I know well the stress that comes from hosting a public meeting as a student leader.
As the organizer of an event like the meeting IGNITE hosted on Wednesday, you know everything that’s going on, and your ideas and your stance seem so incredibly obvious to you.
However, just like so many other places, there are a lot of people that don’t know how to ask the right questions. Just like every comment section on the internet, you can scroll through all the good comments and praise, but the one thing that sticks with you is the negative and uninformed comments.
This stress and frustration tend to build up until there’s a whole flutter of butterflies in your stomach. Even if you’ve spent weeks planning something, its possible that your advertising doesn’t get out on time. You overthink whether you’ll achieve quorum, and you brace yourself for a barrage of uninformed questions and criticism that you imagine will turn into a personal attack as soon as your event is over.
This isn’t to say that I know this is how anyone on IGNITE was feeling on Wednesday morning, but I can imagine the tension that was behind the table on stage today at Humber College’s North Campus. I know the board has probably deliberated all the details for hours.
You could tell from the responses of the board members and chair that they had practiced their reasoning. They’ve been thinking about this for weeks, if not months. You could tell, because what the crowd got as answers was internalized jargon. We heard citations of the Ontario Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and confident assertions that the decisions were made in consultation with legal professionals.
All of this is to say that, from a student executive position, the Special Meeting of the Members went incredibly well. There was only about 15 minutes of questioning, everything passed as planned, and the meeting itself was exactly 30 minutes long with maybe 70 people in attendance — more than was required for quorum.
Unfortunately, knowing how I felt as an executive, also tells me that there is a philosophical difference between myself and IGNITE.
When I was on the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association executive as president, we hosted one public meeting of this kind; the Annual General Meeting. We put aside almost two hours of time to field student questions, our nerves were running rampant, because one of our biggest principles was transparency with our finances, and clarity of information about process and activity.
So often, student leadership can lead you to working in a small bubble where other people don’t understand what you’re doing or why, but it is so imperative for student unions to be clear, and patient.
I don’t think IGNITE is out to destroy the culture of Humber and Guelph-Humber. I’m sure they know the good work they’re doing. Working firsthand in student support is a self-made internal justification for the decisions you make.
What I saw during the Special Meeting of the Members was a group of students whose hearts may be in the right place, but they have not embraced the communication aspect that some students demand.
Culture of the school aside, I know IGNITE can do better.
I hope this new structure will allow the directors to be the liaisons that I didn’t see Wednesday. Like I said in a letter to the provincial government last year: “proper policy is not created by consulting only those that agree with you”.
The best we can do as student governments is to never stop asking questions, and always keep listening.
The original article can be found here: https://theavropost.ca/2020/01/22/jack-fisher-i-know-ignite-can-do-better/