February’s Board of Governors meeting abruptly ended on Feb. 10 even before its open session began.
The meeting came to a halt toward the end of its hour-long closed session, when three student governors, undergrads AJ West and Cameron Monagle and grad student Erik Chevrier, walked out in protest over a motion to discuss allowing cameras in the meeting. All student representatives, including CSU President Lex Gill who remained in the boardroom, felt that this transparency-related motion should have been discussed during the meeting’s open session, when members of the audience would be able to observe.
With the absence of West, Monagle and Chevrier, quorum, which is 21 governors, was no longer met, effectively prohibiting the rest of the BoG members from voting on motions, and ultimately cancelling the meeting.
The majority of governors already voted down a motion in January put forward by Chevrier that mandated the board to offer live broadcasts of its meetings. The motion presented on Feb. 10 in closed session, according to West, dealt with transparency at the BoG level, including the potential use of cameras by individuals in the boardroom.
“This is still something that has yet to be clarified, and I imagine this is something that will be brought up again,” said West, who had implored students at a Concordia Student Union council meeting in January to bring their cameras to the BoG meeting. There were as many as fifteen to twenty students waiting outside the boardroom on Friday, some of them indeed carrying cameras.
“This was a discussion [during closed session] that the student representatives thought should have happened in open session, so we refused to take part,” added West.
Speaking to reporters outside the boardroom, Gill, who indicated that she could not touch on specific discussions held during closed session, spoke more broadly about the need for cameras during the BoG’s open session.
“The rationale for why people should be able to film and broadcast the open session is that first of all, we’ve always done it anyway,” she said, mentioning the fact that journalists, for example, are allowed in the boardroom with tape recorders. “I think everyone should have the right to film these meetings and have the right to see what’s going on. This university is publicly-funded, financed by your tuition fees and tax dollars. […] The reality, I think, of this situation is that [the BoG] has to be accountable to someone. Right now they operate in a way that they’re accountable to no one.”
Gill spoke vaguely about the possibility of bringing forward a proposal regarding the use of cameras at the BoG’s next meeting on April 19. All other items that were on the agenda for the Feb. 10 meeting will, in all likelihood, also be discussed during that meeting.