Student Reps Walk Out of Closed Session Vote
After being encouraged to bring cameras to the action last week, students hoping for a transparency showdown with Concordia’s Board of Governors couldn’t tape much action. The Feb. 10 meeting was cancelled when four student representatives left to break quorum.
Moments before a vote to ban a motion to film of the meetings was to take place, the students walked. Without quorum, Concordia’s highest governing body was forced to dissolve for the day.
The student representatives—frustrated that the motion was discussed in a closed session before the audience was allowed in—said they felt a walkout was their only option.
Student representative AJ West had previously encouraged all concerned students and members of the media to film the meeting, despite objections from Board members who argue their privacy is at stake.
“I don’t feel comfortable passing anything in closed sessions regarding transparency,” said graduate student representative Erik Chevrier. “If [the Board is] not willing to discuss it, I’m not going to sit around and have this rubber-stamped.”
Chevrier had previously attempted to pass a series of motions regarding transparency, including broadcasting the meeting online. All of his motions were voted down during on Jan. 12 BoG.
But the motion discussed Friday went too far, according to Concordia Student Union President Lex Gill. While Chevrier’s original motion proposed an official live stream of the meeting, the discussed motion suggested preventing any audience member from bringing personal recording equipment.
“The open session of Board meetings has historically been recorded,” said a visibly shaken Gill, noting that members of the press frequently record the sessions. “That has always been a right.
“Nobody is asking for some sort of radical transparency. No one is asking for that. We’re asking that the things the public can ordinarily walk in and see can also be seen by people who are not physically there.”
Despite ending the meeting before the public was even allowed in, the representatives felt their point had been made.
“Hopefully a precedent is set today,” said undergraduate representative Cameron Monagle. “There will be new BoG members soon and hopefully they will be more open to adopting measures of transparency.”
The ability to disrupt quorum was the result of several governors not attending the meeting. When asked what will be done between this meeting and the next one—set to take place on April 19, when such a maneuver may not be possible—Gill replied “I think my next course of action is to develop a proposal and submit it to the Board for consideration regarding a way of actually doing this, given that it’s never been submitted to any committee.”
“People have been playing ping-pong with Erik Chevrier’s motions all year. I think at this point, the way to move forward may be to do the work that a committee would have.”
While the student representatives spoke after the meeting about the value of transparency, not all of the Board members shared that attitude about open session.
Community at Large Board Member Joelle Adler spoke with a large group of students as other governors left the boardroom, and maintained that even having an audience for the meetings is not necessarily desirable, citing other corporate boards she has sat on whose meetings are closed to the public.
With files from Adam Kovac