Briefs News

CSU byelections pushed back to late November

Haya Bitar appointed as CSU internal affairs coordinator at last week’s RCM 

On Wednesday Oct. 26, the Concordia Student Union convened for the third regular council meeting (RCM) of the fall semester. The major motions discussed at last week’s RCM are as follows:

CSU byelection postponed to late November as election process is already underway 

The CSU passed a motion in favour of rescheduling the upcoming CSU byelection dates from early to late November. The election period will now begin roughly three weeks after the original election dates presented to the CSU earlier this semester. 

The nomination period will occur between Monday, Oct. 31 and Friday, Nov. 18. The campaign phase will then begin the following week on Monday, Nov. 21 and last until Friday, Nov. 28. Polling is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29, until Thursday, Dec. 1.

Academic and advocacy coordinator Asli Isaaq presented the motion at last week’s RCM on behalf of CSU CEO Ijkot Singh. Singh proposed extending the byelection period to ensure the CSU’s election policies are followed and to allow for additional candidates to come forward.

Singh also assured the CSU that the financial impact of the decision was minimal, since, according to Singh: “most of the prep work [still] needed to be done”.

Former CSU councilor Haya Bitar appointed as internal affairs coordinator of the CSU executive team

Bitar was interviewed alongside two additional candidates for the position during a closed session at last week’s RCM. Bitar’s appointment as internal affairs coordinator was to be announced in the days following last week’s RCM; however, the newly-appointed executive accidentally revealed the decision shortly after council returned to open session. 

Bitar is the third person to serve as internal affairs coordinator during the 2022-23 mandate. Both of her predecessors, Fawaz Halloum and Temmy Mthethwa, resigned within months of being appointed to the position, with the former being elected as general coordinator of the CSU and the latter departing from the executive team after experiencing issues with their employment visas. 

Concordia Student Union News

The CSU stands up against planned renovations

The student union believes building a wall would negatively affect student groups

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) has decided to stand in solidarity with the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and other students against a proposed renovation in the Hall building at Concordia’s downtown campus. The renovation in question is the construction of a glass wall on the seventh floor of the Hall building, between a small and large lounge near the CSU office.

While both lounges can be accessed by student groups for free, the larger lounge is bookable through the CSU and the smaller lounge is bookable directly through the university. Currently, the lounges are not separated by any physical barrier and student groups can use both spaces for larger events, such as the MSA’s weekly Jumu’ah prayer.

According to Aloyse Muller, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator, both spaces are central to student life on the downtown campus and the pending renovation would negatively affect student groups on campus.

During the CSU’s monthly meeting on Feb. 8, the union welcomed Yann-Lazare Makayat Bouanga and Mohammed Allalou, two guest speakers from the MSA, to discuss their opposition to the proposed wall. They believe this renovation will limit the capacity for weekly prayer sessions and reduce the amount of space available for student groups to meet and hold events. They said the university has suggested the student group place a limit on the capacity of the weekly prayer sessions to prevent the need to use the smaller lounge. However, the MSA is against this idea, claiming it could harm the group’s sense of community and lead to Muslim students being turned away from a public event.

During the meeting, Muller proposed a motion for the CSU to officially support the MSA and officially oppose the construction of the wall. The motion also promised that the CSU would seek to maintain the ability to allow student groups to access the small lounge area, and that, if the MSA struggled to find adequate space for prayer sessions in the future, the CSU would help them acquire it. The motion passed unanimously.

“Concordia claims that the attendance of the Friday prayer must be limited to its current attendance otherwise there would be too many people on the seventh floor for its floor capacity,” Muller told The Concordian, “But this problem, in terms of floor capacity, is not the MSA’s fault. The MSA has enjoyed this space without problems for a numbers of years now, after having been pushed from space to space by Concordia throughout the years.”

According to Muller, the CSU and the MSA plan to meet with staff from the university to discuss possible solutions to this issue.

