When I arrived at Humber College on Thursday evening after spending several hours commuting from Guelph, I was looking forward to covering the final, and very critical, IGNITE Board of Directors meeting.
I arrived around 5:10 p.m. and made my way to the top and sixth floor of the Learning Resource Commons to wait for the meeting to start. This floor is where the administration of the college works.
I went in search of the room where the directors would gather but I found it was down a hallway with signs marked “employees only past this point”, a sign that did make sense to be there because of the floor the meeting was on but did not appear very inviting.
I then went to takes pictures of the campus from the beautiful top windows of the LRC while contacting one of the Board directors about the meeting, to confirm that it started at 6 p.m. as the website indicated.
The director informed me that it was actually 5:45 p.m., a time that IGNITE did not post online iron their social media at any point in the last week or earlier. So, before 5:40 p.m., I made my way to the room, knocked and started to open the door, seeing the board members inside.
However, I was confronted by Executive Director Ercole Perrone, who said that I was not allowed inside because I was not a student.
So let me interject with some context here. I was a University of Guelph-Humber student off and on up until recently and had been covering IGNITE since October 2017.
In February, I was allowed in a Board meeting even though I was not attending Guelph-Humber at the time.
Maybe that was a mistake and I should not have been there but no one ever approached me about it and I was reporting for The Avro Post as an invested community member, and I knew I was returning back to Humber in the fall.
This time, I was attending the student union meeting — which is open to all students in the spirit of transparency — as a journalist for the independent student publication and as an accepted and registered Advanced Journalism program student.
I pointed this out to Mr. Perrone, who said insisted I could not be there because I started this fall. I do have a student number and have started paying tuition fees, so I found that inaccurate, but that is definitely my opinion. Reaction has been mixed.
However, aside from this, the facts are that I am a “future student” starting in September who is interested in the college and how the student union works.
For a future student — a student, by the way, that will choose whether to opt-out or continue funding IGNITE this fall — to be blocked from a public meeting of the student union’s board does not look good transparency-wise. I write that analytically.
It does not look good for only independent student publication that has worked hard to report the facts — whether perceived as good or bad — on the student government to be shut out of the single most important meeting of the year.
IGNITE will be fighting for its very survival come fall, and while all of the current executive team are moving on, President Monica Khosla was re-elected and will be leading a new executive and Board of Directors into optional student fees this fall.
But, during a year where many of the current executives dropped platform items without notice, an Annual General Meeting was held without a live stream and IGNITE has defiantly ignored the independent student press and student activists, will students choose to fund the union?
On the other hand, IGNITE executives have successfully carried out 13 clear initiatives, some of which were on their platforms, and the student union has expressed their defiance of the provincial government’s mandated Student Choice Initiative.
“Progress is made through open and honest conversation,” reads the description of Board meetings on the IGNITE website, inviting students to attend in-person and get engaged. It is up to you to figure out if the were being “open and honest” on Thursday.
Take everything into consideration over the past year.
Is this how IGNITE wins students over? You tell me. The Avro Post will continue to report but is it you that makes the judgements. And this, fall you will have a significant way of making your voice heard.
There was no independent media coverage from the critical IGNITE Board of Directors meeting on Thursday evening because a student journalist with The Avro Post was denied entry due to not starting classes at Humber College until September.
The Humber Et Cetera, Humber News and Skedline were not seen entering the Board gathering, and so only IGNITE meeting minutes available later on will specify what took place in Room 6167, which was down a long hallway past a sign that read “employees only past this point”.
The directors were expected to define for the first time the framework of the Student Choice Initiative mandated by the Ontario government that will introduce optional student fees come this fall. Now, it is unclear how the information will be passed along by the student union.
The journalist, TAP’s Editor-in-Chief Eli Ridder, accepted Humber College’s offer-of-admission for the fall semester and was verified as a student via email from the college. He was previously a student at the University of Guelph-Humber.
When he knocked to enter the meeting room on the administrative sixth floor of the Learning Resource Commons of North Campus, Executive Director Ercole Perrone denied him entry, saying that he was not a student.
