A motion to invite Concordia’s television station CUTV to film and make available the recording at last Wednesday’s Concordia Student Union council meeting was struck down last week as the monthly meeting started.
Councillors voted six for and 13 against, with four abstaining on the motion, which was put forth by councillors Ethan Cox and Joel Suss. The original motion cited accountability and transparency as being important to the CSU.
However, since there is nothing stated in CSU bylaws preventing filming of the meetings, the CUTV cameraman stayed to film the entirety of the meeting, with the exception of the closed session meetings where candidates for committees’ CVs were circulated.
Before the vote was held, CUTV station manager Laura Kneale made an appeal to the council to allow filming to proceed, saying it was in CUTV’s mandate. Addressing concerns about privacy, she said: “When entering public office, like the CSU, individuals’ rights to privacy changes to in regards to their constituent. Their constituents are allowed to know what is happening in the name of a lot of the values the CSU stands for.”
Kneale also made a point of saying the meeting would be beneficial to students who cannot make the meetings, and encourage student participation.
“Being able to offer an integral video coverage gives students a non-editorialized outlook on what’s happening at council meetings, differently from other student press,” she added.
Part of the discussion was whether the filming was legal, and whether the CSU had the right to ban the filming or not. There were motions to ban the filming, without any success.
A few councillors and executives spoke out strongly against filming, including councillor Aaron Green, president Heather Lucas, and VP external Adrien Severyns. Others, like Cox, Suss and councillor Lex Gill spoke in favour.
Green sighted concern over individual privacy, saying, “This is a serious breach of my right to constitutional privacy.” Severyns stated feeling uncomfortable with the presence of the camera, that the filming was potentially unlawful, and that he could sue “these people” if he saw fit.
Cox encouraged councillors to not fear the filming: “This is an open council meeting, any student can come here. The camera is the same thing.” Lucas said she was for the concept of transparency and accountability, but worried about potential intimidation. “I think right now some councillors won’t even speak up now that the camera is filming their face […] it’s too much of an intimidation factor […] it baffles me.”
Council meetings are routinely audio recorded by other campus media, namely the Concordian and the Link, who publish quotes and other information from the meetings, including tweeting meeting business. The council secretary also types minutes and audio records the meeting for posterity.
The monthly council meeting is open to all undergraduate students and is public.
Filming CSU council meetings has come up at least three times in the last 10 years. At times, the CSU has mandated CUTV to film the meetings, and at others, they have denied and accepted filming.
During a recess period after the motion failed, Kneale said, “The reason we decided to bring a camera was to make a statement because we knew that we are allowed to film.” Bringing a camera, “brings our point to the table in a direct way, doing what we do best.”
Kneale acknowledged that the cold reception meant CUTV will have to work at making the filming accepted. “We’re going to have to lead a really strong campaign to make students and the whole Concordia community understand how important it is for there to be a video camera in council meetings.”