*Since publication, Meryam Nejjar, VP of communications for the Muslim Student Association said the issue has been resolved at a meeting held Feb. 13 between CSU and Concordia president Alan Shepard. “The school told us they will not be building a wall, but rather keep it as a rotating panel like it is now, which resolves the issues that CSU and the MSA had with regards to the space,” said Nejjar.


Backlash over procedure from council

Photo by Marilla Steuter-Martin

A lack of communication and failure to follow procedure is interfering with the production of the Concordia Student Union once again.

Various changes to the organization’s bylaws are in danger of disappearing should they not be included during the general elections as a referendum question.This process not only went undone, but also went unnoticed until Judicial Board Chairperson Nick Cuillerier brought it to the attention of council last Wednesday.

The oversight could mean that revisions to bylaws ‘I’ and ‘J,’ and a modification to bylaw 10.2, fall flat before they were ever truly recognized. Bylaw ‘I’ was changed to reference bylaw ‘J’ to provide a committee to oversee the spending of the student centre fund.

The executive did not realize the implications until it was brought forth after Cuillerier saw a notice of polls poster at Concordia the same evening.

The mistake, while VP clubs and internal Nadine Atallah promised it would be quickly rectified, garnered backlash from council.

“This is a huge dereliction of duties,” said Councillor Chad Walcott. “I want to know what happened to let you screw up to such a massive degree.”

The executive did not have a clear answer as to why the notice requirement was never done other than it was an error.

As the notice requirement was not fulfilled, the CSU used a notwithstanding clause under the standing regulations since the changes were not announced in the postering.

“Any ordinary motion, resolution or regulation who derogates from the code can only be adopted with a clause stating that the motion operates regardless of the code of standing regulations. The clause must state which article(s) are not to be applied towards the motion. Such motion requires a 2/3 majority vote and will cease to have effect 4 months following its approval,” standing regulation 267 reads.

This allows the revisions to the bylaws to be put to referendum and the executive was mandated through a motion to issue an email to the undergraduate student body to inform them of the question before 6 a.m. Thursday morning but has to yet to do so.

Missing report, missing meetings

A Senate report from VP academic and advocacy Hajar El Jahidi was missing from the documents presented to council last Wednesday. Councillor James Vaccaro asked for the report but El Jahidi was absent due to illness. However, since Vaccaro and Senator Chuck Wilson were both present, they quickly went over the details of the last Senate meeting.

It also came to light that El Jahidi, since taking her mandate in November, has yet to attend any Steering Committee meetings. The total number of meetings is now at five, three of which El Jahidi was part of the executive for and has missed.

Speaking to The Concordian, El Jahidi said that her absences were unfortunate but were out of hands as factors including IT problems and sickness prevented her from being present for Senate and steering committee meetings.

“For steering committee I was very unfortunate as I haven’t been able to attend. For the first meeting I was out of town but I sent my regrets, and for the second one I was sick and I couldn’t make it,” she said.

El Jahidi also said omplaints about her absences were never brought to her prior to being aired elsewhere such as at CSU meetings, and that despite difficulties attending meetings she had made an effort to keep up with Senate and steering committee events.

“I’ve been keeping in touch with what’s been happening at the steering committee,” she said. “I tried once to talk to the other person who was at steering, I think it was Chuck [Wilson], but he wasn’t that responsive.”

Conversely, Senator Chuck Wilson said that is not true.

“That is not true — no one knew,” said Wilson. “Danielle Tessier would specifically ask me, awkwardly, if I knew if Hajar was coming.”

Wilson said that he was sending updates on meetings since February.

“I’m really not sure where this is coming from,” said Wilson. “I’ve been trying to keep everyone aware of what’s happening at Steering, and I’ve never heard so much as a peep from Hajar about it.”

Part of the responsibilities of VP academic include the coordination and the chairing of meetings of the student academic caucus, as well as sitting on Concordia’s academic bodies.

A Senate report has yet to be filed.

