Even student politics should be open

A mini storm is brewing at Concordia University over a subject so stupid I can’t believe there are actually two sides to it: student union councillors don’t want their public meetings videotaped for public broadcast, despite mandating it at the previous meeting.

A little history here. Many moons ago, Concordia University Television was founded as Canada’s first university-based television station. It doesn’t have a television broadcasting license, nor is it on cable anywhere. Instead, it has monitors on a closed-circuit system throughout the university, mainly in the downtown Hall Building.

Somewhere in the 1990s, the Concordia Student Union (which was still concerned with that “democracy” thing and hadn’t yet been taken over by the moderate/radical or Israeli/Palestinian political divides, each bent on using political corruption to eliminate the other and stay in power at any cost) had the bright idea that, because nobody cared about what they did, they should get the word out more. So they mandated (read: required) CUTV to film their meetings and “broadcast” them to students. But because of technical limitations at CUTV, this never happened. And with the inevitable turnover on both sides, this rule was eventually forgotten.

Fast-forward to this spring. CUTV station manager Jason Gondziola wins a seat on the CSU Council of Representatives, somehow believing that being a student politician and running a student media outlet does not present an inherent conflict of interest. He immediately starts lobbying for permission for CUTV to start filming meetings. Over the past few years, the station has been using student money to buy lots of new equipment and is distributing some videos via its website.

But CSU councillors, specifically John Molson School of Business councillor Catherine Côté, who apparently have no idea what politics mean, are concerned about their privacy. In some cases in the past, it’s been Muslim women on Council who didn’t want their faces exposed. Ditto some paranoid anarchists. I’m not sure who it is now, but I’m certain it’s either an idiot or someone who is trying to hide from constituents.

Student politicians are almost by definition stupid. It’s not their fault. They’re learning how to become real politicians. This means that, for example, their political dirty tricks are a lot more transparent (illegally paying campaign workers, bribing, appointing partisan hacks to electoral and judicial positions, etc.).

But it boggles the mind that a student politician, who has run in an election and appeared on hundreds of posters and thousands of ballots, would cite privacy concerns as a reason to prevent journalists from recording the public proceedings of the most important student-run body at Concordia, responsible for a budget of over a million dollars. The fact that Councillor Côté did so after the fact, using the excuse that the issue should be revisited because she couldn’t be bothered to show up to the previous meeting and should be given a chance to express her views, is the height of arrogance.

The Link agrees, calling her an “enemy of transparency”.

She, and the entire CSU Council, should be ashamed.

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