IGNITE expected to shift governance structure on Wednesday
WHAT’S GOING ON?
On Wednesday January 20th, the student union that represents both Humber College and University of Guelph-Humber students is holding a General Meeting of Members (GMoM).
According to the IGNITE website, the top of the agenda is a vote to change the executive structure from elected executives to hired executives.
Across the province of Ontario, and Canada, student union executive are elected as a matter of process on almost every school. There are a few exceptions – Centennial College, and Sheridan College; the Sheridan Student Union (SSU) executive have been hired rather than elected since 2011.
A hired executive is still beholden to the board of directors and IGNITE is proposing a change that would make their directors the face of their organization rather than their [proposed] hired executive (unlike Sheridan, who still looks to the hired executive to front the student organization).
The IGNITE organization has listed three key changes to their constitution on their website, and have provided the proposed agenda for their meeting.
In general, best practice — and outlined in Robert’s Rules of Order (Ch 11, Sec 68) — would dictate that each change to the constitution or bylaw be amended separately; this is supported by, the relatively unclear, guidelines set forth in the IGNITE constitution. The group currently lists all changes on the agenda as what appears to be an omnibus motion.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
While The Sheridan Sun has a responsibility to Sheridan students, Humber College is a peer and it turns out, this new structure they’ve proposed is partly based on our model.
In a discussion in December, Ben LeBlanc, President of the SSU, said that he had been advising IGNITE through the fall semester on their desired changes. As Sheridan is one of the only schools in the province with a hired executive, this makes sense.
However, while LeBlanc said of the student press “[they] generally don’t cover [board meetings] but they’re always welcome;“ IGNITE has not been as forgiving.
According to reporting from Guelph-Humber’s The Avro Post, IGNITE has been denying student journalists access to their board meetings since September 11th 2019. The Avro Post reported that they had been informed by IGNITE that “under the Ontario Corporations Act [OCA], only Board directors have a right to be at the meetings and that students would need to contact the executive director to attend.”
However, while the OCA does outline specific rules pertaining to members meetings (AGMs and additional General Meetings). It does not detail specifics about how Board of Directors meetings are run. It does cover director responsibility, election, removal, and general business.
As a publicly incorporated group in the province, unless the board of directors have voted to hold all meetings in-camera (or something else to that affect) public minutes must be made accessible to all members. As a governing body representing a membership of paying students – whether they opted out or not – It is best practice to hold open board meetings for the sake of transparency.
As LeBlanc says, at the SSU, “Often it’s bigger issues where students don’t feel like they can contribute … but all the minutes are posted online, as well, all meetings are open to any student to attend, so any student can just drop in. We have a [registration] online – you don’t have to register – but because we cater all the meetings … I’d like to know if I’m ordering pizza for ten or ordering pizza for fifty.”
In confidence, a reporter from The Avro Post contacted me in late November. IGNITE had been holding board meetings in secret during the fall semester, were not posting meeting locations, were asking students who wanted to attend to email the executive director for approval, and denying entrance to student press.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
The Et Cetera, Humber College’s newspaper, reported that “[the] proposed policy changes would in part make the organization align with the pending Ontario Not-for-profit Corporations Act.”
In an Oct. 29 IGNITE press release, the organization said that the shift from elected to hired executives would result in a “high quality of executive candidates, with relevant role-specific skills to offer to the organization.”
The Et Cetera added that “IGNITE executive director Ercole Perrone said in that release the change would stop popularity from being a factor in determining the IGNITE executives,” but when questioned by student reporters, “Perrone urged reporters not to read to deeply into the language of the release when asked about [it]” and “the quote has since been removed from the release.”
The Et Cetera also reports that the GMoM’s quorum is 50 members [students who opted in to the IGNITE fee], and that “the amendments will pass if they are approved by more than 50 per cent of the vote.”
It is noted in Robert’s Rules of Order that when amending a constitution or bylaws, that if less than half the membership of the organization is able to attend, “the expression “a vote of two-thirds of the members present,” should be used.”