Volume 91, Issue 32

Friday, October 24, 1997

cliff hanger



It's a question of leadership, accountability and trust.

On Wednesday night the University Students' Council members voted on whether to remove a Saugeen representative accused of harassing a first-year female student. His leadership was in question after a disciplinary committee went through 10 hours and nine witnesses to recommend he be removed.

The female said the USC representative made crude and suggestive comments to her and kissed her during orientation week, while holding the position of Soph. The USC member has denied all accusations.

While we may never know what actually transpired between the two students, what is clear is there should be a review of the decision-making process which clearly broke down.

The recommendation went to council because according to a USC by-law two-thirds of the members must vote to remove another member. Council did not side with the committee.

Council debated the issue for three hours. The disciplinary committee dealt with it for 10 – leaving only one question: What exactly is the purpose of the disciplinary committee if its opinion is not trusted by council?

There needs to be a review of its function and powers, for at present, the process seems to be flawed. The committee either wasted 10 hours of its time coming up with a recommendation or the councillors made an error in judgement.

More importantly than time lost, the two students went through a gruelling process. The female, at times in tears, left the room at one point. With comments like, "She must have been asking for it," stated by a member of council during Wednesday's meeting, the debate was obviously highly emotional for her. Was it necessary to have her go through this ordeal if the disciplinary committee's recommendation did not have a leg to stand on?

As for the ex-Soph, he had to defend himself in a public forum, also a very tough job. Although he was found fit to continue his role on council, his reputation has been hurt and he has lost the support of many fellow-councillors.

The other issue worth examining is the hide-and-seek format of voting used by the USC. No one knows how close the vote was due to a secret ballot. When councillors are voted into their positions, they have a responsibility to their constituents to go on record and state their individual opinions. Why shouldn't students know where their representative stands on issues?

Ironically, both the male and female students went public, yet councillors remained anonymous. Do councillors, with much less to lose and who were elected for the purpose of decision-making, have more right to privacy than the two individuals involved? It was a gutless move, considering only two students put themselves on the line publicly and it leaves many hanging questions about the decision-making process.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazed@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997