In her letter of resignation, Gallardo stated that council was quick to criticize her and force her departure from the CSU. She urged students at Concordia to pay attention to the actions of council, saying that it was a “disservice” to the undergraduate student body.
“At the end of the day, every person involved with the CSU is just a student, with equal rights to representation and advocacy. I am an international student in financial need, and yet, while the CSU spent all of last year allegedly advocating for the rights of students with need, when the moment came to truly demonstrate that they supported access to education, personal interests became more important, and I was therefore denied the time to resolve my financial situation with the university. I’m actually partially grateful that this ended up happening to me, because I would have been embarrassed to be part of a CSU that treated any student in need by closing doors and turning a deaf ear,” the letter read.
Following the announcement that Gallardo was not a registered student on Wednesday, Sept. 19, council immediately passed a motion asking for her to step down. In her first open letter, Gallardo explained how she was unable to register due to an unexpected decline in her mother’s health which led to a change in her financial situation.
The letter goes on to say that certain councillors worked in their own interests for personal gain and intentionally attacked Gallardo’s character.
“Councillors Chad Walcott and Gonzo Nieto, who don’t even know me personally, thought it was appropriate, as board of directors, to smear my character both during meetings and publicly on Facebook,” she wrote.
Walcott said in an interview with The Concordian that while Gallardo’s situation is unfortunate, it disqualifies her from maintaining her position on the CSU.
“I’ve been raising issues, not slandering her name,” said Walcott. “I’m not attacking her personally.”
Following Gallardo’s public resignation, Arts and Science Councillor Juliana Ramos announced her departure from council. Ramos felt Gallardo was dismissed when she deserved respect, criticizing former executives turned councillors for taking such a strong stance against Gallardo.
“After having seen what I saw on that meeting I was truly disappointed by the lack of understanding councilors have towards such a delicate situation, especially since in few days it was to be resolved. Councilors did not act in good faith towards Lucia and neither to their student community; they acted based on personal preferences and rivalries that exist between them: this does not build a better university,” read Ramos’ letter of resignation.
Ramos went on to criticize former executives for the way they dealt with last year’s VP advocacy Morgan Pudwell, who was found not to be a registered student in the spring of 2012.
“I find it very hypocritical that several councilors who were in favor of [dismissing Gallardo] were holding executive positions last year when Pudwell was found not to be a student, yet then they did absolutely nothing to ‘defend the students.’”
As for Gallardo, she closed her letter by saying that she too had lost faith in the CSU.
“It is disappointing to see the blatant disregard for the student body and the money it pays its union, for weekly special council meetings full of personal hidden agendas,” she wrote.
When CSU President Schubert Laforest commented on the situation as a whole, he emphasized a need for change within council.
“We need to change the political culture,” said Laforest. “We need to get over this hurdle.”
Laforest expressed his concerns about Gallardo’s resignation but said that the executives haven’t reached a decision about her vacant position. He suggested the possibility of the executive fulfilling Gallardo’s mandate themselves, and not appointing a new VP to replace her, but nothing has been decided.
Gallardo said she would not be returning to politics even if her student status is resolved.
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Juliana Ramos’ letter of resignation:
Dear Concordia Students,
I am sad to write to you this letter today, but after several days of thinking I have finally decided that I am resigning from my current position as an Arts and Science Councilor. I have always been a passionate student about Concordia. Since I started my degree I became fascinated by student affairs and I got involved in various associations in order to become more active and give something back to my fellow students. With the previous experiences I had as President of the Latin American Student Organization, and with my involvement in the International Ethnic Associations Council, I believed that sitting on the CSU council would make my last year memorable, and it would help me close this university experience with great pride. Unfortunately, what I have witnessed in the past several council meetings has really changed my view on the role of council and I have been tremendously disappointed by the games that are being played without really wanting a better university for us students.
As many of you know, our VP Academic and Advocacy, Lucia Gallardo was caught up in a very difficult situation: her complicated international student paper work, combined with difficulties to pay university and a health problem affecting her family, did not allow her to register for classes this semester. Without any knowledge on Lucia’s issue councilor Chad Walcott introduced a motion to ask for Lucia’s immediate resignation. This was done so based on Bylaw 10.2, which states that in order for representative of the CSU to hold their position they must be registered students. Council voted on the motion and it successfully passed. Last week, Lucia explained and proved with documentation the reasons for not being able to register, and clearly stated that she would have an answer to her issue in few days. Notwithstanding Lucia’s clarifications several councilor still pressured Lucia to resign. After having seen what I saw on that meeting I was truly disappointed by the lack of understanding councilors have towards such a delicate situation, especially since in few days it was to be resolved. Councilors did not act in good faith towards Lucia and neither to their student community; they acted based on personal preferences and rivalries that exist between them: this does not build a better university.
