CSU Council Continues to Dwindle Down
El Jahidi and Nasser’s Exit Marks Six Councillor Resignations in Two Months
With the resignations of Hajar El Jahidi and Bilal Nasser, the Concordia Student Union has lost six councillors in the last two months.
“It was just not feasible in terms of time, it was nothing else but that,” El Jahidi told The Link.
El Jahidi’s resignation came mere minutes before the start of a regular council meeting on Oct. 23.
“Due to time constraints, and the new regulations about council meetings happening twice a month (from what I have been told) I will not be able to fulfill my duties,” she wrote.
However, CSU chairperson Nick Cuillerier was quick to point out in an email message forwarding El Jahidi’s resignation to the rest of council that the meeting schedule in place, in which the union is to meet twice each in October, November and January, has been in place since June 2011 and is not new.
Nasser’s resignation letter was published to council on Oct. 24. Giving no reason for stepping down from his position, Nasser said in his letter he hopes his seat will be filled by someone who can “hopefully enrich the CSU and [will] continue providing Concordia students with the maximum amount of benefits.”
Nasser could not be reached for comment before press time.
The CSU’s current council was elected in April, with 20 councillors elected to represent their respective faculties.
But CSU bylaw 6.2.2 allows for up to 30 councillors to sit on council at any one time, so long as bylaw 6.2.1—which states council shall be composed of a minimum of two representatives from each faculty—is adhered to when the union decides total council seats for the upcoming academic year.
However, while the faculty itself had the highest proportional voter turnout at the last CSU election, fine arts students currently have no councillors representing their faculty.
Following the resignations of Nasser last week and former councillor Omar Badawi Sept. 29, engineering and computer science students have only one member left on council, Chuck Wilson.
John Molson business students also began the semester with three representatives on council, but have lost a councillor following Yassine Chaabi’s removal from office for breaking the CSU’s meeting attendance policy. Chaabi could not be reached for comment before press time.
With CSU byelections taking place in about three weeks, there are currently 14 councillors remaining in the union.
But if voter turnout is any indication, Concordia students are not concerning themselves with their union’s politics. Less than four per cent of undergraduates voted in the last CSU election.
First-time arts and science councillor Alanna Stacey told The Link that part of the problem is general indifference or wariness among students towards the CSU because of the disapproval of previous years’ councils and their decisions.
“Because of past years there is an extreme level of distrust [among students],” she said.
“Most students would be automatically turned off to learning or knowing or involving themselves with it, because why would you want to involve yourself in something corrupt?”
Stacey added that she became involved with the CSU because she wanted to know the actual workings of Concordia’s internal politics, beyond what was visible on the surface.
She says she also decided to run as an arts and science councillor to help bring accountability and transparency to the CSU.
Adam Veenendaal, another first-time CSU councillor for arts and science, told The Link that it was the perceived shortcomings of councils from years past which prompted him to seek election.
“It seemed there was a sort of deadlock in council, from what I was reading in the papers, over the last year under the last executive,” he said.
“I wanted to get involved to break that deadlock,” he continued, later adding he is doing the job “out of a sense of duty.”
Three of the six councillors who have vacated their seats on council since August served as CSU executives last year.
El Jahidi was unanimously appointed to fill the then-vacant VP Academic and Advocacy position last November.
Ex-VPs Clubs and Student Life, Nadine Atallah and Alexis Suzuki, resigned before they were implicated in the spending of over $9,000 on an end-of-year party at Newtown bar on Crescent St. for last year’s executive and other CSU members.
Atallah resigned from her post as councillor the day before the Newtown party was to be debated before council in September. She told council in her resignation letter she had a class she was required to take the same time council regularly meets.
Suzuki resigned Aug. 29, giving no explanation.
A Hard Day’s Night
Stacey and Veenendaal both told The Link that council meetings are known to be notoriously long, which Veenendaal admits could be a reason multiple councillors were “scared off” to the point of resigning.
El Jahidi offered similar reasoning in her resignation letter, stating that having multiple meetings each month ending well past midnight is not conducive to her studies—especially when she has a class early the following morning.
Steps have been taken to curb the lengths of meetings, according to Veenendaal and CSU President Melissa Kate Wheeler. Some of the more apparent changes include limiting time for discussion of agenda points and being more stringent on adhering to decorum.
But whether it is a dislike of late-night meetings or distrust in the union, Stacey says the dwindling down of the CSU has its repercussions.
“There’s an automatic decline in our productivity if we have less hands to do the job,” she said.
For Stacey, a major change in student involvement will only happen once current CSU is recognized for the good work she says they are doing.
“When there is a better reputation, a better word behind the CSU, it will automatically help the level of student participation [in the CSU],” she said.
A CSU byelection is taking place Nov. 19 to Nov. 21. Those interested in running for council must pick up a nomination form from the CSU offices before Nov. 1.