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Directors deflect questions over transparency, clarify amendments

Erika Caldwell and Julia Ciampa held an information session.

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Photo of the IGNITE logo in the Guelph-Humber Leadership Lounge on Wednesday.

The University of Guelph-Humber’s two elected representatives on the Board of Directors held an information session on Wednesday where they deflected questions regarding student criticism over the Board’s alleged lack of transparency but clarified several of the bylaw amendments coming to a public meeting later in January.

Directors in September passed a series of bylaw amendments that will come before the student body at a Jan. 22 Special Meeting of the Members, where students can vote on the combined package of proposed changes.

The amendments include ending president and vice president elections in favour of a hiring process, giving the Board more unilateral power for future amendment approval and splitting the union’s membership into new classifications, among other items.

Since the Sept. 11 Board of Directors meeting, journalists have been unable to either find or access their meetings, because reporters were either barred at the door from entry or, because details were removed from the IGNITE website, unable to find the directors.

IGNITE’s bylaws state that directors have to vote in a majority to remove a student from a Board meeting. They also state that the exact time and location of the gatherings are to be posted on the student union’s website.

The Avro Post asked Directors Erika Caldwell and Julia Ciampa, who represent Guelph-Humber on the Board, what they knew about journalists being denied entry to their meetings and the pair largely deflected the question, saying they were unaware of the specific bylaws reporters were referencing.

However, Board Chairperson Neto Naniwombote and the Guelph-Humber directors offered some insight into a few of the amendments from the Leadership Lounge on the second floor of the university’s building where the “Politics and Pizza” event was held.

One of the amendments listed in the September meeting minutes stated that the “president term will be used for board chairperson”. It was previously unclear whether this meant a length of time or potentially the terminology.

Ciampa clarified that this meant that the chairperson, who is and would remain elected by their peers on the Board at the start of a new term, would be given the title “president”.

Caldwell revealed that IGNITE is considering making executive terms last two years, but said that “it is up in the air right now” and said this would likely be a decision made after the Special Meeting of the Members.

Questions regarding the process of how the amendments came about and whether the Board was unanimous in support of the changes were deflected, with Caldwell saying that would remain an internal, private conversation.

For the time The Avro Post’s reporters were present, at least seven other students stopped by to ask questions and learn more about the changes. The directors were largely focusing the single most significant proposed change: the end of executive elections.

Naniwombote, who also represents Humber College’s North Campus, said that he would be hosting a similar meet-and-greet session for his campus on Thursday and that details would be released by IGNITE’s social media. It is unclear if Lakeshore directors will also hold an event. ■

Reporting by Joelle Awad, 
Eli Ridder; Editing by Eli Ridder
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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 closed off the optional fees, 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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Jack Fisher: ‘I know IGNITE can do better’

An opinion column from Jack Fisher.

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OPINION

Jack Fisher
Contributor
The Avro Post
Our Opinion Policy.

I know well the stress that comes from hosting a public meeting as a student leader.

As the organizer of an event like the meeting IGNITE hosted on Wednesday, you know everything that’s going on, and your ideas and your stance seem so incredibly obvious to you.

However, just like so many other places, there are a lot of people that don’t know how to ask the right questions. Just like every comment section on the internet, you can scroll through all the good comments and praise, but the one thing that sticks with you is the negative and uninformed comments.

This stress and frustration tend to build up until there’s a whole flutter of butterflies in your stomach. Even if you’ve spent weeks planning something, its possible that your advertising doesn’t get out on time. You overthink whether you’ll achieve quorum, and you brace yourself for a barrage of uninformed questions and criticism that you imagine will turn into a personal attack as soon as your event is over.

This isn’t to say that I know this is how anyone on IGNITE was feeling on Wednesday morning, but I can imagine the tension that was behind the table on stage today at Humber College’s North Campus. I know the board has probably deliberated all the details for hours.

You could tell from the responses of the board members and chair that they had practiced their reasoning. They’ve been thinking about this for weeks, if not months. You could tell, because what the crowd got as answers was internalized jargon. We heard citations of the Ontario Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and confident assertions that the decisions were made in consultation with legal professionals.

All of this is to say that, from a student executive position, the Special Meeting of the Members went incredibly well. There was only about 15 minutes of questioning, everything passed as planned, and the meeting itself was exactly 30 minutes long with maybe 70 people in attendance — more than was required for quorum.

Unfortunately, knowing how I felt as an executive, also tells me that there is a philosophical difference between myself and IGNITE.

When I was on the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association executive as president, we hosted one public meeting of this kind; the Annual General Meeting. We put aside almost two hours of time to field student questions, our nerves were running rampant, because one of our biggest principles was transparency with our finances, and clarity of information about process and activity.

So often, student leadership can lead you to working in a small bubble where other people don’t understand what you’re doing or why, but it is so imperative for student unions to be clear, and patient.

I don’t think IGNITE is out to destroy the culture of Humber and Guelph-Humber. I’m sure they know the good work they’re doing. Working firsthand in student support is a self-made internal justification for the decisions you make.

What I saw during the Special Meeting of the Members was a group of students whose hearts may be in the right place, but they have not embraced the communication aspect that some students demand.

Culture of the school aside, I know IGNITE can do better.

I hope this new structure will allow the directors to be the liaisons that I didn’t see Wednesday. Like I said in a letter to the provincial government last year: “proper policy is not created by consulting only those that agree with you”.

The best we can do as student governments is to never stop asking questions, and always keep listening.  ■

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