An attempt by the Concordia Student Union to fix the lack of Fine Arts representation on council fell flat last Wednesday when it was discovered that the solution in question would violate the union’s own bylaws.
Proposed by CSU President Schubert Laforest, who was absent from the meeting due to illness, the motion would have allowed student faculty associations to appoint a representative to council if both annual general elections and byelections passed but resulted in no student filling any of the seats reserved for that faculty. This was the case after byelections in November left all Fine Arts seats empty on council.
Despite having been checked beforehand by the policy committee and discussed with the Fine Arts Student Alliance executives (some of whom attended the meeting on Wednesday), council quickly realized that the motion would be impossible to allow without violating bylaw 9.3.1 which states that vacant seats can only be filled through a byelection — a fact that left the FASA representatives unimpressed.
FASA VP clubs and services Erika Couto, who first brought the issue to light with a petition she brought to council following the November byelections, was not pleased that council shot down the proposed solution and then moved to suspend the issue indefinitely.
“We’re very angry,” she said. “This points to bigger problems within the CSU’s functioning.”
Couto also said that another byelection would have to be held to allow some Fine Arts representation on council or risk violating the CSU’s bylaws. Bylaw 6.2.1 states that council composition must consist of two representatives from each faculty.
Some councillors, such as Carlotta Longo, suggested that a byelection would be too expensive considering how little time there is left in the academic year.
After a fierce debate, council came to a motion that would allow three Fine Arts representatives to have ex-officio rights on council, which would allow them to sit in on closed sessions but not vote as council members do.
The motion will need to be voted on at the next FASA meeting before it can be accepted or declined.
Councillor Ramy Khoriaty told The Concordian that while the initial solution Laforest brought to council wasn’t viable, he considered the compromise to be the best possible solution.
“We’re having a lot of issues with councillors and executives not knowing the standing regulations properly. It was a mistake for [Laforest] to put forward a motion that was against the standing regulations, but I’m sure that he didn’t know that it was,” Khoriaty said. “The solution that we introduced after was a reasonable one. It was legal and in my opinion, it was the best that we can offer them.”
Khoriaty was also unhappy with the way that FASA approached the meeting, claiming that they blamed the CSU for the situation when it was caused by a lack of interest in the open position.
“I don’t know why people are so scared of saying it, but there was a position open, and nobody ran for it,” he said. “It’s true there were some problems with the other positions, but there was a position open. When it’s so important for them to have representation, somebody needs to run. If there was no position open I would totally understand, but there was a position open.”
In a statement to student media on monday, FASA VP Internal Communications Jessica Gilbert said that the solution proposed at council may not be a viable one.
“My personal understanding of policy is that by-laws cannot be changed in Council and therefore while this is a good idea for the future it does not fix the issue at hand,” she said.
Iain Meyer-Macaulay, a Fine Arts student who attended the meeting, said that overall he felt the meeting went as well as it could have, but that he was also disappointed with the outcome of Laforest’s motion.
“It is important to know the laws which govern your organization especially if you’re sitting at the top,” Meyer-Macaulay said. “When the resolution is presented, by proxy, and is illegal and impossible to implement, it sets a dangerous precedent. It also surprises me that it was the FASA reps who ended up bringing this up in council.”
Meyer-Macaulay also said that his expectations for the solution proposed to FASA were not high.
“The ghost seats are a compromise,” said Meyer-Macaulay. “They are a result of our original grievance falling on deaf ears, and a hasty ‘solution’ being pulled out of the tension in the air when we finally demanded some action out of the CSU in regards to our original grievance.”