“Due diligence,” “good governance” and— my personal favourite — “accountability” are noble-sounding concepts recklessly tossed around Students’ Council debates under the pretence that any semblance of respect for what they truly mean wasn’t locked outside the first time they went in camera and left to rot all year.
Students’ Council approved a $10,000 increase to the Students’ Union’s legal fees budget line last week. Predictably, all debate happened in camera, meaning they’re not allowed to talk about why they wanted the increase.
Leaks happen — which is a good thing when a body representing the members of the Students’ Union consistently silences itself publicly for less than necessary reasons. This time, files obtained by The Gateway show Students’ Union executives expressly begging Council to approve this increase to essentially help LHSA President Eric Martin with Code of Student Behaviour charges against the group.
While they made certain to specify that an increase to the legal line would allow them to use it for whatever they might need it for, Martin, under “tremendous pressure” was the primary justification.
According to the executive, Martin was told he could not talk about this with anyone but his lawyer. Doing so would trigger an investigation into him personally. Hence the secrecy — just like anything else involving Lister this year.
If true, then the university is surely overstepping its bounds on what a person facing charges can and cannot do. You can’t simply charge a group with something, inform a single person from that group that the charges are being placed, and then prohibit him from telling anyone anything — even, as the Students’ Union executive claimed, his own executive.
As far as disciplinary cases go at this university, somebody facing charges, even on behalf of a group, is not going to be prohibited from mentioning at least the fact that they are facing charges. At best, this is perhaps a misunderstanding. Given that the charges against the group likely include specific charges against individuals, Martin could well have been told, or asked, not to divulge information about those specific individuals, which is quite reasonable. Until proven guilty of the charges, those students have a certain right to privacy.
Whatever happened, somewhere along the line the story changed, resulting in the story Council was sold: Martin was bearing the burden of this whole situation entirely alone, a poor lonely student being bullied by a malicious administration set on taking down the LHSA, and we have to support him by increasing our legal fee line right now, and we can’t give you any real information but expect you to make a snap decision completely in secret because if he goes public with his story he’ll be investigated personally.
It’s worth discussing the merits of supporting a student group facing Code of Student Behaviour charges, but that group should have to justify why it needs that help. The group should have to explain why the charges are bogus and why money from fee-paying students both current, former and never Lister residents are best used to defend them. And above all, this needs to be public every time. Because it’s only under public scrutiny that anything Council coughs up actually has a hope of getting fairly evaluated.
Council was told little to nothing regarding the actual charges. It seems that if the justification for doing yet one more thing with your money in secret ends with the claim that Martin was prohibited from discussing even that the LHSA was facing charges and that he as their representative bore all the burden.
If those facts are true, they need to be public immediately. There is nothing $10,000 for legal fees can do that overwhelming public pressure can’t do faster. Call that bluff of a personal investigation, Martin. They can’t successfully charge you with something they have no evidence of you doing. And when they fail, you’ll be up there along with Students’ Union President Colten Yamagishi — the heroes of Lister Hall who brought down the tyrannical administration.
But having investigated the investigation process, it seems unlikely that the situation is as it was portrayed in camera. It could be anything from a misunderstanding to an outright lie, but Council made a decision based upon incomplete or misleading information. Had they had the time to investigate for themselves the process of Code of Student Behaviour charges before having to make this decision, perhaps they could have talked to the Office of Judicial Affairs and then talked to Martin.
They could have returned to the debate two weeks later and endeavoured to do so publicly, rather than agreed to the demands of the Students’ Union executive in secret, under tremendous pressure and forbidden to talk about it publicly.
Instead, due diligence, good governance and accountability failed to make a comeback again.
The remnants of chivalry still linger today, especially in the dating world.