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CSA Board Meeting Short and Sweet

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Written by Gonzalo Moreno

Last night, the Board of Directors (BoD) of the Central Student Association (CSA) completed one of its fastest meetings on record. Although several important topics were brought to the table, issues of timing and presentation of these topics ensured that relevant decisions were postponed to later BoD meetings.

For the second time in a month, a resolution by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on the Israel-Palestine conflict was introduced to the agenda, with the suggested possibility that the CSA might take a position on it. The now famous Resolution 50 was passed by CUPE in its Annual General Meeting this past June, and quickly sparked a wildfire of media controversy.

The Board was divided on the issue. Some of the college seats in the BoD were unsure that taking a clear side (like Resolution 50 does) on such a polarizing issue fell under the mandate of the CSA. Academic Commissioner Becky Wallace and External Commissioner John Coombs both argued that the CSA should not shy away from the issue only because it's a thorny one, but they also agreed that the discussion needs to be inclusive and facilitated by an appropriate mediator. Ultimately no motion was passed regarding CUPE’s position on the issue, although the Board agreed to entertain future and concrete suggestions, on either Resolution 50 or the Israel-Palestine conflict in general, that might be presented to it.

Talk then turned towards the upcoming municipal election. Again there were suggestions that the CSA might formally endorse one or more candidates if their campaign focuses at least partially on student issues. Discussion heated up when the Board questioned whether it was within the CSA’s mandate to endorse candidates in an election, and Communications Commisioner Jonathan Odumeru argued that the CSA “is a political body” and could as such take positions that would be “in the best interest of students.” Wallace also pointed out that some ward candidates had already said that they were not taking students into account at all, so that the CSA should at the very least warn students about such candidates.

With an all-candidates meeting scheduled for the following night, the Board agreed to postpone potential endorsements until the platform of all candidates could be examined and made known to the student population. Odumeru agreed to prepare an information package about the candidates that could be sent out or linked to in the next CSA mass email. Since the municipal election is to take place on November 13 and the next BoD is scheduled for November 1, the Board felt comfortable that further action regarding the candidates could be postponed for another two weeks.

The controversy of the night came when discussion focused on the money available for PDRs (petitions, delegations, representations), which are funding requests from clubs on campus to run diverse events. The CSA PDR grant line for the Fall 06 semester has been exhausted well before the halfway point, which prompted CSAHS-SA At Large representative Joel Harnest to suggest that "[the Board] need to examine how critical we are with PDRs.”

It also became apparent that potential PDRers were being turned down at the CSA front office with the argument that there was no money left. Odumeru pointed out that, while the Fall amount had indeed been exhausted, there was a small rollover from the Summer line, and the Solidarity and Culture grant lines were still in good health. The Board moved to have the Summer rollover transferred into the Fall line, and agreed that they would consider moving amounts from the Culture and Solidarity lines on a case-by-case basis; as a result, Odumeru assured the board that PDR requests will continue to be accepted by the CSA even if the PDR line proper is exhausted. CBS At Large representative Cathleen Yoo suggested that, given the disparities in the expenses for the different lines, the CSA should review how it anticipates the splitting of funds among the different grants.

A couple of general reminders were also issued. The Board election results, as published by Thecannon.ca, were still unofficial and would remain so until the legal period of 15 days expires this Friday – the winning candidates should be ratified in the November 1 meeting. The Executive also prompted the Board to attend the upcoming CSA Annual General Meeting, as it is informative for all students and is the only occasion that the CSA can formally ratify changes to its policies and bylaws, for which it needs a quorum of 1% of the undergraduate student population. Students in general will also be encouraged to attend through widespread advertising all over campus.

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