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Coming soon: CSU-Tube

by Archives September 4, 2007

At the last council meeting of Concordia’s student union on June 13, a motion was passed to videotape the council meetings and make them available online to any undergraduate student at Concordia.
Jason Gondziola, a GoConcordia arts and science councilor and station manager of CUTV (Concordia University Television), proposed the motion. “I feel that the happenings of council meetings are of great interest to the people who elect us to be here and I’d like to try to make it very accessible to them,” Gondziola said.
At the meeting, Gondziola specified that it would be a live-to-tape video recording. This means the entire unedited council meeting would be posted on CUTV’s website the night after the council meeting, the only change being that the footage would be broken down by motion. This should allow students to quickly view the proceedings that took place in regards to a motion they are interested in.
At first, the motion met a lot of resistance from some councillors who were worried about the proposal’s implications. Some questioned Gondziola about the cost of the measure, while others about the logistical issues such as the place taken up by the cameras and the mixing board in the room. However, the biggest concern the councilors expressed were the legal implications of filming the council meetings, such as privacy issues and who would have access to the videotapes online.
In an interview a few weeks after the meeting, Gondziola said he was definitely surprised and happy to see it pass. “This is a more effective way of sharing information with the students than the minutes could ever be.” Gondziola believes the costs of videotaping the meetings are minimal compared to what is at stake. It will cost CUTV roughly $1,500 to $2,000 to record the 10 council meetings that are held per year. “It costs $1,500 to put in place a very secure, safe monitoring system that will keep track of how 30 people are spending $1.6 million dollars,” Gondziola said.
As for the legal issues about the councillors’ privacy, Gondziola said he’s disappointed to see that so much of the debate at the council meeting began to devolve to an issue of their comfort level. He also said that people who are uncomfortable with having their face on camera demonstrate “a lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities of being a publicly elected official.”
CSU President Angelica Novoa doesn’t agree. In an interview that took place a few weeks after the meeting, she said, “I don’t think that it is required of any CSU officer to be recorded.” She believes some councillors will be more shy because of the camera, which could minimize the discourse that takes place at council meetings.
As for improving the accessibility and transparency of the CSU, Novoa believes council meetings were already transparent. “[They] have always been accessible to students. Meetings are always on the same day, it’s very simple, very easy for students to know when a meeting is.”
Noah Stewart, vice president of communications, agrees with Novoa that the meetings are transparent and accessible enough as is. He concurs that the videotaping could have a negative effect because the councilors might decide to go into closed session more often, which would “force the media – which has been to these discussions for years – out of the room for half of the discussions we have.”
Stewart also believes privacy is a primary issue because many councillors voted against the motion. “What right do you have to record people without their consent?” he asked.
Gondziola said that the faces of the councillors will be blurred if they so request.
Another concern is who can access the council meetings online, according to Stewart: “I don’t think [Concordia President] Claude Lajeunesse is very likely to come and sit it on one and watch, but I think it is very likely that someone from his office will go look at the video if it was simply posted online.” Should this happen, the university administration could see what strategies the CSU is planning to use in order to deal with issues pertaining to them, he explained.
Gondziola doesn’t believe it will be that easy for the administration to check out what the CSU is up to. He explained that there are two ways to make the website hosting the council meetings secure; one is to ask the students interested in seeing the footage to come to CUTV’s office and register; the second is to have a system authenticating students through the housing and job bank portal.
If plans remain the same, the Sept. 19 council meeting will be the first one to be videotaped. Novoa said she’s excited to see the results and how many hits there will be on CUTV’s website once the videos are posted.

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