By: Drew MacEachern
Call to Order
The first council meeting of 2016 was called to order at 6:00pm. This was quickly followed by an approval of the agenda and minutes from the previous council meeting. President Dana Kenny added a point about Hiring Board Recommendations on the agenda following the scheduled swearing-in of several new councillors. Interestingly, this new meeting was also accompanied by a new seating arrangement. Members of the executive traditionally sat together, opposite the Chair, at the bottom of the U-shaped layout of tables. However, to the confusion of some councillors, the Executive were placed through. Apparently, this was at the request of the Executive.
The first major business of the meeting were the respective reports by the SU Executives, Senate, and Board of Governors representatives. First up was President Dana Kenny. He noted that he had three different students come to him with issues. He was also involved in duties with the hiring board for the new Director of Communications. On Monday, Kenny will be meeting with Richard Brown, the Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, along with Accessibility Rep Kaylee Blackett about the SMILE program.
Vice President Academic and External (VPAX) John Rix was next to report. He noted that most of his time had been spent planning the first ever Advocacy Week, with plans to fit as many advocacy meetings politicians as possible in one week. Rix noted that he will be reaching out to both councillors and student volunteers to help meet with the provincial MLAs. Kenny and Rix will also attend a pre-budget consultation meeting to promote. He also did research into university divestment from fossil fuels in response to a recent petition for UPEI to divest that circulated in December, which he would present later in the night. He also noted that about a hundred students out of 500 responded to a survey about the George Coles Bursary, which gives them a good sample size to lobby to the provincial government to make changes to the way it is distributed through an applicable student’s academic career.
VP Student Life Nathan Hood’s report focused on his work in creating an active culture of society participation at UPEI. He also had a meeting with a COCA representative, including establishing a nation-wide event plan database, involving societies across Canada. He also discussed bringing a COCA meeting to Charlottetown. There has been research on alcohol policies with findings brought to the university which include issues around pub crawls. With regards to upcoming events, Hood noted that Craig Cardiff and Laurent Bourque would be playing a free concert for students at the Wave on January 21st. The Frozen Four hockey tournament is also being planned for the 22nd of the same month with a ‘Winter Whiteout’ event happening at the Wave immediately after. Music will be provided by Skratch Bastid. Hood, alongside VP Finance Zach Tweel, attended the International Student Orientation to explain the working of the Student Union.
VP Zach Tweel noted that many things had happened since the last council meeting; Councillor Willows got engaged, VP Hood cut his hair, and Chair Bob Deziel grew a beard. Tweel stated that his report would be short, as many of the things in his report would be addressed in his expense reports to Council. He noted with approval that the new coat-check application for societies was used for the first time with Two Years Eve, and that it greatly helped the process.
Senate is having a meeting on Friday, while the Board of Governors is meeting on Jan. 28th.
By-elections and New Councillors
After going into camera to approve the recent by-election report and results, the new councillors were sworn in. First to be sworn in was Michaela Kennie as the new Business Rep. Next up was Kate Rundle as Grad Student Rep. Finally, Babafela Awosile was sworn in a Grad Student Senate Rep.
Council went into camera once again to discuss the Hiring Board Results for the new Director of Communications position. By all accounts it was a very competitive offering, with around five or six applicants.
At this point, VPAX Rix took the floor to discuss the issue of divestment. Rix began by noting that the divestment movement is a North America-wide movement to have universities divest from the energy industry. In order to insure financial viability, universities across the world own stock in various industries. Rix clarified that he often has to decline many student driven-initiatives as being out of scope, but has decided to bring this specific one to Council. These concerns were originally brought to the council the previous year by Mitchell Crouse, but the then- incumbent President and VPAX declined to bring it to council. Crouse then circulated a petition this fall which gained around 105 signatures, and is reportedly planning to bring more attention to the issue this semester.
Rix noted that UPEI has $29 million invested in the energy industry. However, the Student Union, as a separate organization, is not invested in the fossil fuel industry. Rix then put forward a motion that the Academic and External Affairs committee examine the issue.
In response to a question from Councillor Zak Jarvis, Rix noted that the university budget shows that UPEI makes approximately 1.5 million off investments. Councillor Kaylee Blackett wondered whether this issue was appropriate for council to discuss, when other issues were not being discussed and it did not seem directly relevant to student issues; Councillor Pierce Smith echoed these concerns about whether it was the place of students to bring such issues to the university, and whether the financial hit was worth it. Rix then clarified again that this motion is solely about exploring the option of divestment, and does not signify either positive or negative support by the Student Union.
