ASFA, in association with Free Education Montreal, Ã¼berculture collective and TAPThirst are proudly presenting a week-long campaign to encourage students to question the administration. It’s aptly named “Ask Why.”
The goal of the campaign is to question three very important and current topics facing Concordia students: corporatization of the university, tuition fee increases and the proposed elimination of bottled water on campus. With all the fanfare of promoting a frosh week, an election or an all-you-can-drink event, ASFA is going on classroom visits, holding a lecture, and of course, making t-shirts.
Encouraging students to question authority and their place and rights on campus is a valid and admirable thing to do. Society functions better when people in general question the rules and the status quo.
But while we applaud this well-intentioned campaign, we can’t help but wince at ASFA’s hypocrisy.
A message to 764 members of ASFA’s Facebook page on Nov. 15 proudly calls out: “So go out and Ask! Ask your teachers, Ask the university staff, Ask the Administration, Ask other students, Ask us… JUST ASK WHY.”
OK, ASFA — can we ask why ASFA council decided to move into closed session at last week’s meeting?
History representative Elliot Kmec called for closed session as chief electoral officer Nicholas Cuillier was wrapping up a presentation on the past by-elections. With no indication of what Kmec wanted to discuss and without questioning the motion, the council promptly voted to go into closed session. Ten people trooped out so council could deliberate in secret over… well, we wish we could tell you about it in a news story, but we just don’t know.
Part of what ASFA and other campus groups, including this newspaper, are calling for now is accountability and transparency on the part of the university administration after the snafu that was Concordia’s PepsiCo contract.
But by shutting the door on interested ASFA members and the press, ASFA is pulling a shroud over its practices in an ironic move we hope students won’t stand for.
The topic at hand being discussed secretly, we suspect, was a bit of internal squabbling. If it was deemed so important to unceremoniously boot everyone out of the meeting, the discussion on it should have been made public.
As it was, Kmec stormed unexpectedly out of the meeting before closed the session should have ended and another member of the meeting left looking visibly shaken. It’s clear that what was going on in room H-760 should be known by students.
Next time someone motions for closed session out of the blue, councillors should use the discussion period on the motion to question the reasoning and make sure it’s valid.
Going into closed or executive session is only appropriate for confidentiality reasons; for example, when a new secretary or committee member is being appointed, resumes are often circulated to council. As ASFA’s board of directors, council is bound to remain mum on any private information broadcast during that time.
Closed session should not be used to keep information out of the press, which disseminates information to the rest of the student body that can’t make the meeting because they have class, work, or can’t fit inside a cramped meeting room.
As ASFA is advocating, questioning authority is an important part of being a responsible citizen in a working society. Well, another prerequisite is the free flow of information, not the lack thereof.
If for some dire reason closed session does occur because a matter is considered too delicate to discuss in front of students who provide the fees that fund ASFA, councillors owe it to explain to students what was discussed in private and why. This should be done promptly. In other words, right after session is open again. This is recommended by BoardSource, an organization that promotes effective nonprofit boards, in an article titled, “Don’t abuse executive sessions.”
And if you are one of the thousands of arts and science students who do not sit in one of the 20-something arts and science council seats, find out who your ASFA representative is in your program and ask them personally why they agreed to move into closed session.
Ask why, ask lots of questions. It’s how we make a better society.
You’re being told to ASK WHY by your student leaders. Your questions should not be just directed at the university administration, it should be directed at your elected student representatives, as well.