Loose Cannon: Why the CSA should censure Momina Mir

Thursday, November 19, 2009

  • Thecannon doesn’t normally report on harassment complaints,
but since Mir made the comments during an open session (with

    Thecannon doesn’t normally report on harassment complaints, but since Mir made the comments during an open session (with

Written by Greg Beneteau

Local politics is rarely a no-holds barred grudge match, but occasionally a certain degree of refereeing is required to ensure everyone is playing by the same rules.

Take last Wednesday’s CSA board meeting, which provided an interesting example of the politics of personal conflict taken to the extreme.

The board was debating whether Curtis Batuszkin, the student behind a petition drive to leave the Canadian Federation of Students would be permitted attend the CFS Annual General Meeting in December as part of the official local delegation.

John Sakuluk, the board member who brought forward the motion, argued that Batuszkin wanted to attend the meeting to network with other student delegates who were working on defederation drives. (It’s important to note that some of the 13 universities that held petition drives have official support from their student unions.)

Being an official delegate rather than an observer would have allowed Batuszkin to participate in committees and cast a vote on the floor.

The problem was that the CSA’s official delegation had already been chosen. The board needed to revise the original motion to include Batuszkin, which required two-thirds majority.

External Commissioner Momina Mir, who represents the CSA to the Federation, made it clear she was opposed to having Batuszkin tag along. She argued that two other students applied to join the delegation after the deadline and had been turned down. Besides, she pointed out, the CSA was already overspending by sending five representatives to the meeting, which wasn’t going to be about referendums anyways.

She could have ended it there. Instead, she leveled a startling accusation, claiming Batuzskin had “filed a false harassment complaint” against her to the Human Rights and Equity Office.

Thecannon doesn’t normally report on harassment complaints, but since Mir made the comments during an open session (with Batuzskin in attendance, no less) it became a matter of public record.

Both Mir and Batuszkin have since refused to discuss details of the complaint, but it’s difficult to keep such things under wraps in an organization as large as the CSA.

It didn’t take much digging to determine two things: (a) Mir revealed the existence of a formerly confidential dispute to elected officials, the press and at least one guest, and (b) the complaint hasn’t yet been resolved, making her claim of being the target of a “false” allegation somewhat premature.

The outburst was a clear violation of Parliamentary Procedure, the rules of conduct that allow governments and other deliberative bodies to function. It constituted an attack on Batuszkin’s character that strayed outside the boundaries of the conversation. As Roberts Rules Newly of Order Newly Revised put it: “The measure, not the member, is the subject of debate.”

More specifically, Mir accused Batuszkin of filing a complaint in bad faith, which is a big no-no in almost every governing body I’ve encountered. People may laugh at the antics that play out during Question Period on Parliament Hill, but there are some rules that remain strictly enforced. One of those rules is: don’t accuse your opponent being a liar.

If it were a single slip of the tongue I might be forgiving, but this marks the second time Mir has used the pulpit at a board meeting to make unsubstantiated allegations against Batuszkin. At a board meeting in October she accused Batuszkin and his petitioners of “misleading” students to get their signatures.

I should point out that Batuzskin’s behaviour at the CSA Board meetings hasn’t been perfect, either. He has shown a tendency to become defensive when questioned, prompting the chair to rule him out of order on at least one occasion.

Batuzskin and Mir clearly have some ideological differences that are causing interpersonal problems. The key difference is the Mir is an elected official, while Batuszkin only speaks for himself. The board can remove Batuszkin’s speaking rights and bar him from the meeting if he ever gets out of hand.

Mir appears to think she can use her position of power to attack people she disagrees with. The CSA Board should issue an official reprimand to remind her that this is not the case.

The “Batuszkin” question ultimately failed on a tie vote. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how Mir’s allegation affected the outcome, which is why basic rules of decorum are important when conducting board business.

Ironically, the CSA Board used its last meeting as an orientation session for its recently hired External Chair, Julian Mehra. He certainly has his job cut out for him.

Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon publishes every Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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  1. Posted by: on Nov 19, 2009 @ 3:45pm

    This is clearly a biased article and an attack on a person who, it seems, has been taking the grunt of Batuszkin's manipulations. I am dissapointed with the cannon for posting this.

  2. Posted by: Curtis Batuszkin on Nov 19, 2009 @ 11:24pm

    I would like your perspective on this issue considering you are a student at this school who has raised a concern about me it only seems fitting that you take the time to educate me about your perspective. Seeing as how I've been personally attacked numerous times with fradulent claims, I would like to know what evidence you present to verify my "manipulations" and how my open request to join the delegation committee in order to serve as an educated resource about the CFS to the students at this school is manipulative? Please explain.

    I would also like to note that I think you meant "brunt," not "grunt," however I won't judge the premise of your comment on one typo and poor grammar, but on it's supposed merit.

    However, I will judge it on this: I would like to know why a student who is representing an issue that is framed exactly this way

    "We, the undersigned, petition the National Executive of the Canadian Federation of Students to conduct a referendum on the issue of continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students”

    is somehow manipulative or misleading?

    All the students at this school would like (almost 4000 signed the petitions by the way) is a chance to have the democratic question asked of whether we should remain members in this organization given that we have been members in this organization since 1987, have paid this organization millions of dollars over the years to advocate to lower tuition, and have had no appreciable return on our investment (check out http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/071018/dq071018b-eng.htm).

    How is this manipulative? If anything, this is just the sort of question we need to ask as we are forced to pay the CFS as students at this school. This organization owes us, as well as the countless students across this country who are asking the very same question a definitive factual response. Not only should we ask the questions, but we should also have the right to vote on either severing or continuing ties with this organization in the future.

    May I also add that I asked the External Commissioner personally if I could join and she denied my numerous requests, then I went to the CSA board with my request. I followed all proper protocol and engaged in civil discussion with the CSA board and with the executives. I was the person attacked throughout this whole process simply because I somehow represent a "dissenting view" on the CFS and have filed "false complaints" (her words not mine). I have not launched false accusations or tried to disrupt the democratic proceedings of the CSA by breaking confidentiality on complaints. However, I can't say the same thing for the External Commissioner as she has been mentioned numerous times on public record as well as in front of the CSA board engaging in attacks on my character and this referendum process without presenting any supportive evidence.

    You might want to double check who is attacking whom in this endeavour.

  3. Posted by: Curtis Batuszkin on Nov 19, 2009 @ 11:34pm

    I would also like to add, that one tends to become defensive when they are attacked by the same elected representatives who are supposed to be looking out for their student's rights, not the privileges of the CFS. I accept that I am defensive, but responding to numerous fradulent claims from one source, tends to make one wary of directed questions from said source. I would also like to clarify that I was ruled out of order because I tried to ask two questions at the same time, hardly qualifying me for the "boogeyman" stereotype of being ruled "out of order." DUN-DUN-DUNH!

    Overall, the CSA and the CSA board has responded with considerable support and many members of the executive and the board have performed absolutely admirably with genuine professionalism. Outbursts like these are not something I have become accustomed too with this year's CSA as the organization as a whole has acted with considerable support and empathy.

    This incident will be followed up with the CSA and other organizations on campus, but alas, that will be confidential (I hope).

  4. Posted by: christine de pizan on Nov 22, 2009 @ 11:24am

    all of this seems more than a little skewed. neither the "article", nor the long explanation above has any real validity. sorry boys.

  5. Posted by: Trev on Nov 22, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    It's unfortunate that a personal conflict arised here, as I think Momina Mir brought up legitimate points that the deadline to apply had been passed, and there were budgetary restrictions.

  6. Posted by: AlexMoore on Dec 2, 2009 @ 2:50pm

    I think that one full, in-depth read of Curtis' reply is all it takes to understand that he is the kind of person that will abuse the context of any event in order to make it sounds positive for him. If your actions were not enough to convince me not to support you then your passive-aggressive bullying comments (please don't reply 'how was I bullying?', in your fabricated incredulous tone) are more than enough.

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