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Johnson-Figueredo: IGNITE no longer represents us, the students

Columnist Michel Johnson-Figueredo with a new take on IGNITE’s shutdown of the student voice.

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File photo from 2017.

OPINION

Michel Johnson
Columnist
The Avro Post
Our Opinion Policy.

Over the past couple of months The Avro Post has reported on changes to IGNITE, Guelph-Humber and Humber College’s student union.

The changes have further reduced transparency between the union and students. So what is IGNITE really here for? How can they truly represent students when they eliminate us from the conversation?

As we move on with the school semester, more students are becoming aware of IGNITE’s changes. Like myself, many aren’t welcoming of them. As a second year public relations student at Humber Lakeshore Campus, I understand the need for trust between an organization and it’s publics.

IGNITE has diminished that trust.

Since the Student Choice Initiative came into play this fall, IGNITE has chosen to cut students off from Board of Director’s meetings. Rejecting a reporter from The Post back in September and disallowing any student to attend board meetings without executive approval.

The Post has reported on events taking place behind the scenes at IGNITE, revealing by-law changes that would eliminate IGNITE executive elections and replace them with hired positions. Inside sources at IGNITE detailed meetings where employees were told not to speak to student publications.

The Avro Post was specifically mentioned.

The demand for silence by IGNITE towards employees is an indication they wish to control the narrative surrounding the changes. The decisions taken would continue to advance the corporate approach executives and the board are pushing.

The more I share this information — the more I realize our interests are no longer being represented. IGNITE went through an entire rebrand to rebuild itself as more student friendly, what are they now?

Well, instead of promoting and pushing student concerns, they are reducing transparency. IGNITE representatives hide behind their decisions as they continue to be funded with our money.

At Humber Lakeshore Campus, students are constantly complaining about a lack of electrical outlets in classrooms to charge their devices. In a time where the average student is using either a laptop or tablet, charging is a priority.

A simple problem, with no solution or discussion from our student body.

I can’t recall the last time IGNITE used their social media accounts to reach out to students, ask them to come in and talk, attend meetings and communicate our grievances.

I see the irony in IGNITE rallying students to fight against provincial government decisions, but what about their own decisions?

We as students are now needed more than ever for organizations like IGNITE to function. We now hold the influence over their decisions more so than ever before.

The Conservative provincial government, which is controversial within student circles has made cuts, but unlike our school government, they have allowed us to maintain the power to protest, question, criticize and explore their decisions.

IGNITE is on the verge of disallowing that liberty completely.

I have grown tired of being ignored by those who are elected by students and now believe they are above students. The consistent deflections and arrogance has created an environment ripe for change. From the top to bottom, change must come.

As IGNITE continues to make choices that will harm those they represent, the disappointment will only grow. That very same disappointment will fester, and eventually knock on the very door of a Board of Director’s meeting.

As far as we know, the next Special Meeting of the Members will be in mid to late January. This is where students will have an opportunity to overturn IGNITE’s decision to silence us.

Turn out and vote down the by-laws in January and save our student union.

Show them we care.

Michel Johnson-Figueredo is a columnist at The Avro Post and a second year Bachelor of Public Relations student at Humber Lakeshore Campus.  ■

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Exclusive: Guelph-Humber will not be moving as strategic plan is developed

There are no plans to move the university as a new strategic plan is developed.

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File photo of the University of Guelph-Humber on Sept. 24, 2019 by Eli Ridder/TAP.

The University of Guelph told The Avro Post on Friday that there are no plans to physically relocate the University of Guelph-Humber “at this time” amid an ongoing process to develop a new strategic plan expected to be completed by the spring.

After a report revealed that last year that Guelph-Humber’s sole building at Humber College’s North Campus was over capacity and there were unverified rumours that the university would be moved, questions arose over its future.

Guelph-Humber was established in 2002 through a partnership between the University of Guelph and Humber College.

Officials pointed to a new webpage dedicated to bringing together all resources to do with the partnership between Guelph and Humber including an operational review undertaken during the fall of 2017.

There has not been a new strategic plan since the governing framework of Guelph-Humber was written in 1999 to establish the university and so a year-long process was launched last May to make a new plan, according to a press release from the presidents of Guelph and Humber.

Guelph-Humber graduates receive a bachelor’s degree from Guelph and a college diploma from Humber. Guelph-Humber students have access to many of the supports provided by Humber and are also members of the IGNITE student union. ■

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A new era for IGNITE

The next generation of directors will have new challenges.

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File photo of the IGNITE symbol.

With the passing of several bylaw amendments on Wednesday at a Special Meeting of the Members, IGNITE on Thursday strides into a new era with five months of decision-making behind it.

Elections will start in a matter of weeks and, for the first time in its history, the student union will not be electing executives. There will only be candidates for the Board, which sits at the top of IGNITE. 

There will be open seats at Humber College’s North, Lakeshore and Orangeville Campuses as well as at the University of Guelph-Humber. This next generation of directors will preside over a very different student union then the one the current term was handed last April.

In some ways, there will be more certainty.

They will enter a student union that has been reset with a new, more corporate direction moving forward through a new base rule: By-law No. 1 — which resets the rules for IGNITE with the bylaw amendments that students passed at the Special Meeting of the Members, combined with the skeleton of the previous Constitution.

That is not to say there will not be challenges. Chief among them will be the ongoing legal struggle over the Student Choice Initiative. Currently, the province is looking to appeal the decision made by the Ontario Divisional Court to strike down the initiative.

Several student unions, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union, have cancelled opt-out portals, ending its optional student fees and returning to the previous status quo of 100 per cent mandatory fees.

IGNITE reiterated its position on Wednesday that it would not end optional student fees while the SCI was in essential legal limbo.

If the Ford administration is successful in repealing the court ruling, student union officials said they would not want a scenario where they would have to flip-flop between mandatory and optional fees.

Directors will also have to manage hiring and overseeing the new student engagement coordinators, who will replace the current executive model.

They will be hired staffers within the student union and sit below the executive director and alongside part-time staff, according to graphics released by IGNITE. ■

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Constitution formally replaced with ‘By-law No. 1’

It awaits AGM approval.

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File photo.

Following approval by the members of new bylaw amendments on Wednesday, IGNITE has replaced its Constitution with “By-law No. 1”, though it still needs confirmation by the members at the Annual General Meeting.

By-Law No. 1 contains eight pages of rules, a full five pages less than the previous Constitution. It states it will need confirmation by the members on Mar. 22, 2020, a potential reveal of the date set for the AGM, a normal timeframe. ■

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