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.