More backlash

The same meeting produced remarkable tension throughout the room, this time aimed at Chairperson Jean-François Ouellet for not following procedure during council.

During multiple votes, Ouellet counted abstentions within the total number of votes — a process that violates Robert’s Rules of Order. An abstention, or the refusal to vote, is not technically supposed to influence the outcome of a vote.

Furthermore, council lost patience with Ouellet when he refused to acknowledge Councillor Gonzo Nieto’s challenge to the chair toward the end of the meeting.

Both Nieto and Walcott left shortly after the challenge was disregarded.

Concordia Student Union News

Concerns raised at first CSU meeting of the year

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

Concerns were raised at the first 2013 meeting of the Concordia Student Union over the amount budgeted to the CSU’s Judicial Board, which councillor James Vaccaro said could lead to a potential conflict of interests in the future.

According to Vaccaro, the JB, which can be called on to interpret bylaws and settle disputes between members of the CSU, has only been budgeted one-tenth of what is meant to be given to the JB according to the standing regulations. Despite the regulations stating clearly that a global amount of no less than $5,000 is to be given to the JB for their work that includes funding for legal fees for lawyers and consultations, to date only a figure of roughly $500 was allocated to the board in the budget.

Vaccaro voiced concern that should the JB be asked to step in on a matter involving the CSU, it would be forced to first go to the CSU to ask for funding before it would be able to take any actions, something that Vaccaro said would cause a clear conflict of interest.

Nadine Atallah, VP clubs and internal affairs, told council that historically the JB has almost never used more than a few hundred dollars each year, which was why so little was budgeted to them this year. Atallah also proposed sending the matter to the policy committee for review, saying that the matter did need resolving but that altering the standing regulations to more accurately fit the financial needs of the JB might be a good idea.

Vaccaro explained that he was disconcerted that it needed to be brought up at council and that councillors who knew of the issue weren’t concerned.

“The thing that I found a little odd is that the executive is putting $500 in the budget for the Judicial Board, knowing full well that their minimum allowed budget is five thousand dollars,” said Vaccaro. “So right off the bat as your budget is being accepted, you’re going against the regulations of the union.”

He went on to explain that the appropriate funds should be made available in spite of not needing the entire sum in the past.

“It feels to me that the executive feel this is a non-issue, but if it does become an issue it will be a matter of importance.”

Council voted to send the issue to the financial committee and the policy committee for review.

Post-mortem orientation report

During a discussion of the upcoming winter orientation, councillor Melissa Kate Wheeler brought up the ongoing issue of Alexis Suzuki’s orientation post-mortem, a document submitted earlier in the year that Wheeler and others have raised complaints about in the past. The document, meant to be a summary of the successes and failures of orientation as well as recommendations for possible improvements, was considered short and unfocused by councillors like Wheeler, who told The Concordian that none of the failures of the orientation were mentioned and that its successes were played up to be greater than they were.

“There were a lot of problems with orientation. There was low attendance at a lot of the events and it sort of screamed poor planning in a lot of ways,” she said. “It’s a learning experience every year and no orientation is ever perfect, and nobody expected it to be perfect, but there were a lot of problems and they went completely unaddressed in [Suzuki’s] post-mortem.”

The wording of the post-mortem was also an issue for Wheeler, who said that nowhere in the report were words like ‘failure’ or ‘improvement’, compared to words like ‘success’ and ‘amazing’ appearing 12 times and nine times respectively.

Another point of contention remains Suzuki’s proposal to write a how-to guide for future orientations. Chad Walcott, another councillor to raise concerns over the post-mortem, told The Concordian that he was uncomfortable with the idea of Suzuki writing such a guide given that this past orientation was what he called the “least attended Orientation that I’ve seen at Concordia in the last 5 years.”

“To date, she has not demonstrated that she is able to be self-critical of her work, and as such I believe this limits her ability to give future VPs any insight into effective ways of running orientation,” he said.

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