Pro Tem is the Bilingual Newspaper of Glendon College. Founded in 1962, it is York University’s oldest student-run publication, and Ontario’s first bilingual newspaper. All content is produced and edited by students, for students.

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Pro Tem est le journal bilingue du Collège Glendon. Ayant été fondé en 1962, nous sommes la publication la plus ancienne de l’Université York ainsi que le premier journal bilingue en Ontario. Tout le contenu est produit et édité par les étudiants, pour les étudiants.

Transcript of Pro Tem's Interview with Alexia Brown

The following is a complete and unredacted transcript of Pro Tem’s January 19th Interview with Alexia Brown, former GCSU CFO, primary mover on the petition to impeach President Cheong, and founder of the GL’s Student Voice page.

This interview was conducted and transcribed by Sarah Tadjana, Editor in Chief of Pro Tem.

 

What motivated you to draft the petition to impeach President Cheong?

I mean it was a very multi-faceted reason, as I think was made fairly clear through the motion’s multiple clauses, but primarily it was the financial mismanagement that made me decide to start this process. I was on the [2016-17] Council, I was the Financial Officer, I know [what was happening]. I want to clarify, this [motion to impeach President Cheong on the grounds of financial mismanagement] is not me claiming that he is guilty of fraud. I don’t think that there was any mens rea to the theft; I think it was just straight up mismanagement that continued to repeat. Also when I was the CFO, Brandon refused to listen to or follow my recommendations, i.e. I told him, “You can’t just share  x important document with whoever,” and he wouldn’t heed that. That mismanagement and the fact that it was not taken seriously and that things like that continued to occur was when I decided that this was not okay. For me as a student, whose money this is, like this is my money too, you can’t act like that and not learn from that and continue to do these things that aren’t okay. And then when I started to be more vocal about the fact that things are happening that shouldn’t be happening, more people started to share their own stories of things that had been happening and it just kind of built from there. I hadn’t intended to take on this, like, movement, but even without that intention I pretty much ended up just doing just that. So that’s how it all came together in a roundabout way. I went to talk to David Ip Yam to see what options I had as a student. I didn’t want to just say nothing, do nothing — that doesn’t work for me.

 

When did you start feeling like you wanted to say something or do something?

I had been thinking about it since the summer term. The reason that it took so long, and a lot of people asked me this too. Something that’s really important to me at Glendon is Frosh Week, and I know that, as President, Brandon gets a huge say in who gets to participate and there was nothing that was going to make me sacrifice welcoming in the new students, even in my work life, that’s something that I like to do. I like to train the new hire, that’s something I really enjoy and that’s not something I was willing to give up so I knew I wanted to wait until after Frosh Week. So that’s why it didn’t come up until the Fall. Also during the summer it’s wasn’t as if like “Oh! If I’m more vocal about what‘s happening so will more people and we can talk about it and I’m not by myself” In the summer, it would have been me and me alone, and that’s hard to take on, especially when he [Brandon] is in this position of power. Like, you have this very legitimate position of power and I’m just gonna stand here on my soapbox and hope for the best...

 

To the best of your knowledge, was the wording of the petition you circulated the same as that which you submitted to President Cheong for his preparations? To that which was documented in the Dec. 14 minutes?

I can show you exactly what I sent to the Speaker, Fernando Luna. So, whatever Fernando sent to Brandon, I mean I don’t know that, but I sent him the exact copy of what I was showing students. I even have a photocopy of the front page of the petition I gave students to sign, I have the original sheet in a safe in Student Affairs so that it’s in a safe, neutral spot so that students can be assured of their confidentiality. But I did ask — because I knew that it would probably be something that could come again — if I could have a photocopy of what the actual text on the original petition says. So I can prove that I have the front page of the petition that I went around to students with and it’s the same version I sent Fernando. From that point, I can’t speak to what Brandon received, but to the best of my knowledge, it should be the same. As for the motion, like the “Whereas” clauses that were presented in the meeting, those came directly from that petition. I also sent Fernando the “Whereas” clauses. I wrote them, so then whatever went from Fernando to Brandon and then to the minutes wouldn’t have been from my end. To my knowledge, it should be consistent.

