Nominations open for 2020 IGNITE elections

IGNITE on Tuesday posted details and nomination packages for its 2020 elections on social media, setting up its first ever election without executive positions.

There are 10 positions open for students to run for, all on the Board of Directors.

There are four positions open at North Campus, three seats at Lakeshore, two open at Guelph-Humber and a sole position available at Orangeville.

All nomination packages are due by Feb. 14 and can be filled out on the elections webpage.

A new era for IGNITE

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 cancelled opt-out portals, 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.

Constitution formally replaced with ‘By-law No. 1’

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.

Jack Fisher: ‘I know IGNITE can do better’

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.

Efficient, but ‘rushed’ Special Meeting goes IGNITE’s way

ANALYSIS

It was over in 30 minutes.

The Special Meeting of the Members on Wednesday saw the end of executive elections, the secretive Board of Directors gain more power and a reclassification of the students IGNITE represents into three different streams.

It all happened very quickly once the question period was over. In fact, reporters were almost cut off from some final queries when Vice President Ryan Stafford attempted to move ahead with the motion to adopt the amendments before the journalist was done.

Jack Fisher, a contributing columnist who was last year the president of the University of Guelph’s student union, called the meeting “rushed”, and explained to The Avro Post that it would have, from IGNITE’s perspective, seemed efficient without any major bumps along the way.

But what does this mean for you, the students? Likely the item with the biggest impact on your day-to-day student life will be the new classes of members.

Two of the classes are not new: there will be “part-time members” which are part-time students paying a small amount in fees to the student union. “Full-time members” are those enrolled in full-time studies at Humber College or the University of Guelph-Humber who choose not to opt-in to any of the optional IGNITE fees.

A third, new classification is “Full-Time Enhanced Members”, students who opt-in to at least one of the six optional fees.

As we’ve seen from the last semester, those that opt-in will receive some exclusives, but on Wednesday that was cemented in the new bylaw amendments.

“Members that pay particular fees are entitled to various rights and privileges of IGNITE,” the document only released to the public on Wednesday stated. It adds: “Explanation of their rights and privileges are outlined in the IGNITE Membership Benefits Policy.”

That’s the first public mention of the so-called Membership Benefits Policy, which officials said on Wednesday would be released after it was passed by the Board of Directors, without giving a specific time frame.

What else?

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 but still containing the same content.

Beyond the re-classification of members, the biggest change students may notice is the end of executive elections. This means the president and three vice presidents who each represent North, Lakeshore and Guelph-Humber respectively will no longer exist.

In their place will be three student engagement coordinators that will be hired via a panel made up of different stakeholders.

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.

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.”

A lot of this will not have some major impact on your student life but some of the amendments will make it harder for you to know what is going on, coupled with a Board policy passed in November cutting the student body at-large from its meetings.

Proposed changes to IGNITE approved in student vote

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
Eli Ridder.

Timeline: Live reporting from the SMOM

LIVE

IGNITE’s Board of Directors will propose seven bylaw amendments at a Special Meeting of the Members, seeking approval from the students they represent from Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber to end executive elections and hand over more unilateral power to the Board, among other items.

[arena_embed version=”2″ publisher=”the-avro-post” event=”sdeo”]

For all related coverage, visit TheAvroPost.ca/Choice.

Briefing: What’s happening at the Special Meeting?

IGNITE’s Board of Directors will propose a series of bylaw amendments to members of the student union — all full-time students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber — and there will be a vote for or against the package of proposals.

100 WORDS

The vote will take place at the Special Meeting of the Members being held at the North Campus Student Centre and digitally via Lakeshore’s K Building. Any student can get into the SMOM with their student identification.

It starts at 11 a.m. and will be live streamed via IGNITE’s social media. The Avro Post will also have live reporting, analysis and opinion online.

A quorum, or minimum, of 50 students is needed for a vote to happen. A simple majority of 50 per cent plus one would be needed to pass the package of bylaw amendments, an omnibus move.

