Matt Arduini went to the ECSU (Erindale College Student Union) Annual General Meeting Wednesday looking for answers, but he ended up questioning the whole process. Arduini, president of the Italian Club at Erindale, found himself in the middle of a political battle instead. “During the question and answer period, I was hoping to get some club matters addressed, but people kept on turning it into something about elections,” said a frustrated Arduini.
Along with concerns over financial responsibility, controversy at the AGM hovered over the fact that many believed the event was politicized, rather than being an opportunity for looking at the academic year in review and future planning.
Arduini’s frustration with the student government began back on Jan. 29, when he sought funding for a club pub night. “To this day I haven’t gotten the money I’m promised and I keep on hearing different numbers as far as the cheque amount,” said Arduini, echoing the sentiments of current ECSU President Adil Mirza who stated, “I am disappointed that there were efforts to turn it into an election matter.”
SAC UTM VP-elect Moneeza Ahmed said in regards to the ECSU AGM: “I think Adil isn’t impartial. Several election rules were changed during the elections to favour a certain presidential candidate. Other than that the chair has been known to make discriminatory remarks towards a candidate during the elections.”
In response to remarks regarding the supposed partiality of the ECSU elections committee, on which the president sits, Pooja Jadwani of ECSU explains that the committee functions as an appeals board and “has very little to do with the actual elections.” Jadwani would have liked to have seen “more diversity and a better proceeding, especially the question and answer.”
Current ECSU presidential candidate Jason “Ducky” Borchenko, assumed the same stance on ECSU’s accountability as Ahmed, stating “I felt ECSU didn’t adequately answer students’ questions.”
The second matter of controversy arose from the presented financial statements. The ECSU “Non-Consolidated Statements of Operations and Changes in Net Assets” for the fiscal year ending April 30 was a single page document showing several net amounts for the 2002 and 2003 years; ending with a declared $16,274 and $12,579 in accumulated surpluses for 2003 and 2002 respectively.
Ahmed was less than pleased with the financial presentation. “They provided no detail as to how ECSU has really spent students’ money this year. I think every student has the right to know where their $22 goes,” she said. “I also was concerned by the fact that ECSU merely has to present their statements and not get them approved by a majority of students and I was really surprised when the chair in the middle of the meeting wouldn’t even allow questions pertaining to The Canada Corporations Act which clearly states that the financial statements have to get approved by a majority of the shareholders, in this case the students, and ECSU’s executive didn’t do so.”
To such doubts, Mirza responded that as far as ECSU is concerned, they submitted the reports that have been audited to date, thus satisfying the Canada Corporations Act and stated “ECSU ran it’s AGM as per its constitution. We did exactly what was required of us to amend the fact that past AGM’s were not as well conducted. Perhaps the confusion is coming from the fact that the students didn’t fully understand what needed to be done.”
He further stresses that ECSU is in fact willing to present further detail and documentation to any student interested.
Ahmed feels that as a student union, ECSU should offer far more transparency as to how it spends its money, as she says its not just about satisfying the base requirements. “My big worry is that I don’t understand why SAC is so trying to be involved in ECSU,” said Arduini. “SAC is basically helping three candidates. Not that SAC doesn’t do a good job, but why such an interest if it’s a separate body?”
As a closing note on the AGM’s proceedings Mirza said “I am absolutely comfortable and confident with what I said and what Sean [Sean O’Connell, ECSU VP Finance] did. But I think it’s despicable that university [politics] of such a low level came into the event. If we’re going to get so crass, we might as well fling shit at each other.”
Observing second-year student Miranda MacDonald was bewildered, calling the atmosphere at the AGM “vicious,” but noted that “at least there was free pizza.”