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Analysis

IGNITE’s changing relationship with student journalists

A breakdown of recent events.

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File photo.

ANALYSIS

IGNITE has been working to change its relationship with student journalists this fall by introducing a new way for reporters to request a comment or ask for an interview and have scheduled monthly press briefings.

The changes come as after the previous communications coordinator Peter Seney departed the student union with his replacement due to arrive after Thanksgiving.

During the Oct. 4 press briefing, the acting communications director told student journalists that they wanted to change how the relationship worked headed into the future.

Up until this point, the communications strategy of the student union was to largely ignore requests from The Avro Post. Even the student journalism’s newspaper, the Et Cetera, had issues in the past getting in contactt, according to two sources.

As pressure was mounting from the provincially mandated Student Choice Initiative, the dynamic changed. The Avro Post for the first time was invited into the North Campus offices to learn more about IGNITE’s plan for optional student fees.

There were two meetings in April. The Post’s Melissa Lopez and Arnold Samson were given access to Executive Director Ercolé Perrone that gave insight into how the student union was tackling the SCI.

After that, there were not many responses until August when a third Post reporter was allowed inside the offices for another interview with Perrone, where he gave more details on the student union’s finances and how North’s new Vice President Shay Hamilton was hired.

An analysis even found that IGNITE appeared to be changing their transparency policies to be more open. That was true until the night of Sept. 11, when a Post journalist was not allowed into a Board of Directors meeting, sparking a series of events that led to where we are now.

During that Board meeting, IGNITE posted a new policy on its Governance webpage, saying that only Board directors have “a right” to be at the meetings under provincial law.

While it was a legally sound statement, there was backlash over the ethics of cutting off students, which is what the statement appeared to indicate as it said students needed special permission from the executive director.

During the Oct. 4 press briefing, officials said the online policy had to be updated to reflect what the actual rules were. Perrone clarified that students could still go to the meetings but that student journalists would likely not be allowed in.

Perrone explained that Board directors could ask students to leave. The Post attempted to find the Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday evening but was unsuccessful as it was not held on the sixth floor of the Learning Resource Commons, where it was before.

IGNITE has removed the meeting time and locations from its Governance page. Thus, it is unclear how interested students are able to go without contacting the student union, which is the policy online that Perrone said is not accurate.

The Avro Post has reached out for comment regarding the times and locations of the Board meetings. Due to a web archive service, the last confirmed date that all the locations were posted online was Aug. 14.

At the time, the Wednesday meeting location was still “to be determined”, though most of the other meetings had locations set already for the upcoming academic year.

IGNITE has become faster at responding to requests since the Oct. 4 press briefing. The Avro Post will be conducting an interview next week, a result of a request made through the media form online.

However, it is unclear at this point what the future of the relationship will look like. Will reporters be allowed to ask any questions during press briefings or will the topics be controlled? What can be expected? ■

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Analysis

What we learned from IGNITE’s information session

Executives will be called Student Engagement Coordinators.

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File photo from the event.

ANALYSIS

The new name of the executives, the source of the proposal ending executive elections and a lot of deflected questions — this is what took place at Thursday’s information session hosted by members of IGNITE’s Board of Directors and other officials ahead of the Special Meeting of the Members.

Who was present? For the time that The Avro Post had reporters present from 12 p.m. to about 12:50 p.m., Board Chairperson Neto Naniwambote and follow North Campus Director Eden Tavares were in attendance.

Who else? Guelph-Humber Director Erika Caldwell, who hosted her own similar event last week with her counterpart, Leadership Initiatives Coordinator Kristine Gavlan and Vice President Megan Roopnarine, who also represents Guelph-Humber.

So what did we learn? Probably the biggest story here is the constant deflections or, in most cases, the lack of knowledge the directors have about their own bylaws. When a reporter and a columnist with The Post pushed the directors present on some of the questions we had, they didn’t have much to say.

When it came to the question of IGNITE not allowing a Post reporter into their September Board of Directors meeting, going against a rule in what was then in their policies, Caldwell said she would not comment on previous events.

