As an avid reader of The Medium I have noted two letters regarding the workings and operations of ECC which relate to me as chair of ECC. I’ve never been given to writing to the paper in the past, feeling that it is primarily run for and by students, but in this case I feel I have to.
I must first respond to untruths in both Gilbert Cassar’s “Presidential Seasonal Message to the Masses” and Ruba El Khadri’s “Student Voice Stifled” pieces. I have no wish to enter into a debate with members of the UTMSU executive over the “just” or otherwise behaviour of ECC, which is clearly a matter of opinion, but they do seem to persist in purveying untruths. Thus I would like to point out to the university community at large, and especially the student community, what is true.
Erindale College Council is not the highest decision-making body at UTM indeed it is not a decision-making body at all, it merely recommends and advises the administration on matters of policy both financial and academic. Decision-making is not a mandate of the Council; ultimately it is the prerogative of the vice-president and principal, who has no obligation to follow its recommendations. A governance body such as ECC is there to ensure that UTM is managed well, but not to manage UTM directly.
The December 1 meeting of Council was not held with less than seven days’ notice, and was thus not unconstitutional. Circulation of the notice and agenda anytime up to midnight on Thursday 24 November for a December 1 meeting would have been completely in line with section 8 of the ECC constitution as then written and, as Gilbert’s letter asserts, the agenda was sent out on the afternoon of the 24 (about the only assertion in his letter that was correct!). This has always been College Council practice and always will be. Interestingly, the notice requirements of the newly revised Constitution of ECC, which was supported by the UTMSU executive are weaker still with an “all reasonable efforts” clause added, so this complaint sounds to me even more disingenuous!
As for the “suspicious and shameful” consideration of the budgets before the Christmas break, UTMSU officers or their representatives are always members of all ECC sub—committees (budgetary, academic, and executive) that set agendas, consider timelines, and peruse budgetary and academic program details, etc., for the upcoming council meetings in the yearly cycle. Had they been paying attention in those meetings they would have learned that Simcoe Hall required our budgets earlier this academic year so that, unlike last year, they had to be considered before the holiday break. As of this cycle the contribution and input of UTMSU officers in these meetings (especially the College Council Executive Committee of which I am chair and of which Gilbert is a member) has been singularly absent. I can assure you that in the minutes of those meetings nowhere are there to be found any expressions of concern on the part of UTMSU representatives regarding the nature of the budgets or the timeliness or otherwise of their consideration. In their silent presence or absence they were indeed willing parties to all agendas, timelines, and “just” or “unjust” behaviours.
With regard to the VP Equity’s reference to the “appalling[…]manner of the chair” and “inexperience in Robert’s Rules”, I have to confess some guilt to the latter as a new chair in my first elected year. To the former, although I do not think I was rude, I accept that my manner was perceived as somewhat disrespectful or sarcastic and since it was not my intention I immediately conceded the point (actually Ruba’s quote was incomplete; what I said was, “Point taken, forgive me!”).
Also, with regard to the first point, the fact is I had taken the trouble to visit with members of the executive in their “den” to explain why their assertion of a violation of the constitution was wrong and that the meeting was not unconstitutional (I also did so by email), yet UTMSU executive members persisted with the accusation both in and out of the Council. As part of a democratic body meant to effectively administer a post-educational institution, I believe it is incumbent upon all members to perform without self-interest and to the utmost of their abilities. As a consequence, I find it difficult to be respectful of people who willfully choose not to listen, deliberately choose not to understand, and who do not attend or are silent in meetings where agendas are set and then claim the outcomes to be “suspicious and shameful”. This, it could be argued, is negligence of the worst order on the part of members who are responsible to a constituency that, on their behalf, has elected them to responsible positions. I guess my sarcastic English sense of humour got the better of me, for which I am truly sorry (not for the English sense of humour, by the way, but for any offence it caused). With regard to the second point on my knowledge of Robert’s Rules, I did not have, nor am I required to have, a speakers’ list. Admittedly, I was somewhat overcome by events at the end of the meeting when during the last five minutes I was interrupted numerous times when trying to carry out business. Robert’s Rules should be used to facilitate communication and not be misused as a means to subvert it.
As I understand it, a basic element of Robert’s Rules is that the majority is allowed rule while the minority must be heard. I did make sure that in the over 70 minutes of discussion on the parking issue, UTMSU’s voice was heard (they had over 90% of the floor during that time)! Ruba is indeed correct this is not according to Robert’s Rules, as I should have alternated between speakers from each side of the debate and allotted even time to both sides.
To sum up, I am really concerned about the behaviour of the UTMSU executives in this matter, their belief that if you repeat an untruth a sufficient number of times people will ultimately believe it to be true, and their unwillingness to participate in the Council process and then to complain that choices they were in fact party to were “suspicious and shameful”. I really hope that the positions they took and the way they represented their constituency were based upon bad advice rather than choices of the executive itself.
In the end, students themselves are responsible for the officers they elect (regrettably witness the shameful “Silent AGM of UTMSU”), yet good behaviour that focusses on reaching positive solutions must never be left out of any human equation. As an elected body, it is incumbent upon the UTMSU executive to behave in a manner that provides the best service to their constituency and not behaviour that is focussed on self-aggrandizing and what really amounts to sabotage of the democratic process. All concerned deserve better—especially the students of UTM, whom we are all gathered to serve.
Chair of ECC