Letter: The PSSA’s General Assembly Was a Massive Disaster
The Political Science Student Association’s General Assembly on Jan. 30 at Reggies was a democratic catastrophe.
Between violating by-laws, electing a rigged oversight committee, and announcing an exclusive, invite-only party paid for by fee-levy money, political science students are dumbfounded by the PSSA’s shameless lack of inclusion and abuse of power.
By the looks of it, you would not have known that it was an official general assembly. The GA took place at Reggies, a crowded, noisy bar. And what would compel the executives to think that mixing voting and alcohol was a good idea? Being at a bar, the venue was inaccessible to students under the age of 18 and people with restricted mobility. Despite concerns being raised days before, the PSSA executive only confirmed that the event was not accessible to those who are under 18 minutes before the GA began.
The PSSA has members who are minors, and the PSSA executive’s choice to hold the GA at Reggies ensured that those members were systematically prohibited from participating in the GA. At the very last minute, it was announced that “arrangements” could be made for minors, but the PSSA’s by-laws require that public notice of the logistical arrangements for a GA be announced no less than 10 judicial days before the event. The executives’ last minute attempts to fix their mess don’t change the fact that an inaccessible GA is illegal according to the PSSA’s by-laws, the Quebec Accreditation Act, and the Quebec Companies Act.
Also, needless to say having a GA at a bar is completely inappropriate and unprofessional. There was one microphone for the whole assembly— making it impossible to have respectful debates or to listen to others over the rowdy crowds and bartenders taking orders.
During all this commotion, the General Coordinator of the Concordia Student Union explained the PSSA’s violations of their by-laws and Quebec law that made the GA illegal. Sophie Hough-Martin advised the executive team to hold a second, legitimate GA to ratify any decisions made, to avoid the PSSA losing its accreditation, and tens of thousands of dollars in fee-levy money. The PSSA President Chris Kalafatidis responded by calling a round of applause over the fact that this GA had met quorum. Despite the illegality and illegitimacy of the GA, the executive insisted that assembly continue.
In the midst of all this, at an illegal GA stacked with members from PSSA clubs and a couple students bought off with promises of free beer and french fries, the executive announced plans for an end of the year party, expected to cost $15,000 of political science student’s fee-levy money. This is an event that isn’t open to all political science students, it’s by selective invitation only. You are probably not eligible to attend, because only the PSSA club executives and the executive’s friends are invited. The money you give to this association is paying for a $100 ticket for a limo ride and a meal. Keep in mind that their clubs budget is only $10,000. The PSSA executive feels it is more important to please themselves and their friends at the expense of the of political science student body who pays for their budget.
But don’t worry, the PSSA by-laws have accountability mechanisms to make sure that things like this don’t happen, right? The oversight committee was just elected at the GA. WRONG. Not only are the three members of the committee friends with members of the executive, but they are also affiliated with Concordia Model United Nations and Jeux de la Science Politique— two clubs that are heavily linked to the PSSA. When the candidates for the oversight committee announced their qualifications on stage, one of the candidates, who went on to be elected, announced that their primary qualification was spending a lot of time on the twelfth floor in the PSSA office. This oversight committee has no real interest in critiquing the executives (which is the whole point of their job) and eliminates any notion of accountability in our student association.
I was once proud to be a member of the PSSA. Last September, their partnership with the CSU to host an All Parties Provincial Debate on Student Issues put this student association on the map— drawing media attention and the respect of political party leaders. Now the PSSA has exposed itself as self-interested with no solidarity with the CSU, nor the greater student body they represent. Unlike other Concordians in other departments, many political science students are embarrassed of their own student association. They are dissatisfied with the fact that PSSA doesn’t take inclusivity seriously, respect bylaws, and wastes their money on a party that the membership isn’t invited to.
With no accountability mechanisms left, the question becomes where we go from here. Luckily, general elections are coming up. So if you care about accountability, democracy, and inclusivity, I strongly encourage you to run for the PSSA. Political Science students deserve a student association that they can be proud of, and that hasn’t been the case for far too long.
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