Our bylaws exist to safeguard student interests and keep the union running in a respectful and organized manner, but lets not forget these are not absolute and in certain circumstances their application can bring unfair results. I believe that in Lucia’s case, the application of bylaw 10.2 was unjustifiable, mainly because student interests would not be harmed and her issue was to be resolved SOON (this last fact being the most pressing) . If solved she was going to register for classes, if not she promised to resign. Yet, they still chose to leave an empty executive position as important as Lucia’s that require significant amount of training and knowledge. Taking such a risky decision could eventually affect the overall well-being of the Academic and Advocacy agenda. In my eyes, asking Lucia’s resignation did not represent or safeguard students, instead it defended personal interests.
I find it very hypocritical that several councilors who were in favor of such motion were holding executive positions last year when Morgan Pudwell was found not to be a student, yet then they did absolutely nothing to “defend the students”. Pudwell’s situation was much worse because she actually claimed money from the union while Lucia clearly showed us that she did not touch any student money.
It is not in my interest to sit down with a council governed mostly by individuals who play power games, but don’t realize that their potential can be used to actually serve the student community: that you can only do so by putting personal interests aside. What happened with VP Academic and Advocacy, allowed me to see that not only we have a representative body working for themselves, but unable to truly support its students. Executives are students too, and they deserve to be treated with respect.
I believe we were elected as student representatives to sit down and actually look for ways in which we can make Concordia a better place. I believe there is so much potential in our school for it to be better every single day, but if we keep having rivalries between us and if we keep forgetting that we are not there to serve our own interests but to serve others, council will not achieve anything.
I want to thank those students who voted for me and gave me the opportunity to be a student councilor. Even though I resign from council I will keep working towards building a better university, because that I am truly passionate about.
If you wish to contact me, please don’t hesitate to do so. My e-mail address is: Juliana_ramosb@hotmail.com
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Lucia Gallardo’s letter of resignation:
Dear Concordia Students,
This is my letter of resignation. While I have not yet received the results of my late registration application, and could very well be a registered student on Monday, the manner in which this whole situation has played out has shown me a side to the CSU that I can no longer be a part of.
At the end of the day, every person involved with the CSU is just a student, with equal rights to representation and advocacy. I am an international student in financial need, and yet, while the CSU spent all of last year allegedly advocating for the rights of students with need, when the moment came to truly demonstrate that they supported access to education, personal interests became more important, and I was therefore denied the time to resolve my financial situation with the university. I’m actually partially grateful that this ended up happening to me, because I would have been embarrassed to be part of a CSU that treated any student in need by closing doors and turning a deaf ear.
But it was me, and even after an entire summer of doing my job to the best of my abilities and putting endless effort into my projects (see CSU Agenda for reference), Council would rather lose an executive than wait for the result of my late registration application; prefer no one to the job than someone, and that shows the amount of respect and consideration they have for their alleged constituents.
Ever since campaigning, my personal information went out into the open, my university file stolen, used against me, and leaked to the media. While I received bad news from home about my mother’s critical health, Councilor Laura Glover thought that I should set my emotional well being aside and attend a council meeting. Councillors Chad Walcott and Gonzo Nieto, who don’t even know me personally, thought it was appropriate, as board of directors, to smear my character both during meetings and publicly on Facebook. I received an email from Councilor Melissa Kate Wheeler with lines like “I’m concerned that if you continue to refuse [to resign], things will turn sour quickly and publicly.” I now find it easier to understand why so many students decide to stay away from our school politics.
You should pay attention Concordia. Because half of last year’s executives sit on this year’s Council, and demand answers without asking questions, take up seats on committees that prevent newly involved students to take up that chance, try to place their old president on BOG even after their year is over. In my situation, the relevant by-law was incomplete (it stops mid-sentence), but Council refused to take this opportunity to spare the CSU the loss of an executive member. They were however, more than willing to officially disregard the CSU’s Standing Regulations in order to appoint their ex-president to the Board of Governors. They also don’t like providing answers where questions were asked. After hiding her status for an entire year, Morgan Pudwell still walked away with over $20,000 of student money. And when I worked on the handbooks, I could not find a single reason why last year’s agendas cost over $68,000 when this year’s MUCH more elaborate books cost us $58,000.
What is currently happening at CSU Council is a disservice to students. It is disappointing to see the blatant disregard for the student body and the money it pays its union, for weekly Special Council Meetings full of personal hidden agendas. When the opportunity came for your councilors to work for you, to volunteer at Orientation and help make it more successful, they didn’t step up. They were happy to Facebook share their criticisms, after having both the responsibility and means to have made it better. But regardless, OAP had record-breaking attendance, and bursaries for students in financial need were created from Orientation for the first time in CSU history.
I ran to serve the student body, but unfortunately, too many Councilors have interests that do not align with the desire to help students that drove me to run in the first place. I wish you the best of luck with your semester, and I hope the CSU can one day remember its sole purpose: to help the 30,000 + students that pay for its existence.