 

For the petition itself, was there anyone helping you create and/or review it prior to its submission?

I just had someone help me translate it into French, but other than that, no. I did get permission about adding in the part that had to do with sexual violence from the individual it had to do with.

 

How did you go about collecting the signatures from the student body? Was it a solitary effort on your part?

Shivaani Babuta, who was the seconder on the petition, brought it around to some people she knew, but for the most part — as in like 98% — it was just me going up to people and telling them the same thing. Which was basically just like, I would have the petition out, here you can read this or I can explain it to you.

 

Were you able to complete the audit during your term or was that made impossible as a result of the police’s financial fraud investigation?

The audit is a whole ‘nother story. And I briefly mentioned this during the petition too, like I didn’t want people to be like but you were the CFO… No, I am going to tell you I was the CFO, that’s how I know this stuff. I was there. And yes, there’s a shared responsibility there, but the final say lies with Brandon. I can say what I want and do as much as I want but I can’t force him to listen and do what I say if he isn’t going to. As far as the audit goes, I came in October 2016, there was someone who was there in the Summer, she had resigned, Emiline. In October, Brandon said to me that the person before Emeline had deleted everything and she didn’t do anything to deal with that so the situation was the same when I came in. My training was basically them telling me, “We don’t have anything and you have to start all over and backtrack as far as you can.” I was fine with that, because in my job as a supervisor for the MLSE — so I work at BMO field and the ACC — and we do these same types of reconciliations for our locations at the end of every event. So I know how to do this, I’ll just base it off what I do at work, and I’ll recreate another system.

So I start doing that, and then Brandon asks me, “Is the interim review ready?” And I was like, “Yeah, tell the university that they can come look.” Because at this point, because I started in October, my name is not on anything officially, except for being signing authority, so if I called the university or whoever, my name is nowhere and they would just be like, “Who are you?” So I told Brandon, “There are some things you need to do at this point because they know who you are. Even with forgetting your keys, security will open the office door for you if your name is on the list, the list is from two council’s ago,” so like that’s what I’m talking about, at a certain point I need you [Brandon] to help me here.

So then, Brandon was mad at me because that never happened, but it’s not that it didn’t happen because it wasn’t done. So the end of the year comes, I had done everything I could have done, I had backtracked as far as I could, which didn’t go all the way back to May 1st — the beginning of that fiscal year, because there weren’t any cheque stubs or anything that went that far back and then Brandon said that, “Oh, it’s at the auditor’s,” and I was like “Great. Call the auditor!” And then that never happened. So I had backtracked all the way to June 27th, if I remember correctly, and then Brandon was like, “No, we’ve had these files the whole time, you have to do everything all over again because this is how it’s supposed to look for the auditor,” and pulls out all these old files. So I’m sitting there, and this is two weeks before the final audit, trying to comprehend what he just said to me, and I was like, “This had been there the whole time?” And he said that they had been and “Why didn’t I search the whole computer looking for it?” And I said to him, “Because you told me it didn’t exist, so why would I think to search the whole computer looking for something you told me —the second I got here — didn’t exist!?”

And I also said that to David Ip Yam, and David said that when Brandon was talking to Student Affairs about the financial situation of the GCSU that he also told David that nothing existed. So everyone is like ??!! So I’m shook now, and I’m sitting there like “OK, I’ll just transfer everything over to the incoming CFO,” and I don’t want to say this to be like Brandon’s not smart or anything, but I just don’t think that his financial literacy is at the point where me being like, “Here’s what I did, transfer it over,” would have worked so I was just like “Let me handle it.” So I had a friend bring her laptop over and I’m sitting there with three computers, each open to a different sheet of a Google Docs so I can work on multiple at once. I’m doing this for hours and hours for days. And while I’m doing this, Brandon is spending a lot of this time in Richard’s Room.

