SFU_crest Icon


S.F.U. Biology Graduate Caucus

Skip to Content

Other Business

Emergency Meeting
Monday August 14th, 2006, 3:30 pm

Topic: Current SFSS crisis, its effects on the Grad Health Plan and the biology students at large.
In attendance: Keith Tierney, Daniel Duan, Ariam Jimenez, Brad Kennedy, Theingi Aung, Jenn Sunday, Eric Davies, Simon Goring, Tim Hazard, Alex Chubaty, Erica Jeffery, Nell Hamilton, Brendan Connors, Zaid Junea, Eric Siljander, Cory Campbell, Tom Cowan, Erika Lake, Nicole Tunbridge, Clea Moray, Paul Mages, Suzanne Gray, Lina Perez.
Guests: Bryan Jones (Graduate Issues Committee Representative Psychology), Glyn Lewis (SFSS Member Services Officer), Margo Dunnet (SFSS External Relations Officer)
1. Welcome and introductions
a. Keith Tierney welcomed all. Thank you to Bryan Jones for coming. Joel Blok and Ben Milne could not be here. Margo Dunnet and Glyn Lewis were invited to attended later and did so.
2. Adoption of the Agenda
a. The agenda was introduced and members were surveyed for additions or changes; there were none.
Motioned by Suzanne Gray and seconded by Nicole Tunbridge, the Agenda was adopted
3. A breakdown of the situation was presented by Clea Moray.
• E-mails have gone around dealing with the current SFSS events. Staff members had been asked to stay home, and one staff member’s employment has since been terminated (Hattie Aitken). The details have been kept confidential due to contract agreement. There also seems to be some issues involving the Graduate Health Plan. Officially at least 2 grievances have been filed, but that there actually may be at least 10 grievances filed against the SFSS as a whole by parties representing the employees as a whole. In the past 10 years of the society, no such grievances have ever been filed. The SFSS has also hired a $350/hr lawyer who is assisting them during the event. This has the potential to become expensive to us since his fees are paid by our SFSS fees.
• The main issue appears to be a concern about the processes by which the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Board of Directors (BoD) is acting. We should be concerned because we pay fees to the SFSS, which are used to pay people to run things. The Graduate Issues Committee (GIC) (a committee of graduate students) believes that some bylaws and policies of the society might have been broken before and during the current investigation. This might not have been a big problem, except that board members appear to be reinterpreting the bylaws in a way that takes power from the BoD (composed of 15 people who makes decision) and gives power to a select group of individuals, who have been the main group behind the whole crisis. There is a concern about maturity level of the BoD, and a belief that they are not equipped to deal with process.
• In regards to concerns about the possible breech of privacy from the computers seized and searched at the start of the investigation, no personal health information has been accessed, but they do have computers with financial information. They have no access personal information such as SIN numbers etc, unless they were employed by the SFSS. They also had no access to information such as debit transactions, since money paid as fees to university itself are completely separate from those paid to the SFSS and are not in the computers seized from the SFSS financial office. They have removed information pertaining to the investigation, but there is no assurance that they have a proper and knowledgeable supervisor overseeing the process.
4. Bryan Jones gives a breakdown of GIC concerns and issues.
• The GIC feels that the BoD has violated policies and agreements during the investigation, and is concerned about the democratic process involved. There are some who are trying to push the policy to give power to BoD to fire those who act against the best interests of board. This would give power to small group of individuals within the board to get rid of those members who oppose them. This is a concern because the current BoD are all from the same slate, and the current Graduate Issues Officer has been left out of decisions, and is considered hostile by the BoD.
5. Information about graduate health plan is mentioned.
• All services regarding the health plan are running.
• Nothing has been done with the computers containing information relating to the health plan. Hattie Aitken was sent home, and the keys to the office were changed. The only time that someone went in was to change the fax paper. Clea believes that they are being truthful, but that it took too long for this information to be released.
• As far as we know, people from Biology have no suffered any stalls in services, but other departments have reported a stall in services.
