EDITORIAL: IGNITE changes begin new era for organization

by | Feb 26, 2021 | Editorial

Humber Et Cetera has written almost 20 stories in the last two years about IGNITE and its governance, from elections to board meetings. Thousands of words have been devoted entirely to this organization, with good reason. It has a $13 million budget paid into by students and are a massive part of every Humber student’s college experience.

While the coverage has always been fair, it has not always been complimentary. IGNITE has stumbled with transparency issues, bylaw violations, and a historically frosty relationship with the media. But this past week a decision was made by IGNITE’s Board of Directors that can only be met with full-throated support: it rejoined the College Student Alliance.

After around seven years apart from the student advocacy organization, the board voted unanimously to return to the fold at their Feb. 17 meeting. Humber will join seven other colleges on April 1 with the intention of making their presence known on a provincial level.

The CSA is a non-profit organization advocating for post-secondary students on the provincial level.

“We’re not joining just to join, we’re joining to influence,” Ercole Perrone, the CEO of IGNITE, said at the Feb. 23 media day. This is a welcome change of opinion from Perrone, who as recently as last year was against joining an organization like CSA, saying he did not think it offered enough to students. However, he cites conversations with current board chairman Eli Ridder, a second-year journalism student, and the lessons learned from students spending the year at home in changing his mind, saying if this was not the time to try and have a louder voice, when would it be?

And there is no doubt they are in a position to do just that. IGNITE is by far the largest student advocacy group in the CSA, immediately positioning them as one of the loudest voices in the room. The question is what will that voice be saying?

In the past year, CSA’s advocacy has focused on a variety of issues, including funding for student mental health programs and strengthening policies surrounding sexual violence on post-secondary campuses. All worthy causes, but not the only issues that will be on IGNITE’s to-do list.

Sustainability has the potential to be a focus, as in the same meeting the CSA decision was approved, there was continued discussion of board member Gabi Hentschke’s sustainability plan, which they hope to vote on next week. The plan focuses on an official commitment to sustainability by IGNITE, including things like healthier food options for students.

No matter what they choose to focus on, it is better not only for Humber students but all post-secondary students, college and university, when we band together in the name of student advocacy. It is the only way to show the powers that be we have a voice on issues that concern us. Look at what the CFS was able to accomplish in regards to the Student Choice Initiative in 2019. If a single student advocacy group had attempted that who knows what would have happened.

It was the will of many that instituted real change.

Humber is the largest college in Ontario, and its student advocacy voice should be heard on a provincial scale. This move appears to be the first step in that process. But more importantly, it is a step in the direction of change for IGNITE. Et Cetera has been quick to comment when IGNITE has done something wrong and stands by every story. Our job is to report the news, and any organization handling millions of dollars of student’s money is undoubtedly that. But 2021 has the chance to be a huge year for the organization, and our publication looks forward to reporting more positive changes, like this one, should they continue.

Optimism, no matter how cautious, is a good thing, something students deserve after a year of online learning. This week, IGNITE has given us just that.