500 WORDS

The seven amendments being proposed at the Special Meeting include:

  • ending executive elections in favour of three hired student engagement coordinators.
  • handing the Board of Directors the ability to pass bylaw amendments unilaterally, with only retroactive approval by members at a later meeting.
  • classifying members into part-time, full-time and full-time enhanced, based on their opt-in decisions.
  • using the term “president” for the current role of Board chairperson, who is elected among the Board.
  • handing the execution of documents over to the executive director, believe to currently be the role of the elected president and a vice president.
  • requiring that Annual Meetings include an updated list of required agenda items.
  • clearly defining the difference between mandatory and optional fees, a new reality because of the Student Choice Initiative.

These changes, IGNITE insists, are in the best interest of the student body and introduce updates that align with the updated Ontario Non-for-profit Corporations Act.

How did we get here? The Board of Directors passed the seven amendments during its September 2019 meeting, but because they change the student union’s Constitution, they need approval from the members.

If the members vote in a simple majority — 50 per cent plus one — to approve the proposals, then they go into effect immediately. If the students vote against in the same fashion, then the amendments do not pass and nothing changes.

Can students vote on each amendment independently? No. IGNITE officials have said they do not feel the amendments differ much from each other and are appropriate to pass as a package.

What will happen specifically during this meeting? The meeting will start with a call to order and an approval of the meeting minutes of the 2019 Annual General Meeting, which is routine and is expected to pass without any issues.

Then, the package of amendments will come forward and there could be discussion among the students, who will be able to ask questions of the directors, staff and potentially executives in a press conference-fashion, if prior public meetings are to go by.

No matter the decision at the Special Meeting, history will be made.

IGNITE: A turning point for student participation

SPECIAL REPORT

There were three decisions made that lessoned student participation in their union.

As temperatures dropped below freezing and most of the hallways stood empty, six elected representatives of Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber’s student body passed a formal policy barring anyone but themselves from attending Board of Directors meetings, a move with significant implications that critics say brought an end to an era of more public, transparent governance.

This policy was passed by the Board, but it will never be revealed who voted for or against the decision. It was also not known that the policy was passed until the minutes came out over two months later in January, meaning one stalwart of democratic involvement came to an end in a shadowy, private meeting, its location hidden from the student body at large.

There were three significant decisions made in the last five months that, together, could contribute to a shift from the more open, traditional style adopted by organizations at post-secondary institutions across the country in the 1970s and 1980s to a new structure that is closed, corporate and, according to Executive Director Ercole Perrone, modern.

These decisions include the policy to cut off the student body from Board meetings and two bylaw amendments that, if passed, would grant the Board of Directors unilateral power to pass future amendments and would spell the end of executive elections in favour of hiring newly titled student engagement coordinators instead.

Eight directors gathered at Humber College North Campus on Oct. 9 to hold a busy Board of Directors meeting. Though The Avro Post seeked out the location of the gathering in an attempt to at least try to attend as granted by the Constitution of the student union, four reporters were unable to find the directors, and thus none of what occurred was known until records were released later in the year.

However, to understand the significance of the conversation that took place at the meeting, as recorded in the minutes, the context of what occurred prior is critical.

Starting in the spring of 2019, The Avro Post began to send journalists to Board of Directors meetings for the first time since the previous academic year following the announcement of the Student Choice Initiative by the provincial government.

Like many other student unions, IGNITE at the time stated on its website that they allowed and even encouraged student attendance at the meetings of the directors, who are elected by the student body and are paid a stipend of up to $3,500 at the end of their terms, funded by students paying fees at the beginning of each semester.

When Post reporters went to a Board meeting in February, they were able to break the story that the annual budget was delayed until the opt-in rate was known, so that the student union would know how many dollars they had to make decisions with.

That meeting was on the same day when the election “mix and mingle” events were held. Not only were reporters in attendance, but so was then-candidate, now-director Erika Caldwell, who wanted to get a sense of what the Board was like and how it operated. There was no objection to journalists being in attendance at the time.

It was when the new term started in May that IGNITE’s approach changed. A reporter from The Post travelled from Guelph to be present at the first meeting of the current Board but was denied at the door for not being a student. The reporter was denied entry, however, because the executive director claimed that the journalist was not a student. The reporter in question was already accepted in Humber College at that point, but it was a grey area.