Councillor Tayte Willows spoke in favour of the motion. She argued that this is clearly an interest of students and that increased research on the topic would allow council to more successfully vote in the interest of students, instead of voting based on the opinions of council. This brought some scattered clapping. After this, Councillor Joel Hansen made a motion to call the motion to question, which was passed. The motion itself was passed with only Councillor Blackett voting in the negative.
The next section of council was led by VP Finance Zach Tweel who delivered financial reports on the various events held throughout the first semester. The first presented was the 2000+ expenditures report for the months of October and November. The expenses included the Trius Transit Payment to allow students to take the bus for free, an RRSP contribution fee, income taxes, and Visa payments.
The report on Halloween Pub was presented next. By all accounts, the even was a success. The event sold out and made a profit of about $2000.Total entertainment costs matched base projections, while other costs came in lower than budgeted.
The Back to School Pub cost the SU $3020.80 with a net profit of slightly under $7000. There was also an increase in bar sales for the Wave.
M.O.V.O Fest, also known as Drake Appreciation Night, lost the SU $16.25. This also brought about a discussion of doing more theme nights, including one for Justin Bieber and Beyonce. When asked how he decided theme nights, VP Hood explained that he usually gets ideas from social media, such as UPEI Confessions, Yik Yak and other sources. This is apparently how he got the idea for M.O.V.O Fest.
The SU was then presented a report on the Tony Lee X-Rated Hypnotist show. Lee reportedly himself expected a lower turnout since this was the first time the SU has hosted him for a couple of years. Around a 125 tickets were sold, an approximation based on several discounts for both Buddy Program participants and people who brought non-perishable food items. Net revenue was $1080, although the event lost around $2000. There was some discussion as whether to bring him back for the future, but the consensus seemed to be that there was potential to grow the event if it becomes an annual occasion.
Next up was the Wave Report. In October 2014, the Wave lost $14204.16, while it only occurred a loss of $6757.44 in October 2015. This decrease was accomplished though both a slight increase in revenue brought in by the Wave, as well as a drop in expenses of around $6000. Interestingly, this decrease in loss was accomplished despite some increases in expenses for entertainment, in an effort to increase attendance at the Wave. Most of this drop seemed to result from an almost $10,000 decrease in wage expenses. VP Tweel also noted that there was an improved effort by the Wave to manage inventory.
Approving By-law Changes
Chair Deziel then took the floor to direct the discussion and voting on the second reading of the Proposed Elections By-law. One change was incorporating the engineering, accessibility, and health and wellness representatives into the spring election roster, to create consistency between the SU Constitution and the Election by-law. However, the major change revolved around by-elections. Hypothetically, if a non-Executive position in the Council becomes vacant before Jan. 31st, then Council is mandated to hold a by-election to fill the vacancy. The only exception would apply to positions like Arts or Science representatives, where there are several councillors holding each of these positions. However, if there is a resignation or general vacancy in a position that occurs after this date, then council can nominate someone from that respective constituency to become a councillor, in order to ensure adequate representation in the Council.
VPAX Rix noted that the Student Union had some trouble this year after the emergency funding for by-elections ran out. He noted that if by-elections are now mandatory that there should be something placed in the by-law requiring that a specific amount of money be budgeted for by-elections. Rix then made a motion to refer the by-law back to the policy committee in order to create a new sub-section dealing with this issue. Councillor Smith questioned whether this was an appropriate job for the Policy Committee instead of the Finance Committee. Senate Rep Owen Shaw then made an amendment to include VP Finance Tweel in any discussions on this matter within the Policy Committee. This motion was passed.
At this point, Councillor Blackett suggested if it would just be simpler to take money from the general SU Budget whenever it was needed, as it would be difficult to predict the exact figure needed for by-elections. Rix was of a different opinion. Councillor Smith questioned the logic of placing a specific and quite frequently fluctuating dollar value in the by-law. VP Hood then argued that placing such a section in the by-law would prevent future councils from ignoring this issue, but that a specific dollar value should not have to be put within the by-law. President Kenny then made an amendment to strike out the section of the motion referring to a guaranteed amount of money, to diffuse the controversy over a specific dollar value. This was passed.
The Sub-Org By-law was then brought to council. The only amendment was the addition of a section that specified that SU sub-organizations can vote to ratify or revoke the status of internal clubs, and doing so will prevent the internal club from the accessing the privileges of an SU-ratified society. Said clubs would not be able to appeal the decision of their respective sub-org to the SU. This section was added after a controversy over the status of SAVS (Society of Atlantic Veterinary Students) ratified societies, and whether they were able to access SU funds.
New Committee Members
Councillor Zak Jarvis was added to the New Initiatives and Future Directions Committee, and the new Business Rep Michaela Kennie was added to the Budget Committee. Kate Rundle was added to the Funding Committee. Councillor Awosile was automatically added to the Academic and External Committee.