In what will mark the final task of the current term of elected representatives, IGNITE’s Board of Directors will meet on Thursday night at Humber College’s North Campus where they are expected to further determine the next steps for the student union’s financial future.
The Avro Post reached out to Margarita Bader, a director and former presidential candidate that has consistently responded to requests for comment, who said on Wednesday that Board Chair Shayan Shakil is taking the lead and that she had not received meeting notes.
“I think they’re going to finalize and approve the mandatory and optional fees,” Bader told The Avro Post on Thursday. By the end of the meeting, it is likely the framework for tuition and fee payments this fall be public.
The Board of Directors, as with their counterparts across the province, are working with the specifications from the province to determine how to carry out the Student Choice Initiative, introduced earlier this year by the Progressive Conservative Ontario government.
The SCI brings optional student fees into play this fall, allowing students to opt-out of specific categories that have yet to be specifically determined — but has been narrowed down over time, most recently on April 1 when the government introduced specifications for universities and colleges.
The IGNITE student union at Humber College responded on Wednesday to an organizer of the unsanctioned naloxone training that took place a day before, offering to connect the group that ran the event with President Monica Khosla.
Pre-Med Society co-founder Hannah Derue tweeted at the official IGNITE account saying that a petition was submitted to IGNITE to “provide readily accessible naloxone training for students, which has long been denied through appropriate channels” like clubs and societies.
Derue, who is graduating from the psychology program at the University of Guelph-Humber in a matter of weeks, added: “IGNITE executives, the lives of students and community members are in your hands.”
“This is a great initiative,” the student union account replied, adding that “our execs have a lot of questions about this so if you’re interested in making this a reality, I would encourage you to reach out to your IGNITE president, Monica Khosla”.
Derue said she is “always available to talk” and noted her the other naloxone training organizers left a petition on the president’s desk at IGNITE as she was not there when they went by, asking, why, if the student union believed it to be a “great initiative” they did not allow it to be run by sanctioned clubs on campus.
“If an IGNITE club was denied funding for an event, our Leadership Initiatives Coordinator Kristine Galvan would have provided them with a reason, but you can always reach out to her directly for further clarification,” the student government account said in response.
“Ah yes, there must be an appropriate reason with someone, somewhere… Somehow feel like I’ve heard that before,” Derue wrote in response.
IGNITE finished the public conversation by saying: “Hey Hannah, why don’t I have Monica reach out to you to arrange a date and time for you to meet and discuss your initiative further? DM us your email address and I’ll have her get in touch!”
Derue, Emelia Macaéšik, and a third student who wished to go unnamed held an unsanctioned naloxone training session and kit giveaway in the Student Centre on Tuesday with the aim of promoting harm reduction.
Naloxone kits, when properly used, are effective at halting opioid-related overdoses. The student organizers wanted to raise more attention to the kits and how students, staff and faculty could use them on campus.
Derue told The Avro Post on Sunday that the group approached Humber College, Student Life at Guelph-Humber and IGNITE to run the training and harm reduction promotion as a sanctioned event.
The organizers said they understood part of the denial to have a sanctioned event was related to the presence of a security guard on campus at all times who has a naloxone kit and the training to use it.
“We are holding the event because two overdose prevention sites in Toronto permanently closed since roughly a week ago, despite the fact that CBC reports that over 600 overdose-related deaths happened during the first half of 2018,” Derue said at the time.
The Avro Post has reached out for comment several times from IGNITE, Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, but has not received a response.
A group of students from various groups on campus had an unsanctioned naloxone training session on Tuesday in the North Campus Student Centre, which organizers hailed as a success after giving out several of the opioid overdose response kits.
Organizers said that opioid overdoses have become an “epidemic” in Ontario, and with estimated deaths that number in the hundreds each year in Toronto.
The group gave out “at least a dozen” kits to those interested, and also promoted the availability of free naloxone kits in local pharmacies.
Emelia Maceášik, president of the Humber chapter of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Pre-Med Society co-founder Hannah Derue and a third male who asked not to be named have been advocating for access to harm reduction initiatives from IGNITE.
