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IGNITE continues to insist students don’t want a ‘line-by-line’

An analysis on budget transparency.

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Eli Ridder | Report

For the first time ever, journalists from The Avro Post were admitted inside the offices of IGNITE where the executive director willingly gave an interview — journalists were there for a budget that the student union insists no one will read nor does anyone want.

Read: First Story from Our Interview With IGNITE

Ercole Perrone made the point that this year’s budget is not finalized yet due to the chaos of the government-imposed Student Choice Initiative. But when asked by our reporter about posting last year’s full budget instead of an infographic, he shrugged the question off.

These are the facts: The majority of students don’t care about the budget of their student union but out of the about 25 per cent of students that vote year-over-year, this could matter to them. Some have told The Avro Post that they trust IGNITE and that a more in-depth budget is not necessary to post.

However, others publicly, privately and anonymously have spoke up over what they see as a lack of transparency. IGNITE has, for the years since it was branded as a student union for both Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, experienced issues over transparency several times.

IGNITE annually posts an infographic that critics have said shows a lack of financial transparency because they do not know where the $10 million of the student union’s budget goes. The money comes almost entirely from students in a $75 fee.

A fee that is now at least partially optional.

The Avro Post was able to send journalists only because we asked our reporters to email Mr. Perrone as individual students after the March Annual General Meeting when the executive director said students could come to his office to see copies of the budget.

When our reporter showed up on Monday, she revealed that she was with The Avro Post and said she would turn on a recording for transparency’s sake. There will be a second meeting on Friday with two our journalists that will build on what we learned in the first interview.

The Humber Et Cetera, an official but academically-tied student publication, was able to interview the executive director earlier this month.

IGNITE continues to ignore requests for comment from The Avro Post as an organization and a reporter was blocked from a Board of Directors meeting because he “was not a student”, despite the fact that he had a student number and was registered for the fall.

The critical Board of Directors meeting went uncovered.

IGNITE continues to insist students do not want what many call a “line-by-line” or more detailed budget but several students have made it clear they want one for transparency’s sake. This fall, students will have the choice to de-fund IGNITE, and there will many who decide to fund it and some who do not.

The question being asked here by student journalists is, if it is a time when the perception of transparency matters a lot so that students trust the union can use their money wisely to their benefit, why not try every way possible to be so?


Image of IGNITE from The Avro Post. ■

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Campus

IGNITE Board to meet again in a hidden location

The student union has hidden exact locations since September.

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File photo via Pexels.

IGNITE’s Board of Directors, made up of elected student representatives, will be meeting on Wednesday evening at the University of Guelph-Humber, according to a schedule posted earlier this year by the student union, but no exact location or time has been made public.

The Board meeting locations were removed by the student union in September after paid staff blocked a reporter from The Avro Post from entering that month’s gathering of directors, a meeting that later turned out to be of major significance.

The Avro Post attempted to find the meeting in October but was unsuccessful. According to the IGNITE bylaws, the directors have to hold a majority vote to kick a student from the meeting, including student journalists. They are also required to post the meetings publicly.

However, IGNITE has rules currently on its Governance webpage that instruct students, who are classified as members of the union, to reach out to the executive director to obtain access to the meetings, bending the rules of their own bylaws.

If the meeting is indeed held in the University of Guelph-Humber, the typical location for the Board to gather is the conference room found by the entrance doors to the university in the Atrium. ■

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Analysis

Briefing: Everything IGNITE since September

100 words, 700 words and point-form.

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Graphic by The Avro Post.

BRIEFING

Welcome to the Briefing, a new type of article that breaks down a story into a 100 word version, a 700 full-length edition and a point form analysis.

This Briefing is on everything going on with the governance of IGNITE, the student union for Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, since the beginning of the student year.


100 words

IGNITE is looking to make several changes to how the student union works. 

All of these changes will need majority approval from students at a January Special Meeting of the Members. They were previously approved by the Board of Directors in September.

The proposed bylaw amendments give the Board more unilateral power and end president and vice president elections.

The Board has been hiding the location of their meetings, breaking its own bylaws that specify that exact times and locations are to be posted publicly.

IGNITE recently cut off The Avro Post from press briefings, interviews and all media requests.


700 words

IGNITE has proposed several bylaw amendments to how its governance and operations function. Some of these changes have precedent elsewhere but many are uncommon for a student union.

All of these changes will need majority approval from students at a January Special Meeting of the Members, a meeting that any student can attend and have a vote on the changes as a unified package, but not individual amendments.

These amendments were previously approved by the Board of Directors in September. The meeting minutes only give the “highlights” of the amendments so it may not be all of the proposed changes, however.

The most outwardly noticeable change for students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber will be the end of executive elections.

The executive team is made up of the president, who represents all IGNITE members and each vice president, each representing either North Campus, Lakeshore or Guelph-Humber.

Another change that the Board wants to bring about is the ability for their decisions to come into effect immediately after majority approval at a meeting. However, an item approved will still need later approval at a meeting of the members.

If the members — all voting students — vote against the changes at the Special Meeting of the Members, it is unclear if the decision is applied retroactively or if the Board’s decision is simply repealed from the bylaws. 

Also, if students are unable to find the Board meetings and minutes are only posted a month later after they are approved at the next Board meeting, students would be unaware for at least 30 days that a bylaw had changed.

The Board did not post the meeting minutes from the May or September meetings until long after the October Board meeting, which, despite efforts from The Avro Post to find it, was hidden.

If The Post was able to enter the Board meeting in September instead of being told to leave in a unilateral move by a staff member, then this publication would have been able to report that these bylaws were passed by the directors.

There were some new items also passed by the Board and up for consideration by students in January 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 “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 press briefings, elected student representatives and all other media requests.

President Monica Khosla explained the main reason for this was because The Post inaccurately reported that the executive director, Perrone, said that IGNITE eventually wants to cut Board of Directors meetings off entirely from students that are members.

The Avro Post stands by the reporting as accurate. However, there is no plan in place at this time in the set of bylaw amendments headed to the special meeting in January to enact such a change.


Point analysis

Various points on the incoming bylaws:

  • Unilateral Board decisions: Also not unprecedented and appears to be utilized by other student unions. However, an ex-president of another student union said that changing bylaws are typically a move ratified by an AGM.
    • To note: Amendments will still be ratified by a meeting of the members — which are all students — with this proposal.

All these changes will be passed or not passed at a Special Meeting of the Members expected for mid- to late-January. If they are passed, they will come into effect, likely immediately.

If not, it is unclear if there will be need to be urgent Board action to come up with new proposals for the Annual General Meeting usually held near the end of the winter semester. ■

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Campus

IGNITE holding financial planning event

The event is part of the ‘Lunch & Learn’ series.

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File photo.

IGNITE is holding a free event focused on financial planning featuring Rob Carrick of The Globe and Mail.

The event, called ‘How to Not Move Back in With Your Parents”, will run on Nov. 13 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and students can register via Eventbrite.

The first 25 students to arrive will recieve a free copy of Carrick’s book of the same name as the event.

The event is part of the “Lunch & Learn” series on how to be an adult presented by IGNITE, that focuses on financial independence. ■

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