A Pound of Cure

Monday, November 12, 2007

On the Wednesday, the 7th, the CSA Board of Directors (BoD) met in UC441 for their 12th meeting of the year. The small room behind the elevators on the fourth floor was packed with people as guests had shown up to voice their concerns about the second floor reorganization. Several of the guests had also taken time out of their tuesday night to attend the UC board meeting the night before. When the meeting turned to the matter at hand, guest stepped up and voiced their opinions in several ways.

Since the floor plan presented by Jakki Doyle was approved "in principle" by the CSA board on the 24th of October there has been a wave of concern and dissent on the second floor of the UC. There has been concern and anger coming from different sources. Among those concerned about the proposed plan are the CSA cubs, 2nd floor staff, independent groups occupying space on the 2nd floor, CUPE 3913 and those that do not occupy space on the 2nd floor.

The largest point of concern seems to be the relatively little consultation that has taken place prior to a plan being submitted to the CSA board for approval. From comments made at the UC board meeting and the CSA board meeting held the week of November 5th, it seems that there was minimal consultation with the various groups on the 2nd floor. The CSA clubs were given a short survey regarding their usage of space. The media groups, excluding Carousel, were invited to two meetings discussing the theoretical reworking of the second floor. CUPE 3913, the union that represents teaching assistants and sessionals and has an office on the 2nd floor, was not consulted, or advised of any plan to restructure the 2nd floor. It is unknown to what degree the UC administration was consulted.

In addition to these limited measures of consultation many of the clubs that did or did not return the survey voiced concern that the intent of the survey was unknown when the survey was distributed. The survey did not provide any indication that it would later be used to justify a restructuring of the second floor. Lastly, nowhere in the survey was it made clear that a restructuring of the 2nd floor was even being considered.

Concerns from the Board of Directors
At the CSA BoD meeting on Wednesday, along with comments and questions from the guests came a separate wave from the directors themselves. Many questions came to the floor regarding the above detailed consultation. Also, venues of creating more consultation were explored.

One concern that came up from the BoD was that this plan stems from a process that began in the summer. At the June 24th meeting of the CSA BoD, Meagan Hourigan brought forward a discussion item listed as "UC space" and the discussion can be found on page 11 of the above linked minutes. Discussion at that meeting was officially limited to 15 minutes. Also, the discussion indicates that the BoD did not instigate any evaluation of 2nd floor space. Instead, at the June 24th meeting, the issue was brought to the BoD as an ongoing project. The current concern of some directors stems from the proposal presented by Jakki Doyle costing approximately $1.5million while the board had only been consulted for 15 minutes before a plan was drawn.

Another concern brought up after the price tag for the project was announced was the fact that $1.5million is enough to create new space for everyone that uses the UC 2nd floor, not just to rearrange the existing model. The point comes from the newly completed expansion of the 7 College Ave. residence of the Guelph Campus Coop. To expand the 7 College Ave. residence and completely renovate the existing building cost about $650,000. The figure is less than half of the proposed cost of moving around the walls on the 2nd floor.

Smoke and Mirrors
There was extensive discussion of measures to direct the process and to instruct the University Centre Board Student Caucus (UCBSC) in their activity on the UC Board. Meaghan Hourigan, Communications Commissioner for the CSA and member of UCBSC, informed the Board of Directors that the UCBSC is made up of independent students that volunteer for the UC Board to represent undergrad students and not the CSA. These statements were brought up to remind the CSA Board of Directors that it cannot give the UCBSC directives.

According to the CSA policy manual in appendix B section 8.2, UCBSC are to be students recruited by the CSA to represent the CSA in the interests of undergrad students. As representatives of the CSA the UCBSC is to regularly report to the CSA BoD. Also, contrary to the information provided at the CSA BoD meeting by Meaghan Hourigan section of the UC Board section in the policy states "The CSA Board of Directors, as the appointing body, has the ability to give directives to the UCBSC...." The reason for the incorrect information being given to the BoD is unknown, Communications Commissioner Meagan Hourigan could not be reached for comment.

The current process of consultation, since the outburst of dissent, seems to be falling off the tracks as it were. At the BoD meeting there was frequent reference to an ad-hoc committee being formed by the UC Board on the night prior to the BoD meeting. The UC Board, like the CSA BoD, holds public meetings and there was some discussion on the proposal to reconstruct the 2nd floor. Prior to the UC Board meeting word reached UC Board Chair Jennifer Maddock that there were many people interested in speaking in opposition to the plan. As a result, the UC chair sent an email to Jakki Doyle informing that because the business before the UC Board was merely a notice about the 2nd floor restructuring and therefore the merits of the plan would not be discussed.