The second up to bat when it comes to big news items are the statements from Tavares and Gavlan that revealed it was IGNITE’s lawyer who was at least part of the initiative to end executive elections and hire students instead.

Tavares specifically said the lawyer “proposed” the amendment while Gavlan stated that the idea of ending executive elections had been “on the table” for some time, without specifying how long. The Post asked several times exactly how long the concept had been considered but Gavlan only answered that with a question: “Why do you want to know?”

We learned some new and exciting things about what the executives will become. First off, they will be called “Student Engagement Coordinators”. Secondly, there will only be three of them and the way directors explained it to The Post , there will no longer be a president-like role.

Thirdly, they will be hired regardless of campus, based on merit only. For example, if the three best candidates are from Lakeshore Campus, then they will be hired.

Finally, the student engagement coordinators will be hired via a panel that Gavlan said would include a representative from the Board of Directors and a member of the administration. The hiring group would be chosen in such a way to avoid conflict-of-interest. For example, staff that have worked with an applicant that was previously a director would not be part of the panel.

A reminder: a lot of these changes actually come down to a vote by students before they are set in stone. On Jan. 22 there will be a Special Meeting of the Members that any full-time student can go to and vote. Part-time students can go but cannot vote. All that is required is a student identification. ■

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Analysis

Part 1: Want to run for IGNITE?

Part 1 of a series on how to run successfully.

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File photo.

ANALYSIS

It’s that time of year again when students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber are starting to ask the questions about running in IGNITE’s elections.

This is a quick primer on what exactly should be considered before getting started, how to prepare and what it takes to win — brought together by analysis of recent election history and interviews with past representatives. It is useful to both those brand new to student elections as well as veterans.

First off, you need to know that the options for elections will likely shrink. Dependent on a vote by regular students at a January Special Meeting of the Members, bylaw amendments could be passed that end elections for the president and vice presidents.

The most recent time that students voted against proposed changes was at a highly controversial meeting in the spring of 2014 when presidential election results were thrown out after a popular incumbent president was disqualified before voting could be completed.

Thus, if you were thinking of running for president or vice president, there is a chance you may not be able to. However, the positions will be be filled by hired students so if you want to apply through the hiring process, that is an option as well.

So, should you wish to campaign be elected into the student union, that leaves the Board of Directors. There are 10 directors this year, but there could be only nine seats up for grabs if no one wants the Orangeville director seat, which appears to only be available when one shows interest.

North Campus, with the largest population of students, has four seats on the Board. Lakeshore has three. Guelph-Humber has two. If there is a director from Orangeville, then there are 10 in total.

Those interested need to submit nomination papers. Then campaigns get underway middle to late February, running for around 10 days. During that time, candidates will be able to put up posters, hand out literature and participate in campaign events.

There are limits to how much a candidate can spend.

For the Board of Directors races, it is usually $100, however, this could potentially see a change when new bylaw amendments are approved in January, but there has been no confirmation because the amendments have not been detailed in full yet.

The presidential candidates could in previous years spend up to $300 and those aiming for the vice presidency of their respective campus could drop up to $200 on their campus.

Vague wording from the Sept. 11 Board of Directors meeting minutes state that the “president term” will be used for the chairperson of the Board. Since the student union has cut off The Avro Post, further requests for clarification went unanswered.

However, if the interpretation of that amendment is meant to define the chairperson as some new “president” figure — which falls in line with what IGNITE officials have been saying in recent months regarding making the Board the “face” of the student union — then possibly the position will be elected by a campus-wide vote instead of an internal Board vote.

There is no evidence to suggest this. But if it does happen, there could be a higher spending limit. Without executive elections, the Board would be more central to IGNITE elections than in the past, and spending limit changes could reflect this.

Other technical factors that need to be considered is that IGNITE election candidates need to be in good academic standing to participate. They also cannot be a president or executive of any external club or student organization. If the candidate is an IGNITE club president, they will have to step down.

But how do you win? The Post has spoken to several former candidates and successful student representatives to get the big ideas on how to win and they will be found in part two of this three-part series on IGNITE elections. ■

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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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