Jared Dodds, News Reporter
Humber College’s students don’t appear aware about proposed changes expected to be adopted in early January to how its student union IGNITE operates.
IGNITE announced on its website on Oct. 29 the organization is transitioning away from students electing the presidents and three vice-presidents — one each from Lakeshore, North and the University of Guelph-Humber — to the positions being hired by the Board of Directors.
The seven- to 10-member Board of Directors, however, will remain elected officials.
IGNITE said the changes were to bring clarity to the roles of the executives and the Board of Directors. Despite currently being elected, executives do not have the ability to vote on decisions taken by the Board.
This change had previously been adopted by schools, including Sheridan and Fleming Colleges.
Current IGNITE president Monica Khosla and acting Communications Director Unika Hypolite said the information campaign will include direct emails, articles on IGNITE’s website, a video produced by IGNITE and one-on-one conversations with students.
Board Chair Neto Naniwambote said the board has always run IGNITE “but the students don’t know it (and) that’s the problem.
“If you say to students, ‘who’s the front of IGNITE,’ they go, ‘oh, it’s the president,” he said. The proposed changes confirm the reality of how the decision-making body operates.
Hypolite said the changes will “increase levels of certainty and competency.”
He said executives will continue being the face of IGNITE and brand ambassadors but the directors are the leaders of the organization.
“They run the organization, they are the top of the organization, so it brings clarity to the general population who actually run the Board of Directors,” Hypolite said. “It will bring more visibility to them.”
The Special Meeting of the Members to vote on this change is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2020.
This is the only general meeting currently scheduled for students to ask questions in a public setting and the only opportunity for public discourse before voting for the change.
The other arena where this could be discussed, Board of Director meetings, which are open to students but only if they ask the Board for permission to attend.
Both Hypolite and IGNITE Executive Director Ercole Perrone said journalists are not allowed in these meetings because it would make board members uncomfortable and cut productivity.
“I’m not happy that it makes things difficult for (Et Cetera) as an individual,” Hypolite said. “It is important that we ensure that the board meetings are functional and productive, and it has been communicated as to how participation of a journalist has the potential to make board meetings unproductive.
“Or (it) has the potential to impact a board meeting,” he said.
This is not common across schools who have adopted this form of governance.
The Board of Directors meetings are open to journalists at Sheridan College in Oakville although the Student Union adopted a similar type of governance in 2011.
“We surprisingly don’t have a ton of journalism students attend, but they are always welcome,” said Sheridan Student Union president Ben LeBlanc.
Sheridan students do have to notify the board of their intent to attend a meeting, but LeBlanc said its more for the purpose of getting catering numbers for their meetings rather than recording who is attending.
“It’s nice to know if I need to order pizza for 10 or pizza for 50,” he said. “We just do that for registering on our website in order to get all students an opportunity to get catering when they’re here, but those meetings are open all students to come out to.”
LeBlanc said students should attend their student union’s Board Meetings, as it is the main forum of hearing about the business of their organization.
“We also like to sort of iterate that our Board meetings really aren’t the place to field complaints about the Students Union,” he said.
Khosla said on an average the executive team tries to speak to an average of 50 to 60 students a week. The governance change is at the top of the list of talking points.
She said after talking to students, the executive team had “not found one” that disagreed with the changes.
Reporters went out to ask students how many of them knew about the upcoming changes to IGNITE. Of the 27 students they spoke to, only two had an inkling changes were incoming, which they learned about through word of mouth, not IGNITE’s information campaign.
The other 25 had no idea there were changes on the table.
Another concern is voting itself as college students are apathetic about voting, with last year’s election turnout being an example. Only 7,811 students voted in last year’s election, which accounts for slightly more than 21 per cent of the student body. That’s a slight increase from 2017 when 7,059 voted.