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.

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. ■

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