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An unprecedented interview turns into a strict dismissal

An in-depth look at the Tuesday meeting.

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IGNITE TRANSPARENCY CRISIS

Two reporters from The Avro Post entered the North Campus IGNITE offices early on Tuesday afternoon to interview the president of the student union, who was elected by and is paid by students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber.

It was the first time ever that a request from The Post to interview any executive was agreed to during their term, as opposed to when they are candidates. Nearly all the currently elected IGNITE executives and Board directors were interviewed by The Post during their election campaigns.

It was an unprecedented interview that Post reporters prepared for. However, before any questions could be asked of the president’s plans for the coming academic year or about the status of IGNITE’s finances following the Student Choice Initiative, which have not yet been revealed.

“Before we start with the interview, we need to address a couple things and make sure that we’re all on the same page here,” Acting Communications Director Unika Hypolite said soon after reporters Kristy Lam and Eli Ridder sat down in a conference-type meeting room.

Hypolite soon turned the conversation over to President Monica Khosla, who asked about The Avro Post’s journalism. “I went through your website and I was just curious to know how you fact-check,” she inquired.

At this point, The Post reporters gave a brief explanation. They pointed out that they look to send multiple reporters to the scene of a story and for exclusives or any other type of reporting, aim to gather as many facts, sources and first-hand details as possible for accurate reporting.

During that explanation, the routine request for comment that The Avro Post sends out anytime there is a story related to or involving IGNITE came up. Until last April, when the executive director suddenly started responding to Post requests for comment, there was little outbound communication from IGNITE.

Hypolite wanted to emphasize to The Post that this was because the student union receives several requests from journalism students a day, a statement they first made at the Oct. 4 press briefing. A new communications policy announced at that press briefing aims to change the speed of replies.

It was previously unclear why the student union only started responding in the spring after largely ignoring The Post for the majority of the previous year.

“I just wanted to make sure that we’re clear that it’s really just a function of availability and that’s trying to ensure that we’re doing the best that we can to do our jobs,” Hypolite added.

After The Post reporters talked about the difficulties of finding balance with covering the student union when IGNITE would largely ignore requests for comment and interviews, Hypolite reiterated a point made at the October press briefing: IGNITE welcomes criticism.

“We’re not interested in only just getting good reviews about us, we believe we’re on a spectrum of continuous improvement, so the truth is the truth and we’re happy to take it on and muscle forward,” the acting communications chief explained.

Hypolite then added: “I think it’s when it starts to get outside of those the boundaries is where there’s challenges”, setting up Khosla to point out the errors.

At the October press briefing, a first of its kind called in response to student journalists asking about IGNITE’s move to cut off Board of Directors meetings earlier in the semester, Executive Director Ercolé Perrone explained that, for the time being, the policy was to allow students to the meetings but Board members could vote to let them stay.

Khosla confirmed this, but said that Post reporting was incorrect regarding this: IGNITE will eventually close off Board of Directors meetings to all students with the exception of when the Board requests a student to specifically attend.

“What was said is that members have traditionally have had the option and the privilege to attend Board meetings, but moving forward, should those same students like to [attend], it will have to be a consensus between the Board members.”

Khosla took issue with the terminology of “phasing out students” used in a story based on what was learned at the press briefing. The executive director said it was part of IGNITE’s “best practice” for the meetings to eventually only be attended by the directors.

The Avro Post stands by the reporting as accurate.

Khosla raised issues with other reporting where the terminology was indeed incorrect. The two errors were also tied to the Oct. 4 press briefing: one where the term director was used instead of the correct “coordinator” and a quote recorded as Perrone’s was actually from Hypolite.

Student journalists were not allowed to audio record during the press briefing, despite IGNITE’s claims that they are always open to campus publications.

Then Khosla made the argument that, because The Avro Post is not officially affiliated with Humber College or the University of Guelph-Humber, it is not “on-campus media”. No independent student newspaper in the country is affiliated with their school as they are “independent”. It is the norm.

After this unusual assertion, Khosla went on say that “IGNITE will not be taking meetings with The Avro Post unless you guys are able to take the steps that are necessary to involve a faculty that can have an oversight on your articles to make sure that what’s being written is actually accurate.”

She added that the reporting is “harming for our organization, and this is harming for the students who do read your articles” and that she is “uncomfortable” reading stories that are not accurate.

Khosla added that she would feel more comfortable if a faculty oversaw The Post’s work. ■

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Humber monitoring coronavirus outbreak

There are no special actions at this time.

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Humber College said it is monitoring the novel coronavirus outbreak and its “potential impact on the institution” in a statement posted online last week and updated on Monday.

Toronto Public Health told the college that “there are no particular actions required” at this time.

A special group tasked with keeping the campus community informed on the latest precautions for the virus has been established, made up of stakeholders from various departments and the University of Guelph-Humber.

Humber points students, staff and faculty to the Ontario Ministry of Health website’s dedicated webpage for updates.

The college’s announcement also asked that those on campus “wash their hands as frequently as possible” due to it being the winter flu season.

As of Tuesday morning in Ontario, there is one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, one “presumptive” case and 11 cases under investigation. ■

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Nominations open for 2020 IGNITE elections

Nomination packages are due by Feb. 14.

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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. ■

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Bell Let’s Talk Day coming to Humber

Bell let’s talk day will be coming to Humber on Jan. 29.

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Bell will be bringing their yearly Let’s Talk event to Humber College this week.

Let’s Talk Day is a national day of raising awareness about mental health and furthering the conversation of acceptance, support and to decrease stigma.

The day also encourages the use of various platforms including social media to engage individuals. Bell also donates money to mental health funds based on messages sent throughout the day on their cellular network and social media posts.

Bell will be hosting two events at both Humber North and Lakeshore Campuses on Jan. 29.

The first event will be held at North in the LRC, starting at 10 a.m. and finishing at 12 p.m. The second event will be held at Lakeshore in A170 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The event is open to both Humber and Guelph-Humber student

Students who wish to contribute to the cause can make a tweet, a social media video, use Bell’s Facebook frame or Snapchat filter and also use the hashtag #BellLet’sTalk on social media. ■

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