Proposal for closed session turns CSU council into a shouting match

As CSU president Heather Lucas brought forth a motion to enter closed session at last week’s council meeting, a clearly divided room of councillors and students at large quickly devolved into a disorganized shouting match that ultimately ended the night early.

Lucas and the executive maintain that only certain HR issues related to former VP Morgan Pudwell’s resignation were to be discussed in closed session and a majority of councillors agreed, passing her motion soon after it was proposed.

“I think it’s very important right now and there’s a lot of personal and sensitive information, not only on Morgan Pudwell’s side, but as well for the CSU executive and council,” said VP Hassan Abdullahi on the motivation for the motion. “However, given her allegations on finances being very grave we take that very personally, so that will be addressed in public session and we will not need to address that in closed session.”

But members of the audience and the minority of councillors who voted against the motion made it blatantly clear that they would not leave, at risk of being left out of the loop on the questionable details surrounding Pudwell’s departure and the accusations that went with it.

“I think that this is a travesty,” yelled student Alex Matak over the murmurs and calls to order that followed the passing of the motion. “I’m inviting everyone here who just got a gag put on you to stay in the room with me because I’m not leaving unless you can physically carry me out Heather Lucas.”

“I think for a union that calls for transparency and accountability all the time it would be wildly hypocritical to go into closed session right now,” said councillor Michaela Manson before the motion was passed. Manson was one of a small group of councillors who voted against Lucas’ motion that included Lex Gill, Joel Suss and Heba Abdel-Hamid.

The discussion that followed the motion was scattered, conflictive in many cases and all of it essentially took place outside of the realm of council since any further discussion of opening the meeting would have needed to take place in closed session, something the executive loudly reminded the overwhelmed chair of repeatedly as he struggled to mediate the situation.

photo by David Vilder

The situation became so heated that VP finance Ramy Khoriaty phoned security, asking them to come to the room in case of an incident. When asked about making the call, Khoriaty initially denied it. But when confronted with the fact that he was witnessed phoning them, he admitted that he had phoned because he is a member of Concordia’s Emergency Response Team and was responsible in case of an emergency. “I saw that there might be some conflict, and so that no one got hurt and everything went smoothly I wanted a security agent on the spot,” he said following the meeting, emphasizing that security was called to be on stand-by and not to remove students from the room. Khoriaty added “before I called security [the chair] was searching for a phone to call security. So it was after the chair’s approval.”

While emotions flared, councillor Stephen Brown attempted to present a neutral stance following the motion. Standing up and loudly commanding the crowd’s attention, Brown stated “Now if we have a sit in and we have to call security upstairs then we don’t get down to any of the issues. Nobody gets to see the numbers. I don’t get to see the numbers.”

“Look, nobody’s coming after Morgan with pitchforks and torches,” he continued. “We are a civilized society. This is an institution of learning. And we’re going to do things the legal way.”

But the mass of individuals on both sides of the issue weren’t willing to compromise, and with discussion of the agenda at an impasse, the chair was prompted to, and agreed to, adjourn the meeting.

The CSU has announced a special council meeting tomorrow night to tackle only a few of the many agenda points that were not addressed last week. Pudwell’s resignation will not be addressed at the meeting, though a full financial report will be given by Khoriaty.

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