By James Keller
The Students’ Legislative Council was wrong in imposing censure on Students’ Union President Jayna Gilchrist Tue., Mar. 20. But the president performed worse.
The motion to censure, brought forward by external commissioner Jim Bailey, was apparently sparked by Gilchrist’s absence to attend a screening of Discordia that same evening. The film examined the conflict at Concordia University when former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited campus (conflict due, in large part, to their students’ union).
Gilchrist told the Calgary Herald the film dealt with issues relevant to student politicians. True enough. Although, despite the fact Gilchrist obviously didn’t attend when the film visited the Calgary International Film Festival earlier this year, nor did she take the time to watch it when CBC aired it as part of their Documentary Festival on CBC Newsworld in February, this isn’t a sufficient reason to skip out on official presidential business.
In an article in this paper last week, Gilchrist brushed off the concerns raised, saying "some people refuse to be led." This is oversimplifying things just a touch, and neglects valid concerns that were raised.
This isn’t poor leadership, it’s no leadership, and her actions, especially last week, are inexcusable.
But this is only half the story, and only a small part of this picture. For their part, SLC was also wrong.
The resolution was brought forward, debated, and voted on in Gilchrist’s absence. To say nothing of the merits, this provided Gilchrist no opportunity to defend herself. According to Bailey, he showed her a similar resolution and discussed it with her weeks earlier and Gilchrist certainly could have returned to the meeting after the film (by this point, it seems she knew about it). But to say she was given a fair shake is to misrepresent what happened.
Such a serious resolution (with serious consequences, even if they are just in perception) shouldn’t be made in haste. All members of council should be given a chance to reflect on the issues and come to the table well researched. At the very least, it should be on the meeting’s agenda to allow any other interested parties to view such a public examination of the president’s performance. By admitting that the resolution came forward because of this absence–which Bailey, among others, readily acknowledge–the process puts the concerns in doubt, if one meeting was enough to push the situation beyond repair.
Perhaps the blame should now shift back onto Gilchrist. According to those at the meeting, several people tried addressing their concerns at various points earlier in the year to no avail. Even after Bailey’s previous threat of censure, and even after knowing what was happening in her absence, she continued ignoring what were, at least at times, legitimate concerns.
Council is past the point of simply falling apart. The act of censure shows a complete disconnect from student representatives and their leaders.
But who is to blame?
Gilchrist is the first to point out that her job "is not project-based." She’s right. Her job is to lead, and to ensure such complete breakdowns in government never reach such ridiculous proportions. That being the case, she has failed miserably.