BY CHRIS HUSSEY
Conestoga College’s student union may have some questions to answer after dismissing one of their directors.
Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI), the official students’ association for Conestoga students, let go one of their board of directors during a meeting on March 17. Brian Clark was dismissed from his role on the board after serving almost two years in the position.
CSI’s board of directors is made up of students who are elected by the student body in a general election held in the winter semester each year. Once elected, these directors guide the direction of the corporation by voting on important decisions, such as whether to increase student fees or fund new programs. They are also expected to attend CSI events and engage with students in an effort to better represent the student body as a whole. In exchange for completing these responsibilities, directors receive some perks, including discounted graduation photos, free printing at CSI’s service hub and an honorarium of $800, according to CSI’s Governance Policies.
These policies were last updated last year, and Jeff Scherer, the current CSI president, said they may not be the most up-to-date version as the policies are in constant review by the board.
Clark, a second-year student in the community criminal justice program, said he was dismissed after Spoke contacted CSI with questions about the election of the new president and vice-presidents for the 2016-2017 school year. Spoke asked CSI why the election was conducted the way it was, and in particular, why there was no student input when selecting the president and VPs.
Two CSI board members, who wished to remain anonymous, approached Spoke and commented on this election, saying they felt that some candidates received preferential treatment.
After this, Spoke attempted to set up an in-person interview with Cameron Jones, the current CSI vice-president who was elected president for the next school year. However, he was unavailable, so Spoke sent questions to Jones via email, and Clark said this email was circulated within CSI to various executive staff. He said this was the spark that initially set off the events that led to him being dismissed.
Clark said on March 10, the day the email was sent, Scherer attempted to call an emergency meeting. According to Clark, Scherer threatened board members by telling them to be at that meeting otherwise he would dock their honorarium.
“He can’t do that because he doesn’t have that power,” Clark said.
Eventually, the emergency meeting was held that evening, and Clark said the email was the first thing that was raised. In fact, Scherer began the meeting by asking the people who approached Spoke anonymously to resign.
Clark said he requested that the board instead discuss what might have prompted the individuals to approach Spoke in the first place.
“They didn’t even care to discuss that,” he said. “They were just very retributive in nature.”
Clark said Sheena Witzel, CSI’s assistant general manager and one of the executives at the meeting, accused Hope Krempa, another one of CSI’s directors, of being one of the people who talked to Spoke. According to Clark, Krempa had approached Witzel previously with similar concerns as those that were addressed by the anonymous individuals who talked to Spoke.
“It’s not like one person was upset by an election that didn’t go their way,” he said.
According to Clark, at the emergency meeting Krempa singled him out, saying he was one of the anonymous Spoke sources. He said he was accused of violating CSI’s one-voice policy, which he described as the “put-up or shut-up policy.”
The official policy, according to the Governance Policies, states that, “Board members will support the legitimacy and authority of the final determination of the Board on any matter, irrespective of the members’ personal position on the issue. The Board will speak with one voice or not at all.”
The meeting ended with no one admitting to talking to Spoke and no one resigning.
The following Thursday (March 17) at CSI’s monthly board of directors meeting, Krempa made a motion requesting another emergency board meeting in order to dismiss Clark. The motion carried and the emergency meeting was held after the regular meeting ended. According to Clark, in the emergency meeting Scherer said that things came to light and accused Clark and Gurpal Singh Bhatia, another CSI board of director, of being the ones who talked to Spoke anonymously.
Spoke has not revealed the anonymous sources to anyone, not any CSI board of director or executive member.
After being accused, Clark was asked questions in the meeting by some of the executives about why he did it. Clark said that although he never admitted to anything, another motion was made to dismiss him.
He said instead of asking if anyone approved of the motion, which is normally how the CSI meetings are run, Scherer asked if anyone opposed the motion.
“He just went to, ‘Who opposes,’ so that everyone else could just sit quietly without having to answer,” Clark said.
He said this was a direct policy violation because in order to dismiss a board member, there has to be a vote with two-thirds of the board voting in favour of the motion.
Scherer said in an email to Spoke that Clark’s dismissal from the board was an HR concern and falls under confidentiality and, as a result, CSI could not comment on the issue.
He also said they could not comment on the policies and procedures of CSI’s board of directors.
Clark said many of the issues with CSI’s board of directors stems from a lack of experience and proper training for the position.
“You have a bunch of people who are in their early 20s and late teens operating and in control of a multimillion-dollar corporation,” he said.
Clark said he hopes that people pay more attention to what CSI is doing and how it is run, because he said the biggest issue for him is the lack of accountability and consistency within the organization.
“When it comes down to it, the policy binders that are given out are just kind of given out … and there’s no accountability as far as that goes,” he said. “There has to be credibility behind everything they do.”