team BLAIM asked to resign; refuses – part iii of the UBC/UN saga

November 30, 2009

well, saturday has come and gone, and nobody can deny that it’s been a busy weekend. I won’t bother with reiterating details that many other media sources on this issue have already done a wonderful job of covering – in short, the AMS council voted unanimously to retract the complaint sent to the U.N., unanimously again on the two motions to request the resignations of AMS president Blake Frederick and VP External Tim Chu. the votes for the 3 first motions all included proxies, minus absences or abstentions. Blake and Tim are scheduled to speak out this wednesday and defend their position against the council.

instead, let’s take a look at some of the underlying currents of politics at play during the meeting. brought up over and over again was the fact that Blake and Tim (Team BLAIM, from now on, as they have been lambasted for their recent actions) elected to skip this crucial meeting for “prior engagements” (aka. an NDP convention), despite having demonstrated willingness and even anticipation towards attending saturday’s “civil discussion”. if their intentions were to stall the process, it was partially successful; many students felt uncomfortable with the fact that the council was essentially sentencing an absent defendant. however, due to the overwhelming opinion that Team BLAIM had chosen not to attend and could have well defended themselves at this event had they made the decision to be present, the motions were passed unanimously. nevertheless, BLAIM were successful in injecting doubt into the situation, effectively diminishing the legitimacy of the council meeting.

several students-at-large argued at the meeting that what BLAIM had done was to only stand up for students’ concerns and issues, and that the action was neither humiliating nor uncalled for – most memorably, the international students representative emphasized that she was in solidarity with the president, even if the council was not consulted. the call for resignation, to BLAIM supporters, revolved not around the issue of their undemocratic actions but around correct procedural processes, something that should be of lower priority than student representation.

in response to BLAIM supporters, most of the representatives from various campus-based organizations argued that it was an issue of democratic policy, that by bypassing the council Blake had robbed the student body of representation. statements were made that Blake had overstepped his mandate and obligations to the student body as a representative and elected employee. the most troubling issue seemed to not be the fact that BLAIM had decided to engage the U.N. in the matter of rising tuition costs, but the fact that it was not the two executives’ prerogative to do so through the AMS channel without consulting the other executives on its council. by this virtue, claims were that because the two rogue executives had not gone through the proper channels, they had no true respect for student representation.

BLAIM could also have easily sent the letter as independent individuals, but not only did they misuse the weight of their executive positions and by that virtue associate the AMS name to this effort, they also used the funds of the organization for this purpose. it seems rational to expect that if an individual is to use the legitimacy and the financial capability of an institution, they should consult with the institution first and at the very least obtain permission to do so. instead, Tim admitted that they had bypassed the council and violated procedural norms for very undemocratic reasons:  because  ‘there are certain people at AMS Council‘ who would not give their approval to the filing of the U.N. complaint.

given this great emphasis on procedural correctness as a vital component to student representation, I expected the discussion that followed the three motions [on whether Tom Dvorak and Johannes Rebane (the two other executives responsible for signing off the $3,000 check for Pivot’s legal fees) should be asked to resign as well] to also be characterized by talk about their duties and responsibilities as elected representatives. however, after Tom and Johannes’ profuse apologies for carelessness in skimming the document, assurances that their signatures were not endorsements of the action but simply a display of implicit trust in their president, and promises that it “wouldn’t happen again”, most of those who elected to speak at the meeting were forgiving of them, referencing the fact that there was a world of difference between malicious intent and incompetent negligence. Tom and Johannes seemed to be seen by the majority of attendees as guiltless, given the fact that they had made their mistakes due to ignorance instead of having acted with full knowledge and purpose.

in addition, VP Administration Crystal Hon acutely stressed the fact that it would be absolutely devastating to the AMS if it was made to suffer the loss of four executives all at once. everybody, if you have the orange AMS Insider 09/10 agenda, turn to page 7 now and look at the photo of the execs. Remember, Pavani Gunadasa (second from right) is the Executive Coordinator, NOT an elected student.

