IGNITE publicly confirmed on Tuesday the major policy changes coming to student government, including the end of executive elections and the promotion of the Board of Directors as the “face of IGNITE”, details that were confirmed in a press briefing earlier in October.
The changes will be confirmed if they are passed as new bylaws during the Special Meeting of the Members in January, a forum that allows all full- and part-time students to vote on issues pertaining to the Constitution of the student union.
IGNITE also established three different tiers of membership in IGNITE. Full-Time Enhanced Members are full-time students that pay both the mandatory and optional fees, while full-time and part-time members are students who pay the mandatory and pro-rated mandatory fees, respectively.
“With the introduction of the student choice initiative by the Ontario government, we’ve had to completely revamp IGNITE’s organizational goals. Now we’re working on updating our by-laws to improve IGNITE’s management structure,” Orangeville Director Nav Sidhu said.
“We’re exploring ways to encourage students to opt-in for IGNITE’s optional fees in order to improve their student experience,” Sidhu, the first-ever Board director from Orangeville, added in the IGNITE press release.
The Student Choice Initiative was mandated by the province in January but started for the first time this academic year. It allows students to opt out of paying certain “non-essential” ancillary fees. For full-time students, there was $55.95 in optional fees.
The move to hire instead of elect executives “puts the power back where it belongs — with the students who are elected to the [B]oard”, IGNITE writes in the press release. Elections take place annually before exams in April.
The president is elected by votes from all Humber College campuses and the University of Guelph-Humber. Three vice presidents are elected from each campus. All four make up the executive, but deal more with the operations of the student union while the Board carries out governance.
“It’s important for students to understand that their power is not and never will be silenced,” IGNITE’s Executive Director Ercole Perrone said in the statement, adding that “these changes clarify who holds the power within IGNITE, which is the Board of Directors.”
Vice President Megan Roopnarine, elected by students enrolled at Guelph-Humber, said the changes address the consistent controversy surrounding executives not following through on promises made during their election campaigns.
“It can be confusing to the student body when executives run on platforms they can’t necessarily fulfill; it’s unfair to the student body and the students who run,” Roopnarine stated.
By focusing on the Board, we’re focusing on the students who truly set the direction for the organization.”
A majority of student unions in Ontario have a Board of Directors or equivalent body as well as elected executives. However, IGNITE cites Sheridan and Fleming colleges as examples of unions that hire instead of elect their president and vice presidents.
While the president of IGNITE has for years been considered the key spokesperson of the student union, the final decisions over finance and initiatives have laid with the Board of Directors, made up of nine to 10 elected students that represent different campuses.
IGNITE aims now to inform the student body at large “of the influence that the Board of Directors role has on students”, highlighting the power of the governing body, as part of the new changes.
The press release adds that hiring executives means there will be a “higher quality of executive candidates, with relevant role-specific skills to offer the organization”. The document, written by Managing Editor Alena Blanes, adds that the moves “align with our commitment to transparency”.
Blanes writes that hired presidents and vice presidents “ensures IGNITE’s executive roles are filled based on qualification, not just favourability”, adding that “by separating governance from operations, the attention is brought back to the Board of Directors, who hold the real power in the organization”.
The student union has been under some controversy since the Sept. 11 Board of Directors meeting when a Post reporter was blocked from entering and IGNITE posted new rules on its Governance page that said students needed permission to enter the gatherings or receive meeting minutes.