But September was definitive. A fully enrolled second-year student and reporter with The Post, Kristy Lam, was sent to Lakeshore Campus to cover the first meeting of the fall semester, one believed by editors to be critical to the fiscal plans of IGNITE following whatever the results of the Student Choice Initiative would be. Lam was not allowed in.

The reporter was told by Leadership Initiatives Coordinator Kristine Gavlan that she would not be allowed in because the policy had changed in regards to who could actually attend the meetings. This came as a shock to the staff of The Post as the policy posted at the time stated any member can attend the Board, and can only be removed with a vote or if the directors vote to go in-camera.

It was at this meeting that seven bylaw amendments were passed by the directors. Two of those items, if passed into the Constitution at the Special Meeting of the Members on Wednesday, would hand the Board power to pass future amendments without needing approval from a members meeting to come into force and end executive elections in favour of hired Student Engagement Coordinators.

A new policy, in secret

At the next meeting in October, one that Post reporters attempted to find, the process to cut off students from the Board of Directors was first recorded. Amid updates on the opt-in rates from the Enhanced Student Experience fees, two policies were proposed. One of the proposals had to do with visitors at the Board.

“Amendments brought forth were made by IGNITE’s lawyer, including board meetings are not available for visitors and clearer language stating minutes are approved at subsequent meetings,” the records state, confirming what Director Eden Tavares told The Post earlier in January. 

The minutes continue: “Some members agreed with the advice provided by the lawyer and expressed that meetings being closed allow for board members to speak freely, honestly and candidly without feeling uncomfortable.”

However, the record notes that there was consensus among the directors that the language proposed on Oct. 9 was not explicit enough. The directors decided that the policy would “be reviewed by GRC and presented again for approval at [the] next board meeting.”

Included in the record was a reference to “IGNITE Media Days”, that the minutes say “allow for student[s] to ask their questions to IGNITE directly and receive responses”. It is unclear what this is referring to as there have been no events The Post is aware of that went by such a title. 

However, there was a press briefing on Oct. 4 that officials said would occur on a monthly basis. It is unclear whether these briefings continued as The Post was cut off by the student union for what President Monica Khosla claimed was inaccurate reporting.

It was during the November Board meeting at the University of Guelph-Humber when directors passed the policy that formalized the end of open meetings.

“Discussion, as per last meeting, resulted in a consensus from the Board that the policy is to explicitly state that board meetings are strictly for board members – language reflecting this was added,” Vanessa Silaphet wrote in the records.

The motion to approve the policy, along with two others, was moved by Chair Neto Naniwambote, of North Campus, and seconded by Julia Ciampa, of Guelph-Humber. It was carried and passed into existence. From that point on the previous policy of allowing students in was trashed and a new policy of private meetings cemented.

It was earlier in October when The Post first reported that the union planned to move towards a more corporate direction and cut students off from the Board meetings. Within the same month, Khosla claimed that the reporting was inaccurate and stated that because of this and other reporting, The Post would be cut off from IGNITE. This meant that they would no longer respond to interview requests or general inquires during a critical time of change.

Despite the reporting later verified by the Nov. 13 meeting minutes as absolutely accurate, Khosla never walked back her accusations. The Post’s editor-in-chief published an open letter to the student union on Monday pointing out the inaccuracy behind the president’s claim. There has been no response at this point.

Executive Director Ercole Perrone, Acting Communications Director Unika Hypolite and directors who have spoken to The Post and other on-campus press maintain that the  reasoning behind having private meetings has to do with the representatives being able to make decisions with “frank” discussion and the ability to not feel the pressure of reporters present. 

It’s not clear what changed from every meeting since 2016, when IGNITE was formed as the Guelph-Humber Student Association was shuttered and the Humber Students’ Federation was rebranded. However, IGNITE’s relationship with student media has been strained since the rebrand because of a few controversial decisions and particular incidents, including at a press conference when an employee of the student union appeared to assail a reporter.

