Students’ Council serves a number of important roles on campus: it actively fosters communication between faculties and student leaders, it acts as a forum for sharing information and it helps guide the internal and external pursuits of a $10 million-a-year organization. Most importantly, it holds the five executives of the union, all full-time paid student employees, accountable to the undergraduate students they represent. Council is not a place for pet projects, personal in-fighting or scheming and secrecy.
Because of its nature as a governing body, Council has the power to conduct business in camera — Latin for “in chambers” or “in private.” By council’s own rules, the motion to move in camera is non-debatable and is usually reserved for items of business that relate to external contracts, third party business or human resource matters.
What these all have in common is that a meeting typically only goes behind closed doors to protect someone else’s secrets. These are often important issues, and breaking confidentiality could result in serious legal issues for the SU. But the last three meetings of council, have consistently gone in camera. One meeting featured a presentation regarding Lister that ended in camera, followed by a secret debate that resulted in the allocation of tens of thousands of dollars of the SU’s money. In another meeting question period, meant as a public Q&A for the executives, was held partially in secret. In all of these cases, the members of the executive made the motion to go in camera, and by council’s own rules, councilors weren’t allowed to ask why or debate against it.
Officially, the reason for all this secrecy is also confidential, but it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine it has something to do with the ongoing situation at Lister. This is a student issue, and well within the realm of issues to be dealt with by the SU. We’re now left in the curious position where a few students in charge of a bunch of students money are using it to help other students on a student issue without telling them why or how, whether they want it or not.
Chances are that students in general agree with the executives’ position that something needs to be done — if the university can pull a fast one on Lister changes during the summer, it’s not implausible that the same group of administrators could change student group rules without notice, and all the major groups on campus could face drastic changes too. And that includes fraternities and sororities — let’s face it, they’re likely targets. It’s exactly these sorts of student-administration issues that the SU was developed to advocate against. The problem is the level of secrecy Students’ Council is employing against the very people whose interests they’re trying to protect.
Students should expect better, and councilors should demand better. An organizational flowchart of the SU has Students’ Council at the very top, and if they want to know what the executives have been up to they shouldn’t be sworn to secrecy in order to find out. If the executives want more student help on this issue, it’s time to open this up to a more public forum, and stop demanding secrecy.
The remnants of chivalry still linger today, especially in the dating world.