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Re-‘IGNITE’ our union’s accountability to students

It appears IGNITE is becoming more and more tight-lipped.

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Graphic by The Avro Post.

OPINION

Anonymous
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Student unions are no strangers to controversy.

Earlier this year the Ryerson Student Union was audited after $273,000, in questionable expenses were discovered. Thousands spent on nightclubs, hotels, and other potentially questionable expenditures.

The school has since launched a forensic investigation into $700,000, worth of expenses that occurred over nine months. While some students may not think twice about their union while in college or university, it’s crucial to hold them to account.

Transparency from student unions should be expected, and officials should be forthcoming with information.

In 2018, Humber’s IGNITE managed a budget of $11,133,000. Of that total, just $197,000, is derived from “programming related” and “ancillary operations” revenue.

Humber students contribute the rest through dental fees and newly optional student fees. Almost 11 million dollars of student cash may be used at the discretion of our elected officials, do we not have the right to know where it’s going?

As the weeks pass, it seems IGNITE is becoming more and more tight-lipped.

Early in September of this year, they denied our reporters access to the previously open board meetings. The reason? So they can talk about pressing matters without censoring themselves.

While a reasonable person will see their point, they are discussing issues that are funded by you the student body. Later that month IGNITE’s board of directors were instructed not to speak to campus media and that all requests should be directed to their public relations representative.

Another ridiculous move considering all members elected are there to represent the students, not IGNITE. If they’re concerned about their brand as a student union over the students, then we have failed in selecting these so-called ‘leaders.’

It’s disturbing how bold IGNITE is in their quest to silence campus press. They claim “non-journalists” are able to attend their board meetings; however fail to provide details as to where these meetings are held, simply citing the excuse “information is coming.’ How long will this answer be acceptable?

IGNITE, and The Avro Post sat down for a much-anticipated interview this afternoon, the results paint a disappointing picture of the condescending ‘you can’t touch us’ attitude our union holds.

Instead of answering questions, IGNITE flipped the conversation to The Avro Post and how we conduct our publication and write our content. Let us not forget; we are students of Humber and Guelph Humber!

The fact students walking the halls take an interest in journalism, writing, accountability, and a search for the truth does not mean we lose the right to ask questions nor the credibility to share this information with our audience.

During this so-called “interview”, IGNITE made it clear to The Avro Post that students interested in sitting in on board meetings will have to make the request on a case by case basis.

Does this mean a student could travel to the meeting only to be turned away by an in the moment decision by the board? Seem’s like an effective way to discriminate against students that the board might deem as ‘unfavourable.’

During this meeting, Acting Communications Director Unika Hypolite and President Monica Khosla made it clear there were to be no audio recordings. If The Avro Post has an issue with fact-checking as IGNITE would like to believe, it is in their best interest in letting campus media record interactions.

It allows journalists to publish accurate information and defend themselves against crooked organizations that claim the publication is lying. I highly doubt IGNITE is adopting this rule to make it easier for The Avro Post to falsify information potentially. We’re left with few other ideas as to why this is happening.

Students need to hold their union to account. They don’t exist solely to plan frosh among other headlining events; they exist to represent the student body and fight for our rights, something Khosla proudly announced to first-year students at orientation this year.

I would implore IGNITE to put their $11 million where their mouth is and start to live up to this already deflating promise.  ■

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Journalists make Board meetings 'unproductive', IGNITE says

Staff told the Et Cetera that Board meetings are cut off.

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File photo.

IGNITE’s Acting Communications Director Unika Hypolite said that the “participation of a journalist has the potential to make [B]oard meetings unproductive” in recent comments to the Humber Et Cetera, also confirming clearly for the first time that journalists are not allowed.

Staff told the Et Cetera that journalist attendance at the meetings where decisions are made on the fees collected from students would be uncomfortable for the elected directors.

IGNITE recently cut off students from Board meetings, starting with the first one of the semester on Sept. 11, breaking their own bylaws. Because the student union has given at least two sets of conflicting rules regarding attendance at the meetings, it is unclear exactly what the procedure is.

The student union posted a memo on its Governance page after that first meeting saying that students would need permission from the executive director to attend. Executive Director then told Post reporters at the October press briefing that it is actually a vote by the democratically elected directors that block attendees from the meetings.

He added that the Governance page would need to be updated to more accurately reflect the true procedure.

The reason they do not want journalists or students in general at the meetings, officials say, is because there are oftentimes sensitive topics discussed that they do not want in the public eye.

At virtually every other student union in Ontario, Board of Directors meetings are open with the exception of moments when they vote to go “in-camera”, a portion of the meeting that is private.

When Post reporters asked about this technique instead of cutting off the meetings entirely, Hypolite said in October that the organization would “take it under advisement”.

If reporters were allowed inside the September Board meeting, the changes to the

IGNITE also plans to do away with executive elections should a package of bylaw amendments be passed at a January Special Meeting of the Members on Jan. 22, a new date reported by the Et Cetera after reporting earlier that it was taking place on Jan. 16.

Interviews with several current and former student union officials with Post reporters have revealed that the way IGNITE has been operating this semester is highly unusual and out of step with the majority of its national counterparts.

IGNITE officials in October cut The Avro Post off from requests for comment or interviews saying that the reporting carried out by the publication after an Oct. 4 press briefing was inaccurate. Stories since by the Et Cetera appears to confirm much of that reporting.


Journalists not allowed

On Oct. 4, IGNITE officials told The Avro Post that student journalists could attend meetings but they could be asked to leave in a majority vote of directors.

However, reporters have been unable to even find the meetings because the exact locations and times have been deleted from their previous location online, breaking IGNITE’s own bylaws.

Now, it appears that journalists will be permanently cut off from the Board.

If the bylaw package coming to the Special Meeting of the Members in January is passed, the Board’s new unilateral powers will allow them to make decisions without the public being aware until meeting minutes are posted.

Meeting minutes are approved at the next meeting and are supposed to be posted online. However, IGNITE has occasionally taken longer than usual to post them this semester.

Without journalists being at the Board meetings, executives being hired instead of elected and the only other public meetings taking place only annually, some are concerned that there will be a further lack of transparency in the organization. ■

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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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Campus

Humber to mark violence against women day

A ceremony starts at 11:30 a.m. on Friday.

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File photo for demonstration via Pexels.

Humber College will on Friday mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women with an Indigenous guest speaker.

The ceremony will start at 11:30 a.m. and run until 1 p.m., though the event page does not list a definite location.

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