While student reporters will never stop asking, it could be possible that the public will never know if there was a specific circumstance that caused the policy change to come about or if it was a thought that came over time.

The decision to clamp down on visitors to the Board of Directors meetings is one that is only reversible by a vote of the directors to undo the policy. As for handing the Board more unilateral power and the end of executive elections, they are still in a process of being proposed and could be denied by the larger student body on Wednesday.

However, there are still other ways that students can be heard by their representatives, if not keep close tabs on them. Elections will continue for the Board and that is something unlikely to change. 

There will also still be Annual General Meetings when students will have the opportunity to make their voice heard and vote against bylaw amendments that the Board passes. Even with the new proposal to give the Board the ability to pass amendments that will instantly go into effect, there will still need to be approval from the student body. However, if students vote against the amendments, it is unclear how IGNITE would handle retroactively undoing any change they passed at a meeting.

When it comes to the history of IGNITE as a whole, this year marks a turning point. With opt-in rates around 80 per cent, events filling up and a general positive opinion of the student union amongst those at campus, it appears likely that the amendments will be approved on Wednesday. However, there are critics who criticized the new Board of Directors policy and others who will vote against the amendments.

Only time will tell what the impact of these decisions will be.

IGNITE ramps up promotion ahead of Special Meeting

IGNITE on Friday ramped up its promotion of a critical Special Meeting of the Members with new posters calling on students to “voice your opinion” and vote on a package of proposed bylaw amendments that would bring significant changes to the structure of the student union if passed.

Any Humber College or University of Guelph-Humber student with their post-secondary identification is allowed entry into the meeting taking place in North Campus’ Student Centre, with a live stream taking place in Lakeshore’s K Building. It starts at 11 a.m. on Jan. 22.

Photo of IGNITE poster on Jan. 17, 2020.

Beyond the new poster, encouraging students to “amplify your voice”, IGNITE has in the past week published a blog post giving “three reasons” for its members to show up to the Special Meeting, or SMOM, and posted a formal, though scarce agenda. Also, freshly printed literature was first seen on Thursday that outlined what the new structure of IGNITE would look like with hired executives.

An email went out on Friday afternoon to all students from the student union encouraging students to attend the SMOM. “IGNITE will propose policy updates to align ourselves with the Ontario Not-for-profit Corporations Act,” the email read.

At the Special Meeting, several bylaw amendments previously approved by the elected Board of Directors will come forward to the student body at-large for approval. The proposed changes include hiring executives instead of an election process and giving more unilateral power to the Board, among five other items.

The amendment to end executive elections and other policy moves being made by the student union to cut off Board of Directors meetings are part of a process to move IGNITE towards a more corporate future that officials claim is in the “best interest” of students and align the organization closer with the Ontario Non-for-profits Corporations Act. ■

What we learned from IGNITE’s information session

ANALYSIS

The new name of the executives, the source of the proposal ending executive elections and a lot of deflected questions — this is what took place at Thursday’s information session hosted by members of IGNITE’s Board of Directors and other officials ahead of the Special Meeting of the Members.

Who was present? For the time that The Avro Post had reporters present from 12 p.m. to about 12:50 p.m., Board Chairperson Neto Naniwambote and follow North Campus Director Eden Tavares were in attendance.

Who else? Guelph-Humber Director Erika Caldwell, who hosted her own similar event last week with her counterpart, Leadership Initiatives Coordinator Kristine Gavlan and Vice President Megan Roopnarine, who also represents Guelph-Humber.

So what did we learn? Probably the biggest story here is the constant deflections or, in most cases, the lack of knowledge the directors have about their own bylaws. When a reporter and a columnist with The Post pushed the directors present on some of the questions we had, they didn’t have much to say.

When it came to the question of IGNITE not allowing a Post reporter into their September Board of Directors meeting, going against a rule in what was then in their policies, Caldwell said she would not comment on previous events.

The second up to bat when it comes to big news items are the statements from Tavares and Gavlan that revealed it was IGNITE’s lawyer who was at least part of the initiative to end executive elections and hire students instead.

