Monday, September 5, 2011

Carleton Students Get a Small Taste of Democracy

Sixteen expelled student union Councillors have had their positions with Carleton University’s Student Association (CUSA) upheld, after a Vice President attempted to have them removed.

On August 10, 2011, Justice Robert Beaudoin ruled that the 16 Councillors expelled from Carleton University’s Student Association (CUSA) were illegally expelled, and he immediately upheld their positions.  In his injunction, Justice Beaudoin orders that

“Ariel Norman [et. al.] are hereby restrained from declaring the seats of [the16 Councillors] vacant under further order of this Honourable court.”
He also orders that
“Ariel Norman [et. al.] comply with the CUSA Constitution, bylaws, and policies, and recognize [the 16 Councillors] as duly elected and sitting council members of CUSA until further order of this Honourable court.”
 Norman, Vice President (Internal) of CUSA, notified the Councillors by email on July 28 that they were fired from council because they failed to attend or send proxies for two meetings during the summer.

 The Councillors quickly responded, saying they were indeed still sitting Councillors, and that the meetings never achieved quorum, so they were never officially held in the first place.  CUSA’s President, Obed Okyere, also responded that day, stating that he would conduct an investigation into Norman’s claims, but that all students would retain their seats until his investigation was completed.  President Okyere’s investigation found that the students would lawfully retain their seats.

Norman or her lawyer did not appear in court.

But this is only a small taste of democracy, and it’s hardly filling when it has to be enforced on the Carleton students’ dime.  Take a look, for example, at CUSA’s Facebook page.  Once a hopping discussion forum for Carleton students, it’s since been shut down by the same leftist students who attempted to expel those 16 Councillors demanding democracy and accountability in CUSA.

The reasoning?  On June 29, David Taipero, Vice President (Student Life), said that the discussions taking place violated CUSA’s safe space policies.  Yes, apparently now CUSA polices Facebook, and any students expressing their thoughts or opinions need to be shut up.  The only “discussion” happening now is announcements from the executive, or messages from students which are posted by the executive after an extreme vetting to make sure it doesn’t stir up any trouble.

I was regularly offended in my time at Carleton.  I was offended CUSA ceased funding to a student group because its pro-life agenda didn’t mesh well with CUSA’s pro-choice agenda.  I was offended when Councillor Donnie Northrup made Carleton an international joke for suggesting they cancel fundraising for cystic fibrosis research because it only affected white men (which is false, by the way).  But did I silence dissent by covering my ears while screaming “lalalalalala make it stop!”?  No.  Being challenged and having your beliefs questioned is a part of university life.  It encourages deep thinking and social interaction.

But for Taipero, apparently all that should be discussed are boring media releases about Carleton’s football team or having a BBQ at CUSA’s most failed business… er… Oliver’s Pub.  That information doesn’t need discussing.  CUSA’s discussion group is a place for discussion, not news.

So while this injunction is indeed a small step in the right direction – finally a small taste of democracy for democracy-starved CUSA – there are still miles to go.  Let’s hope this decision reinvigorates CUSA’s Councillors to fight for the change and accountability they promised when elected.

For more background information please see Delroy Dyer’s  or Ashley Scorpio’s informative articles.