At both the Concordia Student Union and Arts and Science Federation of Associations council meetings last week student representatives passed motions regarding the departure of Judith Woodsworth which condemned the lack of transparency shown by the Board of Governors.
But the motions may have done more to highlight the internal strife within these student organizations than to present a unified front on the issue.
After long and heated discussions at both meetings on how to respond, the two motions had one important difference: only the ASFA councillors called on all external BoG members to resign.
The CSU councillors voted against an initial motion proposed by independent councillor Ethan Cox that would have seen them request the resignation of all external members of the board, which he felt was more in line with the stance of numerous faculty bodies and department heads within the university.
“As so often happens, the CSU has managed to drop the ball on a complete no-brainer of a motion that should have been passed within two seconds of deliberation,” Cox said. “It makes absolute sense that we support the calls that have been made by all the other unions and internal organizations… and we chose not to.”
Multiple external board members have exceeded the maximum two concurrent terms of three years allowed by the board regulations. Michaela Manson attributed this to the ability of certain executives to abuse “one of the provisions of th Board of Governors which states they can remain in their seats in extenuating circumstances.”
While Cox did vote in favour of the later motion passed in the CSU, which called only on the external members who have exceeded their term limits to resign, for him this missed the point.
The disagreement among student representatives was especially clear in the back-and-forth commentary of Cox and former CSU president and current student representative on the BoG Amine Dabchy who said he was asked to attend the meeting.
While Dabchy ultimately agreed that external members who have exceeded their terms should resign, he remained firm on the fact that the Board members do care about students’ interests, and were acting for them in their actions with Woodsworth.
He also maintained that “my loyalty is to the students and I always put the students interests at heart,” and stated that he is not working for the board in any way.
But Cox said “I think that the CSU, at the urging of Amine Dabchy who, rather than represent the students he was elected to represent is running cover for his buddies on the Board and its executive committee, decided to duck for cover.”
For Cox the actions of the CSU councillors at the meeting could largely be attributed to the sway Amine holds within the student union and “the fact that he chose that it was more important to defend the board and to defend their representation than to represent the interests of the students.”
Manson also felt the CSU’s actions were influenced by Dabchy’s presence at the meeting. “A large reason I think as to why Ethan Cox’s original motion failed had to do a lot with the presence of two BoG student representatives who sat there and told us that the BoG really does care about us, they really do want to help students,” Manson said. “Basically I think they misrepresented the BoG to students.”
Cox, Manson and three other CSU councillors dissatisfied with the CSU’s stand on the issue have released a statement today. They state that the signatories “regretfully express our lack of confidence in the Board of Governors of Concordia University, and in the majority of our own student union representatives and our representatives to the Board, particularly Amine Dabchy.” They go on to explain the multiple reasons they have lost confidence in those groups and ultimately call for Dabchy and the external board members to resign. They also requested that the provincial government remove those members that refused to resign, that they increase the number of internal board members significantly and that they ensure the community at large Board representatives “be drawn representatively from the community and not its boardrooms.”
While the ASFA representatives were more firm in their demands, and included in their motion a demand that the BoG’s hiring process be amended to promote transparency, the organization didn’t escape some internal criticism. Manson pointed to the fact that ASFA President Aaron Green and another ASFA executive who, like her, sit on the CSU council voted against Cox’s original motion and abstained on the second successful motion.
“Now if they were in tune with their constituents, they would have foreseen that this is in fact something that the body they’re supposed to represent would have demanded and that was made evident by the ASFA council meeting voting in favour of the proposed motion,” Manson said.
Green acknowledged his abstention, but said he changed his mind after seeing the faculty association vote no-confidence in the Board of Governors. “I abstained on that motion simply because I felt that it was kind of like throwing gasoline on a burning fire. Now I feel a bit differently about it,” he said. “We’re in solidarity now with virtually everybody at the university whether it be a faulty based body or a student association.”
The university senate will likely address the situation and all of the statements by faculty and student groups known at a meeting Jan. 21.