Political members are speaking out against the new by-laws that are inhibiting them from getting involved and the lack of transparency from executives. News editor Rebecca Burton reports
Political members are outraged over the lack of transparency and democracy as the Continuing Education Students’ Association at Ryerson (CESAR) enters its April 4 election.
“The culture at CESAR is very closed,” said Matthew Cwihun, part-time student running uncontested for director of campaigns and equity. “There is a division within the current executive. They seem scared of something and want to keep a lot of things hidden.”
The new by-laws implemented last fall made it so only 22 students were eligible to run in the election — eight of which are board members and executives. Of the three political membership meetings held so far, a political member must have attended two of the three to be eligible. Other members that have attended only one will be able to vote if they go on April 4, but this is only a handful more.
These by-laws were created by members that are not even members of the executive or the organization anymore, said Shinae Kim, current director of finance and services. For the first time CESAR will also not be taking nominations off the floor.
“The election process should have been more open. Before the by-law changes there were 200 to 300 class representatives with [voting cards],” said Kim.
Kirikaran Nirmalanantham, a past board member, was interested in getting re-involved. He was only able to make it out to one membership meeting and was therefore ineligible. “It has eliminated the amount of participation and the number of people that can [get involved],” he said.
Kim said it is a major problem for the nature of students at CESAR, including parents, students with part-time jobs and distance education students with disabilities that comprise the organization.
The internal organization itself is rife with infighting. Problems that outside members want to understand.
Cwihun hit a roadblock when he tried to attend a board meeting on March 28, 2012. Members of the executive asked it to be a closed meeting when it was made clear other members were in house. A motion passed and Cwihun was told to leave the meeting regardless of his political membership status. He was even denied access to agenda minutes.
The meeting in question shut its doors directly before a motion to impeach Kim, the fourth impeachment against the executive.
Kim said the impeachment has been cleared since she confronted the individual, citing he had no cause for the motion. Kim called the environment in the office “male dominated.”
“I survived,” she said. Fellow political member Annie Hyder, running for director of membership and communications against current exec Sergio Ortiz, attempted to clarify the issue of withholding agendas and minutes at the last meeting.
Hyder presented a motion to release all board meeting minutes from May 2011 to present to all political members via email.
The motion was denied and Ortiz replied to her email by calling it “out of order.” In an email to her, he wrote, “the problem I found is that all of a sudden you want to make these available at the end of the fiscal year when there will likely be new execs coming in and elections are also on the eve.”
Ortiz declined to comment before press time.
Hyder was granted her personal request for minutes but was told the November and December 2011 ones were missing.
“There is a lack of procedural fairness in a part-time organization whose mandate is to provide for marginalized students,” she said.
Hyder will team up with Kim and Cwihun along with William Morrow Oxley, running for director of events and workshops and Harmonie Wong, running for director of academics and policy as “CESAR United.” Once the nominations had been submitted, the group started talking, realizing they want to take the organization in a more transparent and accountable direction.
Familiar faces such as Ortiz, Vernal Banton, current director of events and workshops and Ugo Asagwara, current director of academics and policy will be re-running this Wednesday.
“You should only be hiding if you have something to hide,” said Cwihun.