.