6. Arrival of Margo Dunnet and Glyn Lewis from the SFSS BoD.
• Glyn Lewis is the SFSS Member Services Officer, and Margo Dunnet is the SFSS External Relations Officer. Both were elected into the SFSS BoD. They have come at the request of the caucus to answer questions pertaining to the events occurring at the SFSS.
• It was asked how many graduate students sit in the BoD. Margo Dunnet answers that yes there are 3 graduate students on the BoD: Melody Li (Education Faculty Representative), Ben Milne (At-Large Representative (Grad)), and Joel Blok (Graduate Issues Officer). (There is some debate as to whether or not Melody Li is a graduate student).
• It was asked what the official statement from the SFSS is about the current events. Margo Dunnet says that they don’t have a copy of the official response by Shawn Hunsdale (President of the SFSS), but that it was sent to everyone by e-mail. There was debate on whether or not the letter sent out by Shawn Hunsdale was approved by the BoD since it was an “official response”. We find out that it wasn’t approved by the BoD. However, as part of his role, the president is the official spoke person for the SFSS. The president himself didn’t write the letter. It was written in consultation with the lawyer by the staff liaison, Shawn Hunsdale, and Wei Lee (SFSS Internal Relations Officer). The lawyer made sure it was appropriate before it was sent out.
• Members wanted to know about the personal information that has been accessed and copied during the seizing of the computers. We were assured that the grad students still have access to their health plan, and that the rumor that the information pertaining to the health plan has been accessed is not true. The only time that the office was accessed was to change the paper in the fax machine. The only computers accessed were those in the financial offices, and those were backed up. The fact that they were accessed was made public at a BoD meeting. No SIN numbers were taken. None of the information about the health plan was in the finance office computers, and that only people dealing directly with the finance are allowed in the finance office. No members of finance had access to anything pertaining to the health plan since anything dealing with the grad student health plan is in Hattie Aitken’s computer. The computers in the finance office and Hattie Aitken’s computer contain two different information systems.
• No one knew if personal information of members of the society were in the computers from the finance office, or whom we could ask, but that they will try to find out. Bryan Jones mentioned that if we had any concerns as to what was viewed, who viewed the files, when they were taken, why they were taken etc, we can request this information from Wei Lee (iro@sfss.ca).
• Members had questions regarding the lawyer that was hired, such as when was he hired, etc. Glyn Lewis answered that every step taken has been in consultation with the lawyer and that he’s not allowed to disclose details such as the date the lawyer was hired. Someone mentioned that at the August 9th meeting, Shawn Hunsdale said that the lawyer was brought in within 2 weeks prior to the events that took place July 27th, 2006, when the seven staff members were sent home. Said lawyer represents neither the SFSS or the BoD, but was hired as a consultant and is being paid from SFSS funds. Don Crane is the lawyer available to the SFSS, but he is not involved with the employee issue. Therefore, the SFSS got another lawyer. Don Crane is available to students to give and explain legal advice. Walter Rilkoff from Lawson Lundell is the new labour layer. This brought up the issue that there appears to be 3 lawyers involved, one that we pay for from our fees, one involved in the labour dispute, and another lawyer that was also hired. Margo Dunnet and Glyn Lewis reply that there were two consults from the same firm. The second lawyer was brought in while Walter Rilkoff was on vacation. Mr. Rilkoff doesn’t represent the SFSS.
• The BoD has been consulting with the lawyer from the start, and also prior to everything that has happened. The society sought advice from the lawyer since the beginning in an effort to diligently cover everything. Every step so far has been taken in consultation with the lawyer. Mr. Rilkoff was brought in to say here is what has to happen, and to provide assurance.