Tavares specifically said the lawyer “proposed” the amendment while Gavlan stated that the idea of ending executive elections had been “on the table” for some time, without specifying how long. The Post asked several times exactly how long the concept had been considered but Gavlan only answered that with a question: “Why do you want to know?”

We learned some new and exciting things about what the executives will become. First off, they will be called “Student Engagement Coordinators”. Secondly, there will only be three of them and the way directors explained it to The Post , there will no longer be a president-like role.

Thirdly, they will be hired regardless of campus, based on merit only. For example, if the three best candidates are from Lakeshore Campus, then they will be hired.

Finally, the student engagement coordinators will be hired via a panel that Gavlan said would include a representative from the Board of Directors and a member of the administration. The hiring group would be chosen in such a way to avoid conflict-of-interest. For example, staff that have worked with an applicant that was previously a director would not be part of the panel.

A reminder: a lot of these changes actually come down to a vote by students before they are set in stone. On Jan. 22 there will be a Special Meeting of the Members that any full-time student can go to and vote. Part-time students can go but cannot vote. All that is required is a student identification.

Lawyer partially behind end of executive elections, says director

IGNITE’s Eden Tavares, an elected representative on the Board of Directors, told The Avro Post during an information session on Thursday that the proposed amendment to end executive elections in favour of a hiring process was, in part, initiated by the student union’s lawyer.

After a reporter and columnist from The Post pressed for an answer several times, Tavares revealed that IGNITE’s lawyer “proposed” the amendment included in a package that was passed by directors at a Sept. 11 meeting. The proposed change will need approval by the student body at a Special Meeting of the Members later in January.

File photo of Eden Tavares via IGNITE.

The question over the origin of the specific bylaw amendment was first asked to Leadership Initiatives Coordinator Kristine Gavlan, who said that the student union’s lawyer was “supportive” of the move but stated the idea of ending executive elections “was on the table” for some time.

When asked how long specifically the amendment was in the works, Gavlan declined to give a time-frame. The amendment ending executive elections was passed at the second meeting of the 2019-2020 term of the current Board, meaning that if the idea of hiring executives was in the works for some time, it was likely carried over from a previous year.

It is not the first time that significant changes to the student union have originated with a different administration from the one at the helm when an initiative comes to fruition. Former Vice President Jeremy Alfonso told reporters last year just before his term ended that the reason his central campaign goal of bringing back an alcohol-serving bar back to North Campus never came to fruition was because the pay-what-you-can soup bar was prioritized in a previous IGNITE administration.

Alfonso was not the only executive in IGNITE’s history to have his campaign promises shut down without at least immediate explanation to the student body. Maheen Nazim campaigned on creating an IGNITE app that would include functions such as informing users how full a parking lot was. All of the initiatives brought forward have to be approved by the Board of Directors, as they sit at the top of the student union.

Is it this issue of campaign promises getting sidelined by larger objectives set by the student union that is part of the decision to end executive elections, officials have maintained. Additionally, Gavlan confirmed that the terms for the hired executives — to renamed “student engagement coordinators” if the amendment is passed on Jan. 22 — would be two years. Caldwell said last week that the two-year term proposal was “up in the air”.

Gavlan explained the longer term length for the coordinators would aim to bring more consistency to the role they hold within the organization, which is focused on operations and carrying out the Strategic Plan as a whole and year-to-year initiatives. By installing a longer term, the students that are chosen will have the time to adjust and grow into the role, Gavlan added. Current President Monica Khosla will, by April, have served two full terms.

The most-used reasoning repeated by officials for taking the hiring route is so that the best qualified students fill the roles, instead of what they call a “popularity contest”. IGNITE joins at least two other student unions in Ontario, including the Sheridan Student Union, by taking this direction.

The revelation on Thursday that a lawyer for IGNITE played a significant role in initiating a bylaw amendment process could lend further credibility to the claim made last year by two former student officials that the priorities of paid staff or third parties could override or have a major influence on the decisions made by elected student representatives.

The amendment to end executive elections and other policy moves being made by the student union to cut off Board of Directors meetings are part of a process to move IGNITE towards a more corporate future that officials claim is in the “best interest” of students and align the organization closer with the Ontario Non-for-profits Corporations Act.