From left to right: Tim Chu, Crystal Hon, Johannes Rebane, Blake Frederick, Pavani Gunadasa (Executive Coordinator, NOT elected student!), and Tom Dvorak.Quite easy to understand Crystal’s agitation now, isn’t it?

as a result, the motion to consider the request of their resignations was tabled for discussion in January. the atmosphere within the meeting seemed, however, to be one of forgiveness and leniency in regards to these two executives. I may be proven wrong yet, but I doubt that come January, Tom and Johannes will even undergo sanction for their actions, much less a notice to resign.

I’d like to take a moment here to consider intention and procedure. why is it that BLAIM have been persecuted for not following correct procedure in consulting the AMS council, but generally Tom and Johannes are felt to be innocents? they also violated procedure by not carefully reading documents before signing (especially Tom, in fulfilling his duties as VP Finance). it is indeed true that we are all guilty of making mistakes, but the same argument that was used earlier to persecute Blake’s failure to fulfill his obligations as a representative and an employee can be applied here as well. given that Tom and Johannes were elected to do a job, they similarly let down their constituents and supporters by failing to follow procedure.

Perhaps I can better illustrate my point by a reference to how the judicial branch decides whether someone is guilty of a crime. there are two components to successfully charging someone of guilt – “actus reas” and “mens rea”. actus reas is the actual committing of the crime, while mens rea is Latin for “guilty mind” – basically having the willful intent to do so. although it is true that those who have the actus reas component but lack the mens rea component (in other words, did the crime but had no malicious intent) receive more lenient sentences, they are still punished (to a lesser degree) for their transgressions and mistakes nonetheless.

let’s bring it back to the situation at hand – although by no means are Tom and Johannes guilty of “mens rea” in their violation of the procedural process, it is undeniable that they’ve made mistakes (and kudos to them for being so honest and forthcoming about it during the committee meeting). intention and negligence issues aside, something wrong was done. I’d like to point out, however, that forced resignation may be too severe of a punishment. nevertheless, as elected representatives who are just as accountable to the student body as BLAIM were, Tom and Johannes should fully accept sanctions. as a result, the decision to essentially let them off the hook by pushing the issue back to January, while simultaneously remaining intent on pursuing the immediate resignation of BLAIM, greatly diminishes the validity of the “student representation in procedural correctness” argument in this situation.

I’ve received several emails regarding where I stand on this entire matter. some have accused me of being supportive of BLAIM, and others have portrayed me as being too judgmental of the two executives in question. I’d like to say that I am in no way attempting to launch attacks at their personal characters and beliefs – far from it, in fact, since I am a great supporter of lower tuition fees (who isn’t, really?). however, I acknowledge the authority of representative democracy and procedural correctness which, in this case, has been undeniably violated by BLAIM. the ends are worthwhile in this situation, but they definitely do not justify the over-the-top means that BLAIM has utilized in an attempt to reach the honourable objective of promoting education funding.

as for what is happening now, a notice of resignation is to be served to both Blake and Tim. they will have seven days to respond; by december 7th we should know if BLAIM has chosen to step down. if they refuse to resign, a call for impeachment may be considered. until then, we wait.

a quick update: BLAIM have decided to not resign. in two days, they will address the student body at large. remember to attend if you are interested and on campus: it will be held Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. in SUB room 206.



2 Responses to “team BLAIM asked to resign; refuses – part iii of the UBC/UN saga”

  1. Julia Says:

    greaaat job. your pages of notes came in handy-dandy!

    and i found mr.smiley face on the top right corner 🙂

    wednesday meeting !! how exciting. scandals are terrific haha. kidding. don’t hate me, people.

  2. Matt Says:

    I’d like to see what they’ve got to say… I can’t think of anything short of a moving heartfelt appeal to the merits of the complaint of Churchill-and-Lincoln’s-love-child proportions, geared specifically to distract everyone from the procedural issue altogether, that would let them recover from this.

    For the love of Chaos here’s hoping they actually manage that!

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