IT IS TIME FOR REAL ACTION
Transparency is critical for a student union.
I believe a student union should be both a student government carrying out governance and organizational goals with institutional memory. Basically, I want IGNITE to operate with integrity and for as many of the decisions as possible be out in public so we can be held accountable as your democratically elected representatives. The biggest Real Action that can be taken on the issue is opening Board of Directors meetings to all students.
Last November, at a meeting closed off to other students, IGNITE’s Board of Directors decided by itself that you weren’t allowed to be at its meetings anymore (source). It was a change to the Board policy itself so students weren’t able to have any say at a general members meeting.
In writing a story looking into how other student unions operate, I was calling up each university and college student union in Ontario to find out if they let in students at their Board of Directors meetings. All but one do. I want to reverse this decision and return IGNITE to the 99% of student unions that do operate with transparency at the board level.
One of the main reasons for closing off the Board of Directors meetings, according to Executive Director Ercole Perrone and other officials, was so that directors can speak frankly about the motions and issues at hand. However, this is easily remedied by the ability for directors to vote to go in-camera.
What does in-camera mean? It means that everyone who is not a director is kicked out of the room so that the directors can conduct sensitive discussions in private. This is actually a method that has been enshrined in the Constitution — now called Bylaw No. 1 — for several decades and is common not only at student unions across North America, but also at other levels of governance, such as city councils.
This will be my first motion if elected to the Board of Directors. Once this is passed, the Board will be open to all. Do I expect a lot of students to show up? No, but the point is, you will be able to. What I expect to happen is journalists will start once again to attend the meetings and they, in turn, will inform the public on what happens.
I can’t guarantee that the directors will always like what is being reported and I am sure that there is room for mistakes with this system, but it will open up IGNITE once again to the freedom of the press and allow for information to flow freely.
I will say that I believe it is also the duty of each director to talk about what occurred at a Board of Directors meeting and share what and how decisions were made that night. But that is not something that should be enforced, just my personal belief in good, transparent governance. With open meetings, however, all of us will be held accountable and be aware of the immense gravity of our decisions, as we should.
This is Real Action that will immediately benefit students.