Reporting by Eli Ridder,
Christian Aguire; Files
from Joelle Awad

Factcheck: IGNITE keeps posting incomplete bylaw proposals list

FACTCHECK

IGNITE has included a summary list of the bylaw changes coming forward to the Jan. 22 Special Meeting of the Members in three separate articles published to its website, a list that actually does not include every amendment.

The list has changed form once from when it was first published in an article by Managing Editor Alena Banes in late October, but all three include these two amendments that are coming to the SMOM:

  • IGNITE will end executive elections and hire students for the president and vice president positions.
  • new classifications of students: part-time students, full-time and full-time “enhanced” — those who pay one or more of the optional student fees.

However, there are actually seven amendments coming forward for student approval or rejection on Jan. 22. Here are the other five that IGNITE only mentions on their website within the Sept. 11 Board meeting minutes:

  • give power to the Board to pass amendments without needing approval at a Special Meeting of the Members.
  • the term “president” will be used for the chairperson of the Board.
  • the execution of documents will be overseen by the executive director.
  • annual general meetings to include an updated list of required agenda items.
  • clearly defining mandatory and optional fees.

The other two articles where the smaller, incomplete list is posted can be found under “Special Meeting of the Members — January 2020” and “3 reasons to attend IGNITE’s Special Meeting of the Members this year” on the student union’s website.

Directors holding information session ahead of SMOM

IGNITE’s Board of Directors are holding an information session on Thursday afternoon at Humber College’s North Campus focused on the proposed bylaw changes coming forward to students at the Special Meeting of the Members later in January.

The directors will gather in KX203 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., the student union said on Wednesday morning. Guelph-Humber’s two directors held a similar gathering last week where they were able to answer some of the questions related to the changes, though deflected others.

IGNITE has also highlighted the Special Meeting, or SMOM, in a new post published online giving three reasons to attend: “to shape the future of IGNITE”, “to exercise your role as a student member” and to get involved and “feel empowered”.

“The SMOM will be opportunity for all students to vote on how power is allocated within the organization,” Managing Editor Alena Banes writes in a blog post on IGNITE’s website, featured near the top of its home page as of Wednesday.

“This is no small deal,” she adds.

How a November meeting finalized the end of open Board meetings

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.

Shawayne Dunstan departs IGNITE’s Board of Directors

Records from November’s monthly meeting of IGNITE’s Board of Directors released on Friday revealed that Shawayne Dunstan had departed his role as a director representing Humber College’s North Campus, with the second year confirming to The Avro Post on Sunday that he left due to personal reasons and academic stress.

“S. Dunstan is no longer a member of the board in accordance with article 5.9 of the By-laws,” the Nov. 13 meeting minutes read. Bylaw 5.9 states a variety of reasons for a director to be removed, from the student dying to their academic status, so it was initially unclear what was behind Dunstan’s departure.

However, Dunstan, who will graduate from Restaurant and Hotel Operations Management in the spring, later told The Post in a statement that “a few personal circumstances that came back to back as well as the stress of school prevented me from attending the meetings and operating effectively, therefore I took a step back from the role.”

In response to a question seeking clarification, Dunstan emphasized that he left the position of his “own accord”. Dunstan, who is a published author of poetry, added: “I am thankful to have been voted in by my fellow peers and I am dedicated to being involved as much as I can throughout the school as I finish off my final semester.”

After speaking with The Post, Dunstan published a statement on his Instagram Story where he encouraged others to “make a difference” and to take inspiration from his successful campaign, saying he managed to acquire the position “without any posters and minimal promotions” and instead relied on “connecting with students”.

Dunstan was acclaimed in the 2019 IGNITE elections when four candidates ran for an equal number of seats representing North Campus on the Board of Directors. Then a first year, Dunstan claimed second place with 1,217 votes.

The second year has departed as the student union prepares to undergo major changes should students approve them at the Jan. 22 Special Meeting of the Members.

Dunstan and his former counterparts on the Board voted in September to pass a set of bylaw amendments that will end executive elections, give more unilateral power to the Board and more should students approve the items as a package at the Special Meeting, or SMOM.

