Factcheck: ‘Your guide to everything IGNITE’

Editor’s Note: Welcome to a new series by The Avro Post: A factcheck will be carried out anytime there is a significant claim by an IGNITE or administration official or an important post from the student union. It’s not a regular post from us, and will look a little different from other articles.

IGNITE, the student union representing those at Humber College campuses and the University of Guelph-Humber, released a post on Wednesday morning that acts as a guide to everything they offer and run.

Though the Student Choice Initiative will allow students to, for the first time, opt-out of funding parts of the student union, it was not mentioned in this website post. However, the post is likely part of their effort to promote opting in.

The article itself as a whole is 100 per cent accurate, with the exception of the section titled “fight for your future”, where there could be more clarification on what exactly the student union has been up to.

The claims written there that they are “pushing back on recent cuts to OSAP”, making the campus more accessible and “representing the student body at important meetings”. The executive of 2019-2020 and the newly elected student government have been working towards both.

Earlier this year, IGNITE’s President Monica Khosla, who was re-elected in March, dropped off hundreds of postcards at Queen’s Park signed by students opposed to the optional student fees and grant cuts — part of a reform package introduced by the province in January.

Some students believed that delivering postcards to Queen’s Park was not enough. Others point to the postcards, as well as their efforts to build awareness and support rallies protesting the education cuts as a student union as sufficient effort.

The Ontario division of the Canadian Federation of Students, a national student organization, has lobbied the provincial government and even taken it to court.

There is definitely some division among students over how IGNITE has conducted itself in advocating against the changes as a Toronto-based student union. The Post has reached out to Khosla to request more information regarding further efforts.

Executive Director Ercolé told The Avro Post in a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday that right now IGNITE is focused on the 30,000-plus students coming to campus this September and not on political lobbying. Also, the provincial government is out of parliament session until late in October.

How IGNITE got a new vice president

SPECIAL REPORT

In an interview with The Avro Post on Tuesday, IGNITE’s executive director revealed the process behind choosing a new vice president for Humber College North Campus — a hire that had their first day on Tuesday.

Though director Ercolé Perrone did not spell out their name, he said that the new vice president was, phonetically, “Shayne Hamilton”. The Avro Post is waiting on an official release from the student union for his or her identity.

The process started when Simran, the mysterious vice president that never responded to a request for comment from The Post, quit her role that she was elected to with 1,778 votes. President Monica Khosla announced her departure in a statement on June 10.

Perrone said this triggered options for the IGNITE Board of Directors. They could decide from several options.

The Board could have held a by-election or panel interviews starting in September, a process that would have required election resources and candidate approval from the Board of Governors. The candidate would not have likely been in place until mid-October with this process.

The Board also could have voted to keep the position unfilled, and save money in the process, Perrone told The Post, saying that everything was being considered.

The other option available to them, and one not unprecedented for student unions, was to hire a replacement from the student population. Some said this was undemocratic, and, though it was not technically a democratic move, the decision was made by democratically elected representatives.

Neto Naniwambote, the Board chair, told The Post on Wednesday morning that the decision to open the position up for applications and hire the best individual for the job was one made unanimously.

“The Board had thoughtful discussion about the pros and cons of each option above and after much consideration and deliberation it was decided that it was better to have someone join the team as soon as possible,” Naniwambote wrote in a statement.

Because the vice president was added ahead of September, the chair said that they are able to “hit the ground running being a strong voice for students when the school year starts”.

The Board of Directors is made up of entirely of 10 elected students: four from North Campus, three from Lakeshore Campus, two from the University of Guelph-Humber and, for the first time, one from Orangeville Campus.



Perrone said that the Board decided to move ahead with the hire option considering the major changes coming to the student union and how it operates due to the Student Choice Initiative — optional student fees coming into play for the fall semester.

The new vice president, who Perrone said was Hamilton, will likely be introduced very shortly to the student community via IGNITE’s social media channels and their website.


Editor’s Note: A wide-ranging interview with the IGNITE executive director revealed several details on different topics. More details will follow in stories today and this week.

Exclusive: Frosh not under threat due to SCI, IGNITE director says

SPECIAL REPORT 

Despite financial concerns over the incoming Student Choice Initiative, IGNITE’s executive director told The Avro Post in an interview on Tuesday that the student union is planning a traditional Frosh.