We had the budget, for whatever reason the Excel page wasn’t adding it up properly and I didn’t have time to go through and check all the equations so I decided to just write it by hand first so at least it’s done and then I’ll go figure it out after. Brandon storms in and snatches the budget out of my hand. My friend was there and she was like “That was really aggressive.” Then Brandon went into Richard’s Room with the budget, and at that point I was like “You know what? If that’s what you want to take charge of, then fine. I’m not going to argue with you about letting me transfer the budget over, you can just do the budget. I’ve have enough of arguing with you at this point.” Did he ever get that done? I don’t know. Once May 31st hit, I was done doing any of that. Especially because of what they did with my honoraria meeting, and how it played out, was enough for me to not do anything extra for Brandon anymore. I had planned a trip to New York way in advance. I told them when they hired me that I would be there except from April 27th until May 3rd. I’m going to New York. I went to New York, they had the honoraria meeting, Brandon and Seyoung VP Ops said they would do my honorarium meeting at another time when I could be present. So I asked Seyoung if I should hand in a report, and she said, “No, wait until your honoraria meeting.” I come back, no one talked about my honoraria at the meeting. A couple weeks later, I find out that they had a meeting, where they did my honorarium, that they didn’t invite me to. Brandon also said that there were some missing cheque requisitions, but I just want to clear that up, the computer shut down on me in the middle of doing them so I didn’t get to save them, but I printed them. So the ones that are missing exist in the physical binder. So they do exist, they just wouldn’t have been on the computer. I had told Seyoung about this, but I doubt that she passed that information on.

What Brandon also said to me when I finished everything, he said that he and Cassandra Alvarez were going to submit the audit, and your meeting for honorarium will happen after all that. I don’t know if she ended up being the one that helped him submit the audit or not, but that’s just what he said to me at the time.

 

You have been very vocal in stressing the financial mismanagement within the 2016-17 Council, particularly that of President Cheong. Given your role as Chief Financial Officer on that same council, do you also admit fault with regard to the thefts which occurred under your watch?

So, for the part of the financial mismanagement, I was the CFO from October until, officially May 31st, but I stayed doing the bare minimum things that I had to do to help keep money going (because at this point the relationship between me and Brandon had already soured) but I didn’t want Frosh Week or things that needed to be done to suffer so I was like, “Ok, I’m gonna come in and even though I’m not compelled to other than the fact that I care about these things, I’m gonna come in and sign cheques and bring up-to-date as much as possible the cheque requisitions,” so it wasn’t a complete mess for the people who were taking over with good intentions, like I didn’t want to screw them over.

The thing about the mismanagement, I don’t think that it’s anybody’s fault that it went unnoticed for so long. Like I’m going to be honest, I’m not a fraud expert, and I don’t expect Brandon to be either, and the way the individual did it was smart, it wasn’t obvious until they got too greedy and put the account into overdraft. But I wouldn’t have expected Brandon to have detected it otherwise, because the thing is, no matter how good we are at managing finances, that’s a whole different category. So yes, I’m upset that it happened and that we didn’t catch it sooner, but I’m not blaming anyone for the fact that it did — other than the individual responsible, who was not Brandon. My issue with Brandon is that through the lack of financial literacy and the lack of willingness to listen to the advice of the person you hired to advise you on this stuff, that led to this being able to happen —that’s frustrating. The continued nature of this, he asked for a blank cheque, I don’t know if that was for a reimbursement or what that was for because I wasn’t on the council anymore but you can’t do that, it’s stuff like that that you would think that he knows that that’s inappropriate. At that point, why are you doing these kinds of things? Again, at the attempted AGM in October, sure it didn’t reach quorum but there were still like 70 people there he told everybody where the money goes. I don’t know how to explain why you shouldn’t do that, you can tell the students that the money is safe, that it’s being housed in a student services office, like whatever details they need to know as students, but you can’t give them the exact coordinates of where you put your money, especially because the first time the money was stolen it was another student! Bottom line, it’s a security risk — regardless of how well that door is locked or how good the safe is, that doesn’t stop people sometimes so you need to mitigate your risks. Things like this, like I want more from the President of our Council and from the money that I pay into this union, and I think that the students should want more too. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who suffer from things like this.

 

In general, what was the response you received from students you spoke with while collecting signatures?