IGNITE posts agenda ahead of Special Meeting

IGNITE on Friday published an agenda light on details for the upcoming Special Meeting of the Members within a post that listed just two of the seven bylaw amendments the student union will bring forward to members for final approval later this month.

Amid confusion and some backlash over the set of proposals, IGNITE said in the post that the amendments are “minor” and “will be in your best interest”. Full-time students will be able to vote on the propositions as a combined package at the Jan. 22 public meeting.

The amendment proposals include ending president and vice president elections in favour of a hiring process, giving the Board more unilateral power for future amendment approval and splitting the union’s membership into new classifications, among other items.

The Board of Directors, made up of 10 elected students from Humber College campuses and the University of Guelph-Humber, passed the amendments last year at its September meeting.

In an update posted on the student union’s website without notice at some point on Friday, IGNITE states that “change means making strategic decisions that help students like you”, adding that the policy updates are to “align with the Ontario Non-for-profit Corporations Act.”

It is the first time that IGNITE has confirmed the bylaws coming to the Special Meeting, or SMOM, outside of highlights of the amendments found in the Sept. 11 meeting minutes. However, the agenda does not include all of the amendments elected directors passed last year.

Emelia Maceášik, who ran in 2018 to be a University of Guelph-Humber senator, questioned the changes and the description IGNITE gave them in their latest post. They asked: “Are the changes for the benefit of the students, or to benefit Humber College as a corporation?”

“How exactly are any of these minor, and if there is actual backlash then IGNITE should reconsider how they are communicating with students and address our concerns in an open and accessible way,” Maceášik, a fourth year psychology student, said in comments to The Avro Post on Saturday.

The SMOM will start at 11 a.m. from the Student Centre at Humber College’s North Campus. Much like the presidential forum of the 2019 election, it appears IGNITE will also simulcast the SMOM to the Student Centre at Lakeshore Campus.

IGNITE on Friday also released meeting minutes nearly a month late for November’s Board of Directors meeting. The records reveal that IGNITE lost North Campus Director Shawayne Dunstan, without going into specifics on why.


What are the changes?

A “summary of the proposed changes” listed by IGNITE in their Friday post included:

  • the amendment to end executive elections in favour of a hiring process.
  • the amendment divide members into the three classifications of part-time members, full-time members and full-time enhanced members. The “enhanced members” would be those students who opt-in to one or more optional fee at the beginning of the semester.
  • a statement saying that the Board of Directors “will now be the face of IGNITE, rather than the executives”, which is not a formal amendment.

IGNITE did not include the other five formal amendments that were listed in the Sept. 11 meeting minutes. The directors also propose:

  • giving the Board of Directors power to unilaterally pass amendments, without approval by members to come into effect.
  • using the term “president” for the Board chairperson role.
  • the executive director, IGNITE’s top staffer, overseeing the execution of documents.
  • having an updated list of required agenda items for Annual Meetings.
  • clearly defining mandatory and optional fees.

The agenda is posed on the student union’s homepage. Featured right below it as of Saturday is an Oct. 29 blog post that gives further explanation for ending the executive elections, a proposal that first came to light at an Oct. 4 press briefing.

It is unclear why IGNITE did not include all of the proposed changes in its post, or why the bylaw amendments were not included in the agenda itself. Student unions across Canada usually disclose more details ahead of member meetings.

IGNITE breaks bylaws again by not releasing SMOM agenda

IGNITE broke its own bylaws when it did not release an agenda for the Jan. 22 Special Meeting of the Members at any point on Wednesday, with a pair of directors seemingly unaware of the rules.

It marks only the latest incident of Humber College’s student union ignoring their own rules listed inside documents posted to its Governance webpage.

Bylaw 4.4 of the Constitution states that the “time, place and subject matter” of a SMOM must be posted “not less than” 10 business days ahead of the meeting.

The only information available as of now is the date, which is only known because officials told the Humber Et Cetera in an interview late last year.

When reporters from The Avro Post asked a pair of directors on Wednesday if they would release the required details in accordance with their bylaws, they did not know the answer.