Frosh is typically made up of a series of events in the first days of a new school year that, at least for Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, includes concerts and other themed occasions.

IGNITE’s staff director, Ercolé Perrone, said that Frosh “may not look the same, it may not be two concerts”, but that it — and other large events that usually take place through the year — are still on the agenda.

“We will continue on with some of those signature activities and events, even with the unpredictability of the funding,” Perrone said, explaining that IGNITE is confident students will choose not to opt-out of the fees.

The optional student fees were mandated by Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives in January as part of a significant education reform package that slashed domestic tuition and cut grants and loans.

Student organizations and campus publications across the province have condemned the SCI, fearing that it will result in their services being defunded and discontinued.


Editor’s Note: A wide-ranging interview with the IGNITE executive director revealed several details on different topics. More details will follow in stories today and this week.

First Year Experience launches blog to help students

Humber College’s First Year Experience program launched a blog on Tuesday morning with the aim of helping students with “tips and hacks” for a better inaugural college school year.

In an announcement on social media, FYE said they will have weekly updates. As of now, the blog has three posts up addressing the themes of budgeting ahead of September, bucket lists and recommended electives.

Humber College outlines how student fees will work

In an email to students on Monday afternoon, Humber College detailed how tuition fees will work for the upcoming semester with the newly mandated Student Choice Initiative, breaking it down into two sections of ancillary fees and Enhanced Student Experience fees.

Ancillary fees are the compulsory and and “support student services and activities distinct from academic programming”, said the Office of the Registrar. At least several of these fees will fund some library services and sports.

The so-called “enhanced student experience” charges will fund IGNITE, the student union representing those enrolled at Humber and the University of Guelph-Humber, and its clubs. It also covers career planning programs, leadership development and the college’s alumni network.

The Student Choice Initiative, or SCI, was introduced by Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative provincial government earlier this year to allow students to opt-out of certain ancillary fees that were previously mandatory.

The announcement was made amid a 10 per cent tuition cut for domestic students and major slashes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program. The SCI and student financial aid cuts have caused significant backlash from student organizations, campus publications and students across Ontario.

The fees for the IGNITE student union break down into five categories: leadership programming, governance, events, career-focused programming and student financial relief. Each fee can be opted-out of individually and together cost $55.95.

The amount has previously been around $75 for all IGNITE fees but because the health and dental insurance plans are considered part of the mandatory bundle for those that do not already have it, this fee appears lower.

For full costs, the college encouraged students to sign into their MyHumber account and find more information through the “Student Account and Fees” tab. University of Guelph-Humber students can visit WebAdvisor.

The IGNITE optional fees apply the same to those enrolled at both Humber and Guelph-Humber.

Ercole Perrone, IGNITE’s executive director and top member of staff, told The Post earlier this year that the Humber College Board of Governors would have to approve the SCI process, following strict rules from the provincial government.

Perrone will be speaking with journalists from The Post on Tuesday, when there will likely be more details given around how the college and the student union worked to approve the optional student fees.

The IGNITE Board of Directors, made up of elected students, passed what was essentially a stopgap budget earlier this year that was later approved at the Annual General Meeting.

Chris Whitaker, president of the college, confirmed in that Humber’s approach to comply with the SCI would include core services that will remain paid for.

“There will also be a group of things which are there on an opt-in basis and then I think the idea is that students will be able to select from a menu what they want to support and what they don’t,” Whitaker told Humber News in an interview.

It was the first statement from the college administration on how the optional student fees will be presented, but it appears there was no further questioning on what exactly the “menu” of options will entail.

Provincial parliamentarian and secretary to the post-secondary education minister David Piccini told The Avro Post last week that it was largely up to each institution how the optional student fees would be carried out.

The college president also encouraged students at the time to take time to budget very carefully while financing is available, consider all options and “certainly seek out any advice or assistance from the various supports and services that exist at Humber”.


This story is developing and will be updated.

IT students showcase capstone projects

Students graduating from Humber College’s Information Technology Solutions graduate certificate program will be showcasing their capstone projects on Wednesday.

The public is invited to meet the graduating class, learn about the skills they have acquired, check out finished or ongoing work, collaborate on a web, database or mobile app project and network with other organizations.


Previous year


The showcase is taking place at Humber College’s North Campus Room KB111 known as Seventh Semester at 3 p.m., according to a post by Humber Today.