• Members wanted to know if all BoD members were present at every consultation. They mentioned that the labour committee met by themselves. Someone wanted to know if there were instances where the entire BoD didn’t attend these in camera meetings, if this occurred only at the August 9th meeting of if there were additional meetings. They answered that these meetings started before August 9th. Joel Blok didn’t start until the week after. They also didn’t know why he did not attend other meetings since they send their regrets to someone else. Joel Blok has stated that in the 2 weeks that the investigation went one, there was no attempt to inform him what was happening or why he was excluded from the meetings. We find out that everything was done in camera and that Joel Blok hadn’t signed the disclosure agreement. They did mention that Ben Milne was present for some meetings and that Melody Li joined the SFSS later.
• It was mentioned that this is the first time a disclosure agreement had to be signed in the history of the society and members wanted to know who instigated it. Margo Dunnet and Glyn Lewis had no idea that it was the first time and they don’t know who started it. They mentioned that it was part of their orientation package and that they had to sign it when they took office.
• It was asked whether personal information was in the computers in taken from the finance office and how this affects graduate students, and whether we would have delays with the health plan in the long run. Margo Dunnet apologized for any delays in service. She goes on to say that the grad health plan is working fine. It was approved for this year and won’t be renegotiated in this term of office. There are no problems reported and all services are available.
• Members wanted to know when will this all come out. They both say that legal proceedings are still going on and we have to wait until it’s over to release any information, and that they don’t know how long it will last. They still have to enter negotiations with the union to see where it will end up.
• They were asked what they would have done differently now that they know what will happen. Margo Dunnet said that she would have purchased ad space in last Peak to put out a statement. Glyn Lewis said he would have had better communication with the membership. They feel that everything was done in conjunction with a lawyer, and that they have done everything by the book and the collective agreement. They can’t disclose why the staff was sent home or anything, but they both feel it could have been done better.
• Members asked about the grievances that have been filed against the SFSS. They mention that they are being dealt with and that they are not on the team that deals with them. They mention that the grievances will be disputed, and that they don’t have the records.
• Someone mentioned that it seems that expensive criminal charges are being laid, but Margo and Glyn can’t speak about that.
• Keith Tierney thanked them for coming and they left.
7. Bryan Jones brought up other points not mentioned.
• There are other issues that have come up but were not discussed, such as a number of various concerns, coincidences, and questions about certain details and motives. You can find more about online at www.sfssdemocracynow.ca and www.studentunion.ca.
• The specific grievances can’t be discussed due to the collective agreement, but the fact that they’ve been filed means that they have to do with breaking the collective agreement.
• The computers taken from the financial office were searched for anything related to “Gallivan and Associates”(the company that provided the grad health plan). The BoD said that they won’t touch the health plan, however it looks like there is a lot more going on (for more details see the websites www.sfssdemocracynow.ca and www.studentunion.ca).
• Bryan Jones was thanked for coming before he left.
8. Caucus discusses the issue based on what they heard today form the various representatives.
• Members mention that we are concerned not so much about why the person (Hattie Aitken) was fired, or that the BoD consulted with a layer, but that the process that was followed was flawed, that the BoD didn’t speak about what was going on, and that the grads were left out. Overall, we feel that the BoD handled the situation poorly.
• There is no precedence to an event like this in the history of the society. Maybe all the problems are because they have not dealt with it before. However, accidentally violating bylaws and policies or doing so because they thought it was the best thing to do is different from interpreting the bylaws to say that they weren’t violated, and that Wei Lee had the right to do the things that he did when the bylaws strongly imply that it is not allowed. Clea Moray has a list of the bylaws that were involved.
• Someone mentioned that it is unlikely that we will know the outcome over Hattie Aitken’s termination of employment, since it appears that it will involve a settlement agreement that involves confidentiality. The people that were sent home last month were also told that they can’t speak about what happened by the BoD. This is considered satisfactory, but we still feel that the BoD was rude and used poor judgment in handling the Miss Aitken’s termination, and made the situation much worse than it might have been. The staff believes that there was a violation of the collective agreement, however if a union believes that the agreements have been violated, they can still file a claim, even if in reality there was no violation of the agreement.
9. Caucus has a discussion about holding a vote on a motion of no confidence against the current SFSS president (among other things).
