Home News Tensions continue to rise at CUTV

Tensions continue to rise at CUTV

By Robin Della Corte November 20, 2012

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

Following weeks of legal troubles and a handful of resignations, members of Concordia University Television held a meeting to discuss how to move forward.

On June 1, a transitional agreement was put forth between CUTV and Concordia Student Broadcasting Corporation, the organization that supervised the governance of CUTV and the university’s student radio station, CJLO. This agreement meant that CUTV would be seen as a new, independent not-for-profit organization.

However, while in the midst of the transition process, CUTV faced an array of problems. CUTV currently has no tangible operating budget due to financial troubles that forced the university’s administration to step in and freeze the accounts in October.

In documents obtained by The Concordian, the statements of a PayPal account owned by CUTV revealed financial instability. In the months where the student strike movement was at its height, CUTV recorded a gain of more than $25,000 in a single month alone. Conversely, the financial statements from Oct. 1 to Oct. 24 reveal that CUTV’s funds dwindled from $3,724.73 to $333.42 prior to the university’s intervention.

Furthermore, the student-run organization lost its station manager, Laura Kneale, and the growing number of resignations for its provisional Board of Directors has rendered it legally defunct.

Legally, CUTV cannot appoint more members to its BoD since only one person remains as a director. Therefore, the station must either dissolve or have a judge legally appoint more members. During this changeover, members of the station neglected time limits concerning the transition agreement between themselves and the CSBC. They never managed to adopt any bylaws or hold general assemblies.

In an open letter published last Tuesday on the station’s website, Laith Marouf, former program director and current executive director of CUTV, stated that the student strike movement lead to less time for “implementing government structure.”

The first meeting, held in the basement of Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs, was called by Marouf in the same letter in order to garner support to “save” it.

In response, staff members of CUTV voiced their concerns and frustrations in their own letter. Staff members claimed that information was inaccessible to them and they were disappointed with the lack of communication and having to rely on external news sources for information. An article published in The Link detailed the legal challenges CUTV is facing and the authors of the letter claimed that “it has been disappointing and frustrating to watch from the outside as the station we contributed time and energy to seems to be crumbling.”

Students and members of the Concordia community attended the meeting to discuss what kind of guidelines need to be implemented and a way to move forward. At times, the conversation was contentious due to the inability to render a decision on who was considered a member of CUTV, the need to put forth bylaws and eventually hold a general assembly.

Marouf said that membership should be defined by volunteerism, and that while students of the university pay into the fee-levy group, only volunteers at CUTV should have voting rights.

This motion did not sit well with many in attendance, including Morgan Pudwell, the Concordia Student Union’s former VP advocacy and outreach.

“Undergraduate students deserve to be in that discussion,” said Pudwell.

Unable to reach a consensus on what defines membership, the meeting ended at an impasse with a second meeting held Monday evening to discuss the same matters.

The result of the second meeting was that voting rights at the upcoming General Assembly would extend to individuals who have been staff members since October 2011, donors and Concordia students.

The General Assembly is to be held the first weekend of December, though it is not yet known what day it will take place.

During both meetings, individuals suggested that personal attacks were unacceptable and impeded discussions from moving forward. Thursday, staff member Emily Campbell said the current atmosphere left her and others feeling unsafe about going to the station.

It was a reference to the mounting tensions between members within CUTV and the two letters published by different groups with opposing views. The letter issued on CUTV’s website claimed that the station was “under attack” by the CSBC who “positioned itself as the governing body of CUTV” and wanted to “shut it down.” Authors stated that CSBC President Justin Giovannetti was “engaged in a public campaign to undermine CUTV.”

However, in an interview with The Concordian, Marouf contradicted the statement on the website.

“The CSBC was not attempting to shut down CUTV. Its president, Justin Giovannetti, differed in his vision with CUTV members and staff and was not able to detach his inherent bias as both an employee of CTV, a corporate rival for our station, and his presidency on the Board of Directors of The Link,” Marouf said. “He was wearing too many hats.”

Giovannetti resigned from the CSBC Wednesday, marking yet another resignation. Giovannetti wrote in an email that “Few of you will be surprised when I say that I didn’t enjoy my past year as your president.”

He went on to write that “Tonight I was forced to make a choice between my employment and continuing to volunteer for a campus organization.”

Angelica Calcagnile, the CSBC’s vice-president, said that CUTV was now on its own.

“CUTV is no longer part of the CSBC, and we are no longer responsible for their decision-making, so it is up to their membership to improve the situation at the station,” she said. “That said, we support the development of a strong, unified and financially stable organization with a clear legal structure and demonstrated responsibility to Concordia’s students.”

The provisional BoD of CUTV that included Kneale, Marouf and staff member Abel Alegria dissolved in October. Wendy Kraus-Heitmann also stepped down as provisional emergency director of CUTV’s BoD earlier this month citing Marouf’s actions as the reason for her departure, and leaving Sabine Friesigner as the single director.

“[CUTV] is only holding meetings now because the staff went nuts after being mismanaged into the ground for months on end, and Laith and [his] friends are desperate to look good,” Kraus-Heitmann said. “Laith Marouf is not attempting to save CUTV. Laith Marouf is trying to save his job.”

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