IGNITE has broken their own bylaws several times since the start of the current academic year by deleting the exact times and locations of Board of Directors meetings and not allowing journalists inside the gatherings.

When pushed to respond to the rule-breaking, Guelph-Humber Directors Erika Caldwell and Julia Ciampa appeared unaware of the bylaws and deflected questions from Post reporters.

Directors deflect questions over transparency, clarify amendments

The University of Guelph-Humber’s two elected representatives on the Board of Directors held an information session on Wednesday where they deflected questions regarding student criticism over the Board’s alleged lack of transparency but clarified several of the bylaw amendments coming to a public meeting later in January.

Directors in September passed a series of bylaw amendments that will come before the student body at a Jan. 22 Special Meeting of the Members, where students can vote on the combined package of proposed changes.

The amendments include ending president and vice president elections in favour of a hiring process, giving the Board more unilateral power for future amendment approval and splitting the union’s membership into new classifications, among other items.

Since the Sept. 11 Board of Directors meeting, journalists have been unable to either find or access their meetings, because reporters were either barred at the door from entry or, because details were removed from the IGNITE website, unable to find the directors.

IGNITE’s bylaws state that directors have to vote in a majority to remove a student from a Board meeting. They also state that the exact time and location of the gatherings are to be posted on the student union’s website.

The Avro Post asked Directors Erika Caldwell and Julia Ciampa, who represent Guelph-Humber on the Board, what they knew about journalists being denied entry to their meetings and the pair largely deflected the question, saying they were unaware of the specific bylaws reporters were referencing.

However, Board Chairperson Neto Naniwombote and the Guelph-Humber directors offered some insight into a few of the amendments from the Leadership Lounge on the second floor of the university’s building where the “Politics and Pizza” event was held.

One of the amendments listed in the September meeting minutes stated that the “president term will be used for board chairperson”. It was previously unclear whether this meant a length of time or potentially the terminology.

Ciampa clarified that this meant that the chairperson, who is and would remain elected by their peers on the Board at the start of a new term, would be given the title “president”.

Caldwell revealed that IGNITE is considering making executive terms last two years, but said that “it is up in the air right now” and said this would likely be a decision made after the Special Meeting of the Members.

Questions regarding the process of how the amendments came about and whether the Board was unanimous in support of the changes were deflected, with Caldwell saying that would remain an internal, private conversation.

For the time The Avro Post’s reporters were present, at least seven other students stopped by to ask questions and learn more about the changes. The directors were largely focusing the single most significant proposed change: the end of executive elections.

Naniwombote, who also represents Humber College’s North Campus, said that he would be hosting a similar meet-and-greet session for his campus on Thursday and that details would be released by IGNITE’s social media. It is unclear if Lakeshore directors will also hold an event.

Reporting by Joelle Awad, 
Eli Ridder; Editing by Eli Ridder

Finally, a chance to ask questions of your directors

ANALYSIS

After a semester and two days without an opportunity in a public forum to ask IGNITE’s Board of Directors questions — the student body at large will finally have a chance to have a chat with their representatives, hosted by the directors from the University of Guelph-Humber.

Student journalists haven’t been able to access Board meetings since this term started in May. Then in December, IGNITE officials told the Humber Et Cetera that student journalists would not be allowed to enter whatsoever, breaking their own bylaws and apparently the only student union to make such a call.

The directors will be bringing forward a package of bylaw amendment proposals to a Special Meeting of the Members on Jan. 22 that will be voted on by members — all full-time students — of IGNITE. The only resource we have regarding what items will come forward is from the Sept. 11 Board meeting minutes — a Board meeting we were told we couldn’t enter.

But now, we have an open invitation to students to come have a chat with the directors in the small Guelph-Humber Leadership Lounge.

Expect staff from the student union like Executive Director Ercole Perrone and Acting Communications Director Unika Hypolite to be in attendance to make sure the right answers are given. Vice President Megan Roopnarine also indicated she would be present.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Leadership Lounge on the second floor of Guelph-Humber students will have a rare opportunity to ask questions and find out more.

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