ConU is failing us when we can’t get in a room for a meeting

The Board of Governors has adopted several measures in order to reform itself after last year’s chaos, and the university immediately patted itself on the back for a job well done. But it’s evident that despite this hopeful new era, some things are still very wrong about this school and the way it governs itself.
And you don’t need to necessarily look to a belittling chairperson, or patronizing board members, or upset students to catch this. It’s in the little things, like how Concordia cannot be bothered to accommodate a few extra bodies in a room.
Last Wednesday, I skipped my morning class and headed downtown to catch the drama that was going to be the Board of Governors meeting. BoG starts early, and space is limited, so if you’re going as an observer, you need to queue for it like it’s a midnight Star Wars theatrical release.
Arriving shortly after 8:30 a.m., I knew I had missed my chance to grab a coveted audience seat in EV-2.260. The 20 observer seats were filled with students, media and staff. I headed regardless to the meeting room in order to get the location of the overflow room in order to catch the meeting outside of what I could read on Twitter.
The four security guards vigilantly patrolling an empty hallway outside the board meeting, which is closed off to you by a pane of frosted glass, redirected me to a room in the Hall building. I grumbled and huffed and puffed my way up the escalators, pissed off to be shuttled off to another corner of the campus in order to catch the going-ons of what was a highly important meeting for students.
This sad little room, tucked away down a corridor on the sixth floor, is used for overflow—or, for all the people who don’t make it into the meeting but still want to catch the bullshit transpiring there. Present was another security official, and a few students and a professor quietly watching the low-quality feed projected onto a screen, snickering or tisking at various moments.
The heated debates progressed through the meeting, and I realized that our version of the board meeting was being censored by the location of the camera, and the limitations of the microphones. If a camera was pointed at a speaker, you could not observe the behaviour of the rest of the people in the room; if someone new spoke, and the IITS guy didn’t react fast enough to turn up their mic, you missed their remarks. You’re watching a meeting unfold through the lens of a technician, and it’s unfair. Someone like student Alex Matak heckles BoG chair Peter Kruyt, and you can barely hear her speak. CSU president Lex Gill’s mic was cut off at one point, certainly to stop her from questioning Kruyt.
Laura Glover, a theatre and political science student, was one of the students who missed getting a ticket in order to snag a seat at BoG. She found herself in the overflow room.
“I think my general feeling is that there shouldn’t be an overflow room at all,” she said. “I think that if the board is really interested in building a better Concordia for students, they should be welcoming participants and actively seeking student input and at the very least, holding meetings in a room that can accommodate as many students as possible.”
I was pissed off at this meeting, more so than any other of the BoG meetings I’ve attended. These meetings are now always held on the second floor of the EV building in 2.660. I’ve comfortably gone to overflow meetings in a stylish room just below 2.660 on previous occasions; you still have to watch through a livefeed (when it works) but at least you’re in the same building as the BoG. I checked that room on my way in last week, to see if the overflow room was there, or if perhaps a class was taking place could excuse its lack of use. It was empty.
If scheduling permits, why can’t all BoG overflow rooms happen in that easy-to-access room below?
I asked the four security guards hanging around outside the BoG that day, and they naturally had no answer.
Danielle Tessier, secretary to the BoG, declined to answer my question and forwarded me to university spokesperson Chris Mota. In her experience, the roomy, accessible space in the EV has been used for “exceptional cases where there was an expectation of large numbers of people having to be diverted from the main room at the last minute.” Since attendance numbers have slipped down again, the regular room in Hall is being used again. Mota said that this room has been used for years; it’s available, and that the AV quality is good.
These are good points, but I’m sure the university sees another advantage in it; I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Concordia prefers shunting casual observers into another building where they can’t be a distraction or protest, and where they can get a censored version of events. Essentially, we’re being cut off from the higher actions of the BoG.
To Glover as well, it’s a sign of how the university regards students: “I do think that there is just an overwhelming feeling that students aren’t welcome.”
Erik Chevrier, governor and graduate student representative, has the right idea, if his fellow governors pay any attention to him.
Chevrier would like to make the BoG more transparent, and his proposal, which was pushed to October’s meeting, calls for a number of measures, including a room that seats no less than 40 seats, and for CUTV to film the meetings.
After a big hullabaloo last year, CUTV managed to start filming CSU council meetings, which are a hundred times more caustic than BoG meetings. If CSU council kids can handle being filmed, I’m sure the BoG, which is populated by many a high-profile community member, can.
I’ll be sure to get my keister out of bed and down on time so I can see with my own eyes how the BoG handles Chevrier’s proposal.
In last week’s issue, we wrote about how the CSU needs to have a better, more spacious meeting space, potentially at Loyola. This problem clearly applies to the BoG; Concordia’s builders and planners, in a move worthy of great stupidity, apparently never planned for board and council meetings that would require an audience bigger than 20.
I’m asking to be able to sit in on a meeting without having to arrive 30 minutes early. I don’t want to watch people deliberate the fate of our school on a screen, and I don’t want to be redirected away by security guards. If a student (rightly) heckles a belligerent Peter Kruyt, who is never made available for interviews, I’d love to witness it with my own eyes.
If, among all our brand new buildings, no one at Concordia can be bothered to design a meeting room that can accommodate more than 20 observers, then at the very least, we need to set up overflow rooms that are close to the actual action—without this, Concordia University continues to perpetuate a lack of regard for students and casual observers’ interests, and no amount of motions and wastefully expensive committees and reports will fix this simple problem.

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