• The vote of no confidence itself doesn’t say anything, but that the motion of no confidence shows that we don’t agree with what they (the BoD) are doing and it puts pressure on them. The letter that we’ll sent if we do pass a motion of no confidence will say the things that we want to be done by the SFSS. If these requests aren’t done, then we will take action (the grads withdrawing from the SFSS and forming their own union like in other universities) (for more details on the points see the letter sent out by Keith Tierney on August 11, 2006). This would probably be done as part of a general meeting by vote. We don’t know how it’s done, but that it’s something that is being considered to be possibly done in future.
• Reason for voting for a motion of no confidence: it is not about whether or not procedures were followed to our satisfaction, since we don’t know the details of what happened. The point is that they have not expressed any concern for the grad students, the reasons they had appear baseless, and they did not handle the situation in a sensitive manner.
• Reasons why we should vote against a motion of no confidence: the majority of the BoD are young undergrads that were voted in, and that they have been in consultation with a lawyer since the beginning. They are not thinking about the health plan. They are in over their heads, and that there is a lot of gossip going around. However, they did everything following the lawyer’s advice. They are young, there is no precedent for this incidence, and that they are acting as best as they can under circumstances. We should give them the benefit of the doubt
• Someone points out that there are two issues: 1) are they (the BoD) doing the best they can, and 2) how heavy handed their tactics were, and their extreme reactions to the problem. He would like to know if both the issues are the same. We are voting on whether what they are doing is okay.
10. Motion to have a no confidence vote.
• SFU Biology Graduate Caucus, are of the opinion that 1) the SFSS Board of Directors has lost the ability to operate in a cohesive manner or interface effectively with SFSS staff; 2) the current Board of Directors has exercised poor leadership that has resulted in a widespread loss of trust among the membership in the ability of the Board of Directors to operate in a democratic manner; and 3) graduate students cannot be confident that the SFSS is currently able to represent their interests.
Motioned by Suzanne Gray and seconded by Paul Mages, a motion of no confidence will take place.
Amendment to send out a letter to the president should the caucus pass a motion of no confidence. Motioned by Clea Moray and seconded by Keith Tierney, the letter will be sent to SFSS president Shawn Hunsdale if motion of no confidence is passed. Carried
• Members voted either 1) no confidence in the BoD, 2) confidence in the BoD, or 3) abstained from voting.
Six members abstained from voting, and seventeen out of the twenty-three members present voted that they had no confidence in the current SFSS BoD.
11. Discussion of the letter that will be sent to the SFSS president.
• Letter was sent to biology graduate students via e-mail by Keith Tierney on August 11, 2006.
Motioned by Simon Goring and seconded by Nicole Tunbridge, letter will be discussed.
• The purpose of this letter was to make sure that the key points of the letter were highlighted and that the letter says what we want it to say, how we wanted to say it before it gets sent to Shawn Hunsdale.
• Overall, people were happy with the letter but felt that they need to read it over again, and that some editing might be needed. Some issues present in the letter have since been answered by Margo Dunnet and Glyn Lewis in the meeting and have been taken out. However, the issue of the cost of the lawyer, the length of the investigation, and from where these funds are being obtained from will be further discussed.
Motion for the letter to be edited by Clea Moray and redistributed to the caucus. Members will have 48h after the letter is sent to comment and raise major issues in the letter. A revised copy with the appropriate changes made will then be redistributed for final approval, before being sent to Shawn Hunsdale. Members will once again have 48h to raise any major changes. Motioned by Suzanne Gray and seconded by Paul Mages, letter will be edited.

12. An announcement was made that we will be electing a Forum Representative in two weeks time.
• The forum is a large body that will represent the different graduate caucuses in the BoD.
• Motion to elect a forum representative, and send a forum representative
Motioned by Nell Hamilton and seconded by Keith Tierney, forum representative will be elected.
• More information about the role of the forum and the responsibilities and duties of the forum representative will be sent out by e-mail.
13. End of meeting.
Motioned by Paul Mages and seconded by Clea Moray,
• Meeting was adjourned.