Questions resulting from the recent controversy surrounding SSMU President Zach Newburgh’s involvement with the social networking upstart Jobbook continued throughout council’s Thursday meeting.
After struggling to meet quorum, council was finally called to order about an hour after the meeting commenced. In the interim, council speaker Raymond Xing called an informal question and answer period for the councillors that were present. Clubs and Services Representative Max Zidel asked about the progress of the creation of a committee to review and amend SSMU’s conflict of interest policy.
Newburgh, having planned to address this issue during his executive report, responded to Zidel. “I would like to make the policy a lot more specific and less ambiguous, and I think it would be really great to refer this to a committee,” said Newburgh. “Since I am the only student who has ever been charged for a breach of the conflict of interest policy, I think my perspective on this issue would be a valuable one.”
VP External Myriam Zaidi expressed similar concerns about the policy and agreed it needs to be reviewed. “The people who need to review it need to be people who uphold the most ethical standards ever. What I have envisioned is an ad hoc committee that would include student advocates from the student advocacy center,” said Zaidi.
Once quorum was met, there was a continuation of the conversation about the procedure to release the minutes from the confidential session during the February 3 council meeting.
Zaidi proposed a motion to suspend Robert’s Rules of Order to release these minutes. “The SSMU constitution comes before Robert’s Rules of Order, and doesn’t it provide for us to be as democratic and transparent as possible? Shouldn’t we be excellent in leadership, representation, and service? Shouldn’t we provide this service to the students and not keep everything confidential from them – especially in a situation like this?” she asked.
Clubs and Services representative Maggie Knight called for a compromise in which all members of council could go through the minutes and black out anything they personally said that they do not want released. The motion was postponed to next council, which will be held on March 16.
Lastly, in response to a previous attempt by Red Thunder to levy an opt-outable student fee, council passed a motion that will preclude any SSMU club’s ability to levy an independent fee. The new by-law reads: “No club or interest group may obtain a fee levy since all clubs and interest groups are internally funded.”