In response Jakki Doyle sent a message to Faran Jessani, the CSA Clubs Coordinator, and Louise McCabe, the CSA Front Office Manager, asking that anyone inquiring about attending the UC Board meeting be told that the UC Board meeting is "not open to the public" and that "external attendees" would not be allowed on the speakers list. The email directed any concerns to CSA forums of discussions instead. As Jakki Doyle does not sit on the UC board but was herself a guest to the meeting, stating that the meeting was private and that guests' comments would not be entertained is not in her ability to establish nor is in the power of any one person. Rather, only the UC Board as a whole can vote to not extend speaking rights.

The current upheaval surrounding this issue is yet to die down. The directions from the CSA BoD are unclear. The initial directive from the CSA BoD supported the plan presented by Jakki Doyle "in principle." This wording was discussed again at the more recent meeting. The intent of the motion was stated to be that the board believes that something needs to be done to restructure student space but not necessarily the plan submitted. However the unchanged plan was submitted in the mean time to the UC board. At the November 7th meeting, the BoD directed that two forums be held on the issue as well as directing people with concerns to meet privately with Jakki Doyle.

An Ounce of Prevention
Much time and energy is being expended by dozens of people to ensure that those on the second floor now at least get a say in the the plan that has already been created and presented. There has been a lot of incorrect information that has been circulating cause many people to become more up in arms that initially. The spontaneous activities of students and community members is truly what a democratic organization is supposed to be. However, one must always ask: as inspiring as petitions and communal organizing may be, could all of this effort by many been avoided by a little effort by a few?

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  1. Posted by: on Nov 12, 2007 @ 1:13pm

    Had I been consulted or even questioned for the production of this article, I could have straightened out some facts for the author - I am unsure as to where several of the 'facts' presented here originated, for example specific activity of my email account.

    Accurate reporting aside...

    Regarding this question:

    “However, one must always ask: as inspiring as petitions and communal organizing may be, could all of this effort by many been avoided by a little effort by a few?”

    Who is this posed to?

    This ‘few’, have been working on this project for months, and I challenge ‘the masses’ to participate in a meaningful way, as I always have – by actually contacting the people they have elected.

  2. Posted by: Evan Dalzell on Nov 12, 2007 @ 2:44pm

    As a member of the UC Board Student Caucus and Vice-Chair of the UC Board, I would like to address a point about the "governing body" of the UC Booard Student Caucus. In the UC Board Constituion, under section 4, "Membership", it states that the undergraduate membership shall be as follows:

    "ten persons (undergraduate students) appointed by the University of Guelph Central Student Association , including any one member of the Central Student Association Executive, who shall not be required to be and undergraduate student."

    This statement, in my opinion and that of the Chair of the UC Board, means that the UC Board Student Caucus is not responsible to the CSA Board of Directors, as the Student Caucus is a body outside of the CSA. It is not within the purview of the CSA to direct the Student Caucus.

  3. Posted by: on Nov 12, 2007 @ 3:19pm


    As this article is clearly an opinion piece, albeit a well-researched one, I think it is inappropriate to consider this in the "News" section. It should be under "Opinion".

    I was asked to provide comment by the author of this article. However , the request was via phone only, and I was asked to respond "within the hour". Unfortunately, I was out of my office, but would have gladly responded via email if such a request was sent to me. Sadly, it was not.

  4. Posted by: Bob Przybyla on Nov 12, 2007 @ 5:52pm

    I apologize for only leaving a window of one hour to comment for this article Meaghan. It was my intention to post it on Friday.

    Second, the question at the end was merely put there to facilitate discussion.

  5. Posted by: Shea on Nov 21, 2007 @ 2:44pm

    I, for one, appreciate the fact that this information was both brought up and posted in the news section. There has obviously been a lack of 'actual' news on campus regarding this issue and, it says a great deal about this specific person to put this much work into informing the students. I don't feel I am severely affected by this proposal, however, the CSA commissioners were elected into there positions as voices for the students, which means there should be some form of support from the student body in order for something this big to be initiated. One cannot expect the masses to participate, if there is a lack of knowledge regarding the subject to begin with. And as the responses from numerous clubs and other groups affected by the proposal seem to show, once brought int o the loop of whats going on, participation doesn't seem to be that much of a matter anymore. It's great that the CSA are making moves towards things they think are improving the situation here at Guelph for students, however, the support of the students is what this organization should be based on and thus far, this issue has shown otherwise

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