Provoked by IGNITE’s recent decision to cut off the student body and campus journalists from Board of Directors meetings, Et Cetera published an editorial within their most recent issue released Friday slamming the student union for its “issue with transparency”.
The editorial, titled “time for IGNITE to rebuild bridges with the media“, points out that for the Board meetings to be cut off, the elected student directors would have to vote in favour of the move, a reality initially reported by The Avro Post.
On Sept. 11, a reporter from The Post was barred from entering the first Board of Directors meeting of the year, held at Lakeshore Campus. She was told the reason was that the by-laws had been changed and that the governance webpage was updated to reflect it.
An immediate check of the governance page using a website categorizing service found that IGNITE had, between Aug. 14 and that evening, deleted a paragraph that invited students to attend the meetings and that “progress is made through open and honest conversation”.
Within the following hours, likely as the meeting was being held or right after it finished, IGNITE outlined new rules, saying that under the Ontario Corporations Act only directors had the right to attend meetings. Attendance or meeting minutes are now only available by request.
In the following weeks, student journalists have looked to find more answers to the sudden change. In an apparent response, IGNITE invited campus publications, including The Post, Et Cetera and Humber News, to a press conference on the by-laws that will take place on Friday.
The Avro Post was asked earlier this year to send media requests for comment through Executive Director Ercolé Perrone, however, responses on this issue and others have been scarce. A planned meeting between IGNITE’s lawyer and The Post has not yet occurred, but likely questions will be answered at the press conference.
As for the directors themselves, the first public response was through Director Erika Caldwell, who advised students to look at the meeting minutes posted on IGNITE’s website. A response from a Post reporter pointing out that the minutes would no longer be posted there did not receive a response.
The Post published an open letter on Sept. 24 asking for the board directors to contact the publication over the changes to meetings. None of the directors reached out to The Post.
An IGNITE club president commented on the open letter posted to social media, saying that Director Stephanie Fallico “is from my program and she’s wonderful”. Fallico responded to the Humber College student, saying “thank you, really appreciate that” but without addressing the letter’s request.
Eden Tavares responded to a poll posted on The Post’s Instagram Story that asked: “was our Board right to publish this open letter pleading transparency?” Her response was “no”.
Beyond the three director interactions, The Post has had no direct or indirect response from the Board. There has been no formal response beyond an invitation to the Oct. 4 press conference to either the Et Cetera or The Post.
The editorial published in Friday’s edition of the Humber Et Cetera, a newspaper run by the advanced journalism program, stated its point in the first sentence: “Humber’s student government IGNITE has an issue with transparency”.
The paper dove into the events surrounding the Board of Directors affair, accurately pointing out that the directors need to pass a majority vote to close off the meetings to the student body and media. IGNITE’s Board can legally can block off the meetings under provincial law with a motion.
The Et Cetera slammed the decision to utilize the legal shutdown of the Board, a move largely unprecedented in Humber College student union history. The newspaper claims that the moves have “created a divide between Et Cetera and IGNITE.”
The newspaper dove into the 1979 student union elections at Humber College to make the point that, even when tensions were high between student journalists and student government, it never reached the level that it has now.
Diving into the archives, the Et Cetera’s editorial writers found that during the 1978-1979 academic year, there were two closed off meetings, with at least one related to an old campus pub manager.
“The cat and mouse games between Et Cetera and IGNITE has gone on for years, so why put an end to it now?”
The editorial concluded with the Student Choice Initiative, calling it a direct attack by the Progressive Conservative government “on all student governments’ ability to raise sufficient funds for student services”, a sentiment shared by all student unions across Ontario.
“So now, more than ever, IGNITE needs to be fully transparent, to show how it is coping with this new reality,” the Et Cetera adds.
IGNITE has been largely open and transparent in regards to some aspects of how they were going to handle the SCI during the spring and summer, giving The Avro Post three exclusive interviews and free reign over questions with its executive director, Ercolé Perrone.
Since the semester started and the Board of Directors were cut off, however, the student union has been largely unresponsive through official channels.
“It’s time for IGNITE to build bridges to the media and students, rather than barricading them,” the Et Cetera concludes in the editorial.