IGNITE touts how its ‘changed the lives of students’

Ahead of the implementation of optional student fees this fall, IGNITE has published a blog post outlining the different ways it has “changed the lives of students”, aiming to highlight its usefulness as students consider whether or not to fund it.

“Amid the turmoils of the recent Ford government cuts, the resources, and services offered to students like YOU are greatly at risk,” Sulvey Polanco writes for the student union, which serves both Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber.

Earlier this year, the provincial government under Premier Doug Ford mandated the Student Choice Initiative that will allow students to opt-out of certain “ancillary fees”, many of which fund the operations of IGNITE outside the health and dental insurance plans.

It was part of an announcement that also included a 10 per cent tuition cut for domestic students and significant cuts to provincial student grants and loans. Under the previous government some 200,000 low-income students could attend post-secondary entirely under grants, but now no-longer.

In the blog post, Polanco claims that IGNITE has helped thousands of students within three different categories: student life, personal life, and future life.



In an effort to relieve the financial insecurity that plagues many in school, the student union has allocated over $400,000 in bursaries to 550 students in the past year, Polanco writes. IGNITE has also held 44 social events that nearly 4,000 students went to, about one sixth of the campus population.

When it comes to the personal life impacts of IGNITE, the blog post highlights the pay-what-you-can soupbar that was launched last September, an initiative that was not part of any elected representative’s platform and replaced the initiative to bring back the alcohol-serving Linx Lounge.

“Through our Soupbar and the Feed it Forward initiative, we have served nearly 7,000 bowls of soups to students making it over $27,000 in savings,” Polanco adds. For many that are unable to purchase lunch on a daily basis, the Soupbar is critical.

IGNITE has also given away 3,300 menstrual kist as part of an initiative launched by former Lakeshore Vice President Alisa Lim — who served in the role from 2017 to 2018.

Polanco also highlighted the 54 clubs administered by the student union that allows students to network and also get out-of-classroom skills that could help with first steps into their careers in the future.

Some students have in the past criticized how IGNITE has administered and ran the clubs, including several that have tried to start a club before being shut down before or just after being approved. There are strict policies around what clubs can do.

IGNITE has also hosted several Real Talks events for Black History Month and International Women’s Day for what Polanco said was over 300 students. It is unclear if this means 300 students for all the events combined or per event, however, 300 students is less than one per cent of students.

“By bringing in inspirational and positive role models for students to listen to for free, it gives the power to educate and empower so many people,” the post adds.

In the final section titled “future life”, Polanco writes that IGNITE has changed her life by giving her an opportunity to have “real-life working experience in a field I am so passionate about.”

“Through this, I’m able to contribute to the 120+ student-written articles that have been published onto the IGNITE website since September.”

IGNITE currently employs 79 part-time, student staff, according to Polanco, and highlighted the 25 candidates for leadership positions in the last election and 8,000 student voters.

“These elections give students the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions and be a voice for their student body. After all, nobody knows the struggles that students go through more than students do.”

The election saw about 24.5 per cent of the student population voting, a percentage that is higher than many of IGNITE’s counterparts. However, one of the elected vice presidents, who went just by Simran, quit her position in June without giving a reason publicly.

IGNITE announced then that they would look to hire a vice president from the student body instead, an unprecedented move by a student union. Typically, student governments hold by-elections when an elected representative leaves office early, such as in the case of the Guelph Senate.

The IGNITE blog post is accurate in terms of what it highlights as services funded by the approximately $75 student fee that is now at least partially optional. The full breakdown has not been revealed at this time and budget discussions have been behind closed doors.



The Avro Post published a series of reports in the spring after several interviews with the student union’s executive director that revealed the extent of chaos the provincial government was at the time putting the student unions through.

The Post has reached out this week for further information on the current status of how students will be presented with the optional student fees and what back-up plans IGNITE has in place. Other unions have dropped programs and staff in advance of the fall in anticipation of the opt-out.

The fall will reveal whether IGNITE’s efforts to keep students on board will be enough. Many student governments are preparing to recieve about 50 per cent of their regular support.

For the first time in IGNITE history, the Board of Directors approved the annual budget as per normal but with the knowledge and stipulation that it would be replaced in the summer by the newly elected board.

The fall will reveal what situation the student union is in. However, IGNITE has not confirmed to The Post whether they will release the number of students that opted-in after fees are paid in late August or early September.

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