Members of IGNITE — full-time students enrolled at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber — voted in a strong majority to pass a package of bylaw amendments proposed by the Board of Directors on Wednesday, approving plans to bring an end to executive elections and hand more unilateral power to the Board, among other items.
The Special Meeting of the Members was short and concise, lasting only 30 minutes. It started with a call to order before moving on to approvals of the agenda and the 2019 Annual General Meeting minutes, routine items that passed without objection.
The bylaw amendments, previously passed by the Board at its September meeting, were read to an audience of over 30 voting members in the North Campus Student Centre and to another approximately 25 watching from Lakeshore and Orangeville via a live stream.
The four executives — made up of a president and three vice presidents from each major campus — will be replaced with student engagement coordinators that will carry on a similar role and be hired via a panel that will include both directors, staffers and officials from Humber and Guelph-Humber, depending on the candidate.
The Board of Directors, made up of student representatives from each major Humber College campus and Guelph-Humber, will continue on as elected on a year-to-year basis.
Questions that arose largely centred around the fate of executive elections and the reclassification of students into different categories based on their opt-in decisions. Both students and reporters asked questions to the four directors and President Monica Khosla on stage.
Wednesday was the first time that the public received a more in-depth, formal summary of the bylaw amendments. A four-page document, for the first time, outlined the exact changes to the structure of the organization that will be carried out now that they are approved.
IGNITE maintains that the changes are both “in the best interests of students” and better align the student union with the Ontario Not-for-profit Corporations Act.
When it came to a vote of the members, a large majority of students raised their hands when Board Chair Neto Naniwambote asked who was in favour of passing the changes. When he asked who was against, it appeared less than 15 members across all campuses showed opposition.
The public meeting came to a close with six new bylaws in place, a number different than the seven recorded in the September meeting minutes when they were first passed.
Beyond cancelling executive elections, the changes will hand the Board of the Directors the ability to pass bylaw amendments that are applicable immediately without needing member approval until the next public members meeting.
If the larger student body votes down an amendment previously passed by the Board, directors said in response to reporters that there would be a retroactive rollback of the changes and its impacts.
IGNITE will now break students into three classifications of part-time, full-time and “full-time enhanced” — for those that opt-in to at least one of IGNITE’s optional fees.
The summary released at the Special Meeting on Wednesday also clarified the change in regards to the execution of documents. Because there will no longer be a “president” position starting in April, documents that need the signature of an IGNITE executive will be passed to the executive director — the top staffer of the student union — or by a designate chosen by the elected directors.
Wednesday also saw the end of the term “Constitution” that was used to describe the student union’s document of bylaws. Now they will simply be titled as the ‘By-laws.”
The amendments also included more details on the clarification between the mandatory and optional fees. Over a year ago, the provincial government introduced the Student Choice Initiative, mandating that certain fees paid by students were to become optional as of the 2019 fall semester. IGNITE has now classified these fees formally as “Mandatory IGNITE Fees” and “Optional IGNITE Fees”.
Also included in the changes was the change to the format of Member Meetings. Instead of presenting items to be approved ahead of a meeting such as the one on Wednesday, IGNITE will present, approve and ratify proposals all within the same day.
It was an update made on the “recommendation and request of IGNITE’S lawyer” that Wednesday’s agenda claims keeps with “industry standards” and “best legal practices for compliance with the Ontario Non-for-profit Corporations Act 2010.”
Confusion by some
There were over 30 students gathered at North while about 25 sat in Lakeshore’s K Building to participate in the proceedings. Orangeville Campus also had students watching remotely but it was not immediately clear the number of those participating.
Those present that voted included IGNITE officials not on stage, friends of the directors or executives, students who were aware of the proceedings ahead of time and others that popped in as they were passing by in the Student Centre.
Because there was a limited promotion period for the Special Meeting and not all seven amendments being proposed were posted by IGNITE ahead of Wednesday, Information Technology students Preetkamal Singh and Bhumi Shah told The Avro Post that they were completely in the dark over what was taking place.
“It was confusing for us because we’re new here” Singh said, adding that the pair would have to “go home and have to read” about what took place. The first-year North Campus students added that they chose not to vote as they were not clear on the specifics of the amendments.
Jack Fisher, who was last year a student union president at the University of Guelph, said in comments to The Post that he was “shocked by the speed of the meeting” and the rushed question period that nearly saw students cut off as officials attempted to move the amendments forward to a vote.
“It’s obvious that transparency to the student body is not high on their list of priorities” Fisher, who is now journalism post-graduate student at Sheridan College, added.
“My biggest question is ‘what’s next?'”
Reporting by Eli Ridder, Joelle Awad;
Files from Kristy Lam; Editing by