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How a November meeting finalized the end of open Board meetings

IGNITE has fully cut off students from Board meetings.

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File photo of IGNITE.

On the evening of Nov. 13, two reporters from The Avro Post peered over the edge of a railing on the second floor inside the University of Guelph-Humber’s building on North Campus, scoping out the conference room on the main floor where a Board of Directors meeting was scheduled to take place.

At least it was scheduled for the room before IGNITE took down the exact location and times for the meetings last year ahead of the fall semester’s first Board meeting in September. This was before the student union’s acting communications director told the Humber Et Cetera in December that reporters would no longer be allowed inside the meetings.

Knowing the importance of what takes place at the meetings, Post reporters were determined to at least try to find where the directors were gathering. In the end, it was unclear if the directors were in the room, and the student reporters departed soon after.

After September’s meeting minutes revealed the extent to which IGNITE planned to make significant changes to its governance structure and other aspects of how it operated, it solidified even further how critical the Board gatherings were. Officials said in October that reporters, and students at large, should not be allowed inside the meetings so that directors could speak freely and be “frank” about sensitive subject matter.

Typically, other boards across the province go “in-camera” should there need to be a section of the meeting in private. IGNITE has the same option buried in its Constitution, but it has apparently not used it in at least a year.

At an Oct. 4 press briefing, officials told reporters from the Humber Et Cetera and The Avro Post that they planned to move IGNITE in a more corporate direction, which included phasing out student attendance and only having directors at Board meetings, a move unprecedented across student unions in Ontario and beyond.

Just days later on Oct. 15, The Avro Post was cut off from asking for interviews from elected representatives and media requests, with IGNITE claiming that we had inaccurate reporting, chief among them that the student union planned to cut off students entirely from the Board meetings.

However, the November meeting minutes reveal that the directors approved a policy that says “board meetings are strictly for board members” — cementing a policy it appeared to have been using all semester, that, up until the policy was approved in November, was breaking its own bylaws.

Even then, it is unclear if the Board was allowed to unilaterally pass such a resolution without approval from members at a Special Meeting of the Members.

The Avro Post has reached out for comment from IGNITE.


What came forward on Nov. 13?

Out of the several items that were listed among the records from the November Board of Directors meeting, the most significant one was the revelation that IGNITE was working with Humber College to create a Testing Centre phone app to cut down on wait times.

The minutes state that the student union is “currently working” with the college to create an app “to cut down wait times and registration process during peak times of the year”. Though the meeting was before the end of the fall semester, test centre wait times resulted in a wave of complaints from students in December.

The initiative to cut test centre times is one of the objectives Vice President Shay Hamilton listed to The Avro Post in an interview last year, after she was hired as a replacement after her predecessor stepped down due to personal reasons. 

The project is just one of five listed as part of an “Executives Initiatives Update” given at the meeting by Executive Director Ercole Perrone on behalf of President Monica Khosla.

The update included new details on the campus-wide effort to bring a Presto machine to campus, an effort that IGNITE deemed “cost prohibitive” at the time. It was later that month when Metrolinx officials confirmed to The Avro Post that a Presto machine would be coming “early in the New Year”.

As a continuation of Khosla’s efforts to improve accessibility over two terms as president, Perrone said in his initiatives update that the student union is working to turn “last year’s accessibility themed feedback”, which included in-person focus groups and an online survey, “into an action plan for key stakeholders/departments on campus”.

A fourth initiative update was on IGNITE’s LinkedIn Local events, which aim to build up networking and improve profiles on the social media website. Though “attendance reached capacity of the venue”, not many students were physically present, according to the minutes. Perrone said that strategies to tackle the drop off in attendance will “be reviewed.”

The fifth highlight of the initiatives written into the meeting minutes brought up the free IGNITE SkillsCamp event, which was set to take place two days after the Board meeting on Nov. 15. It was a full day session that offered to teach students skills for networking and job interviews. ■

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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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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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