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Editorial: Are cameras really that scary?

by The Concordian February 14, 2012
Editorial: Are cameras really that scary?

Should cameras be allowed inside the boardroom of Concordia’s highest decision-making body? It depends who you ask among the representatives on the Board of Governors, but the vast majority will undoubtedly give you a very curt “no,” while the student governors will reply that it’s a no-brainer. And it’s the students who are right.

The Concordian already reported in January that the BoG voted down a motion put forward by graduate student Erik Chevrier that would have mandated the board to offer live broadcasts of its deliberations. This past Friday, the closed session (apparently) became quite heated as governors then decided whether or not individuals should be allowed to use their own cameras to film the BoG’s open session. Emotions ran so high that three student governors, undergrads AJ West and Cameron Monagle and graduate student Erik Chevrier, left the meeting rather than be forced to vote on an (allegedly) camera-related motion. With the absence of those three governors, quorum was not met, effectively cancelling the BoG meeting before it even went into open session.

Whether West, Monagle and Chevrier made the right decision by leaving and bringing a halt to the last board meeting before April is a topic certainly worth debating, but their departure sends a clear message that Concordia’s student governors are passionate about bringing more transparency to the BoG, and will turn to some rather extreme actions to bring about change.

Of course, that change has yet to really happen. The camera discussion will undoubtedly be on the agenda for the April 19 meeting, and will most likely be put to bed should more governors decide to show up.

But why all this hostility to cameras? Opponents, such as Concordia President Frederick Lowy, will tell you it’s because many governors fear that they will “not be able to speak freely,” and are concerned their words will be “taken out of context.”

Yet their words are already being transmitted to the general public through several channels. For instances, board meetings are broadcast on a large screen in an overflow room (where the audio and visual quality is often lacking), so governors are already spending some time in front of the camera. And second, members of the press are permitted entrance to the boardroom, where they have reported on the board’s deliberations for years, which includes quoting individual governors.

Given all of this, it’s difficult to imagine why governors are so adamant that their words and faces be kept hidden from the very people they are supposed to represent. Perhaps their decision is not so much based on the fact that they would be spending some time on the small screen, but rather that this initiative has come from the student governors, a group of representatives that has often faced quite a bit of hostility from other board members, especially Chair Peter Kruyt.

In the end, opponents, such as Dr. Lowy, will tell you that no other university in Canada offers live broadcasts of its board meetings. But isn’t Concordia the university with the mission statement that declares it as one of the most “innovative” post-secondary institutions in the country? Doesn’t innovative mean doing things differently? Perhaps governors need to read that statement a bit more closely before their next meeting.

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