I challenge the chair

Thursday, 14 October 2004 — 4:07pm | Studentpolitik

If you live in the Gateway circulation area, make sure you’ve picked up today’s issue. It’s a keeper. How often is it that Students’ Council makes a front-page headline, let alone two in a row? You’ve got a story following the Knisely incident up to the failed motion to reappoint him on Tuesday night – and on the very same page, in full colour, what is possibly the last word on Jung-Suk Ryu, given that the Defeat Jung-Suk blog has had its fill.

Opening up the paper now, on Page 5 we see a story off the CUP wire about the University of Manitoba Students’ Council doing the very antithesis of what U of A’s Council strived so hard for last year: adding seats for interest groups. If we did the same over here, it would rightly be considered regressive. Others disagree, but let’s not get started on why Hudema, Sharma and others are wrong, dead wrong, every time they breathe a word about affirmative action.

It’s funny to see how the student political scene at different Canadian campuses undergo independent ideological shifts in rotating cycles. Observe Slate-Smasher Spencer Keys from the province immediately to my west, who signaled the collapse of the slate system that had previously dominated the Alma-Mater Society. Here at the U of A there remain provisions for candidates to run on slates in SU elections – there is no explicit prohibition – but nobody has taken advantage of it in at least two years. Analogously, the ever-so-oddly Smith-driven political climate that has cultured like a bacterial colony in the agar of University Hall has veered towards an increasingly abstract implementation of democratic ideals, particularly as they pertain to the relationship between representatives and constituents.

And that brings us to David Berry’s Opinion piece on Page 9, the obligatory Knisely editorial. He discusses little of the controversy itself, choosing instead to focus on what consequences one must face as a relatively public figure subject to public scrutiny. On Knisely’s behaviour itself, the most direct response is in the form of a letter on Page 6 by Arts student Danielle Sinnette. She’s not impressed.

I propose that from now on, when it comes to an individual’s sensitivity and whether or not it has actually been subject to harm, we use the Mike Winters Litmus Test.

But I digress. Let us instead return to what I said earlier about the political climate at the Students’ Council we have here. When it comes to tampering with the Council roster, be it by appointment or ejection – we hates it, my precious. This has led to some very silly things like the removal of attendance requirements in their entirety, but has in general been an agreeable philosophy. One will remember that the term I sat on Council, I was emphatically in favour of removing the Residence Halls Association seat in spite of living in residence, and for many of the same reasons that are cited against appointments: the constituents should be in control.

I do think, however, that there does exist an exceptional case where an appointment should go through – and that would be when such an appointment is corrective. This is why Council should have reappointed Knisely in spite of the general belief that “appointments are bad.”

I say that this would be a corrective measure because the Speaker’s decision to refuse Knisely’s rescindment of his own resignation was totally and objectively wrong.

Ignore what Knisely said or did for a moment. Procedurally, what happened was that he sent in his resignation. He then reconsidered and asked to rescind it. He was refused on the grounds of this excerpt from Robert’s Rules (7 October Agenda, Page 9):

The motions to Rescind and to Amend Something Previously Adopted are not in order under the following circumstances:

c) When a resignation has been acted upon, or a person has been elected to or expelled from membership or office, and the person was present or has been officially notified of the action.

At the time of his request for rescindment, the resignation had not gone through Council as a motion. It had not been presented to Council or confirmed as part of the Speaker’s Business. It was not, therefore, “something previously adopted.”

There is no conceivable way that anyone who understands the Queen’s English could interpret the resignation as “acted upon” at the time the rescindment was considered. Harlow is wrong, QED.

In this scenario, the appointment would hardly be undemocratic, since Knisely was elected in the March ballot. And Knisely may have resigned of his own volition, but he also pulled that resignation of his own free will. If his constituents were as disgusted by his actions as Ms. Sinnette was in her letter to The Gateway, they could have later removed him by petition, as Council so often proposes when it comes to truancy.

And that’s all I’ll say about that.


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