The three organizers went ahead with their unsanctioned event after the Humber College administration, Student Life at the University of Guelph-Humber and IGNITE denied their requests for a sanctioned naloxone training session and harm reduction event.
A petition for “readily accessibility naloxone training for students” on campus was submitted to the student union. One of the organizers said the petition was left on IGNITE President Monica Khosla’s desk.
The organizers provided information regarding opioid overdoses, how to spot someone that may have overdosed, and how to treat them in an emergency.
Naloxone kits were also provided as a way to promote the availability of free naloxone kits in local pharmacies.
Though the details are currently scarce surrounding the future financing of post-secondary instituitions including Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, the college may aim to align the provincial government’s new performance measures with its Strategic Plan, a spokesperson told Humber News in a report on Monday.
A provincial budget was released on April 11 that included legislation to quantify 60 per cent of a university or college to “performance outcomes” instead of the previously Liberal-mandated 1.2 per cent, dropping the 38 metrics by which institutions are judged on to 10.
The campus administrations themselves will individually assist the government determine on how they are measured, with Humber College spokesman Andrew Leopold telling Humber News that “we’re going to have to work with the ministry to identify what our areas might be”.
Leopold was referencing the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities led by Progressive Conservative parliamentarian Merrilee Fullerton.
During Humber’s process specifically, Leopold told Humber News that the college will look to align its performance measures with the “work that we’re already doing moving forward”, and learn from the Ontario government what “they’re looking for from the colleges”.
Leopold said Humber may want to use performance metrics that align with its Strategic Plan, including things like providing accessible education and having a healthy, inclusive campus. But it is too soon to know exactly how the college will be measured.
This is not the only file where the education ministry is leaving stakeholders in the dark about major changes to the system. For institutions, student unions and campus publications, the Student Choice Initiative has yet to be fully understood.
IGNITE’s Board of Directors deferred their annual budget to be essentially scrapped and re-proposed over the summer because of a lack of information outlining what funding is compulsory after introducing optional student fees earlier this year coming into play in September.
Leopold’s statement to Humber News that it is essentially too soon to know the performance-based funding measures would work for the college is the first time that the administration has detailed their response to how it would approach the budget.
In an event not sanctioned by the administration or the student union, members of the Humber College and University of Guelph-Humber community are holding a nalaxone training session at North Campus on Tuesday, The Avro Post has learned.
“We are holding the event because two overdose prevention sites in Toronto permanently closed since roughly a week ago, despite the fact that CBC reports that over 600 overdose-related deaths happened during the first half of 2018,” one of the organizers, Hannah Derue, said.
Though the training starts at 12:30 p.m. on North Campus, the exact location of the session has not yet been disclosed because “volunteers of the group are concerned that the institutions will actively try to dismantle the session”, Derue, a campus activist, added.
Those interested in attending the training session are encouraged to get in touch with Derue on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
The group of concerned students previously approached IGNITE, staff at Humber College and Student Life at University of Guelph-Humber to hold a session with the aim of training students to use the life-saving naloxone kits, but all three campus institutions denied their request.
“We understand that there is a serious need for grassroots intervention due to the inaction of this government and our respective institutions. We’re doing this to save lives,” an organizer added. Naloxone kits are used to treat those experiencing opioid overdoses.
Derue, graduating from psychology program at Guelph-Humber in the next few weeks, explained she understood part of the rational on Humber and Guelph-Humber’s denial is that there is already a security guard in place at all times who can administrator the kit.
“They do not condone training students in the safe handling and administration of naloxone, even though it is harmless even when used on an individual who has not initiated an overdose or consumed opiates whatsoever,” those planning the training told The Avro Post.
The concerned students requested to have external healthcare practitioners brought on campus to carry out the training but they faced rejection with that suggestion. It is not uncommon for post-secondary institutions to offer naloxone training to student leaders and their peers.
There is a nurse at Humber College that is equipped to train staff and faculty to administer naloxone, but it is unclear how many of those employed have utilized the training.
The Avro Post has reached out to IGNITE, Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber’s Student Life department for comment. The Avro Post’s Arnold Samson will be reporting on the training session as it happens on Tuesday.