Procedural Issues Stall CSU Presidential Appointment

Council Debates Proceedings in Private Facebook Group

Photo Corey Pool

The Concordia Student Union will have to hold off on taking another stab at appointing a president after a scheduled special meeting to resolve the issue was cancelled last week.

The unprecedented vacancy has run on for over a month after former union leader Schubert Laforest resigned on Feb. 7, citing health reasons.

The scheduled special meeting was set to take place on March 11. A regular council meeting, announced simultaneously, will still to take place on March 13.

A lengthy email from CSU chair Jean-François Ouellet explained that the special meeting had to be “[disregarded] as a whole on grounds of improper proceedings.”

According to the agenda, three members of the CSU executive had called the special council meeting—VP External Simon-Pierre Lauzon, VP Loyola Stefan Faina and VP Academic Hajar El Jahidi.

In an interview with The Link, Ouellet admitted that he had called upon the executives to call the meeting because of the severity of the issue and the length at which the union has already gone without a president.

The union has held two meetings that aimed to fill the vacancy, though neither saw the appointment of a new president.
Ouellet was not in attendance for either meeting.

“Considering the matter was rather important to the whole student body itself, I deemed it appropriate to—on exceptional circumstances—allow the executive to call this special meeting,” said Ouellet. “Because it was easier to get in contact with them than three councillors in general.”
This idea was met with opposition.

In a private Facebook group that includes members of CSU council and the executive, as well as ex-officio members of council and student senators, councillor Gonzo Nieto pointed out what he saw as an issue with the chair’s decision.

According to CSU Bylaw 6.6.3, only the president of the union or three councillors are eligible to call a special meeting—never a member of the executive.

“I said that this meant that the meeting we called for Monday was not legal, by virtue of not being in accordance with our own rules, and therefore is not valid,” said Nieto to The Link.

However, according to members of the private CSU Facebook group, this caused an argument to break out online over the interpretation of the union’s bylaws and how to proceed with the special meeting.

Several members within the private group have said that Ouellet defended holding the special meeting, despite it being in conflict with the union’s rules.

Ouellet says that he knew about the bylaw requiring either a president or councillors to call the meeting, but he “deemed it appropriate to approach the executive since, in the absence of a president, they are sort of acting as a united front to replace his role.

“I tried to bypass [the bylaw] in order to facilitate the process of appointing the president, but obviously this turned sour and created this huge conflict,” he added.

Questions have also been raised concerning the chair’s decision to take such an active role within council.

According to the CSU Bylaw 6.4.1, the chairperson of the CSU is elected to administer council meetings and to “act on behalf of the council when instructed to do so by the council.”

“[Ouellet] never asked council and he was never instructed by council to [suggest that a meeting be called], and then when council calls him out on it he argues with us about what his reasons are and why he thinks it’s a good idea,” said Nieto. “I told him that it wasn’t appropriate, and ironically enough, that caused an argument about it.”

Ouellet believes, however, that his intentions were misinterpreted. He was not entirely alone in his opinion.

Despite believing that council was legally “in the right,” Lauzon—one of three VP’s who signed off on the request to hold the meeting—agreed with Ouellet’s decision to bend the union’s rules in this case, hoping that council would “show understanding.”

“The bylaws and standing regulations are there for a reason, but our job is to act in the student’s interest and to have a functioning CSU,” said Lauzon. “It’s within council’s judgment to choose to kind of look away for this specific instance seeing how little the consequences might be if we actually hold the meeting.”

But according to Nieto, this logic could be problematic, especially when dealing with such a contentious and important issue as filling the position of union president.

“This was a meeting we were calling to appoint a president,” said Nieto. “We can’t call it on illegal and invalid grounds because then any decision can so easily be contested just based on pure procedural fact that the whole meeting was invalid. That wasn’t coming across.”

Ultimately, the issue of picking a president has been moved to the regular council meeting on March 13.

Questions have also been raised about the validity of using a private Facebook group to hash out the union’s interpersonal dealings.

Lauzon left the group amidst all of this and has asked that the rest of the union’s executive do the same. He cites, among other things, issues he takes with the Facebook group in terms of a lack of transparency.

“It’s not a good way to communicate and we end up being frustrated and very emotionally charged after spending a bit of time on that group,” said Lauzon. “It’s not helping our productivity or helping us do our job. It’s a poor use of our time, considering that it’s unofficial.”

This week’s upcoming council meeting will involve the task of picking a president, and according to his Executive Report, Lauzon has decided he’s up to it.

Despite what he has said in previous meetings about not having the time, or being too fatigued to take on the presidential portfolio, Lauzon says he’s feeling better, and is ready to take on the job.

“It’s exactly like I said—if it’s between me having the position and a random councillor, then of course I’m going to take the position,” said Lauzon. “It’s a question between a rock and a hard place, and I’ll choose the rock.”