A lot of students were surprised; a lot of questions as to why the admin didn’t or doesn’t step in; it’s hard to explain how the GCSU is a sovereign incorporated body. A lot of the issue too was that for a long time was Brandon’s narrative, people hearing another side, it was shocking. I understand why Brandon said what he did and didn’t what he didn’t. The hard thing now is to come out and say that this is true, because the university’s official bodies can’t say anything because GCSU is a sovereign incorporated body on its own. So instead, I had to explain to people that this is what I’ve experienced, this is what I’ve seen, and I think it’s something we should be aware of. I think there’s a lot of hiding the Council has tried to do at certain points and from certain things. Now I don’t think anyone’s perfect, I know mistakes happen, but if that happens and you create a problem, or you walk into a problem, then be part of the solution. That’s why you’re elected in the first place. It was a lot of telling students that we don’t have to say nothing. I mean the GCSU has reputation as a clique, so I had to work really hard to convince students that we CAN make a change. I had to let them know — and this is what was really disheartening for me — a lot of ppl were really afraid of Brandon ever knowing and coming after them. You shouldn't be afraid of your president using power inappropriately to come after you for because you expressed concerns. So I had to go around promising all these people that he will never be able to see them [the signatures] — which is true, he never will be able to see them, and he never was. I had to fight really hard for that, a few times throughout this process because Brandon was really pushing to be able to see them for what he claimed as transparency — to which then I explained that whole idea of transparency is to protect the student body from the 20 people that hold all of this power not to protect one person against the interests of the entire student body — that’s not how it works.

[Speaker] Fernando [Luna] even emailed me at one point saying, “I have decided to let Brandon see the signatures while supervised”, to which I responded back, “Absolutely not!” At the end of the day, I promised students that no matter what happens I will jump the line of fire before anything happens to anybody that signs the petition, so I knew I could not allow Brandon to see the physical petition.

In the end, I think that part of the reason why Brandon fought so hard to see them. Now this is just my personal opinion, I have nothing to back this up, but I think that part of it was that Brandon knew if he would have been allowed to see the signatures that I would have pulled the motion because I wouldn’t have let that happen to the students. I think he was hoping to shut it down before it got as far as being a motion.

While I was collecting signatures, he was hanging around. Even with the 10 day protocol, [Editor’s Note: Any member of the GCSU agsinst whom an impeachment petition has been drafted are to be given 10 days to prepare an address to the Union in response to the claims levelled against them — the GCSU’s Constitution does not specify whether these are calendar or business days], I made sure it was 10 business days just in case, but the thing is it wasn’t 10 business days to the hour of the meeting which Brandon brought up, but I noted that when Hugo was impeached last year, he was given 10 calendar days, inclusive of the day he received the motion and the day of the meeting so I tossed that precedent back and the motion was allowed to go through. But there was a lot of fighting even to get to that point.

The fact that people were so worried about that was really disheartening, I joined the council to effect change and do things for the students and to see that that’s the kind of relationship that students have with the council is really just unfortunate.

 

What do you think this says about the state of the council’s relationship with the student body, as of the week of November 20th?

 

Just a note about the official minutes: there was a rough version of the minutes that is significantly different from the rough version of the minutes; the version that was originally posted to the GCSU website did not accurately recount the statement from VP Operations Villemont on sexual violence. She actually went in and fixed it because she read it, like it was pre-written and she read off it so this wasn’t up for interpretation. That was an interesting moment too, because they made sure they recorded Brandon’s speaking parts of the meeting, and then typed what he said as per the recording, but then that same courtesy did not extend to anyone else. So that was a very telling moment for me as to how this was going to go.

 

How do you feel the communication of the end-of-term meeting was carried out by the GCSU?

I think it was very poorly communicated and I don’t know if there was intent behind doing that, from whoever said it, maybe someone didn’t know and they thought that GCSU meeting’s were closed. I don’t know, but it did affect how it then played out.

 

Did you personally make any efforts to encourage students to attend the meeting and voice their stories & opinions to corroborate your motion?

I gave people all of the information for the meeting ahead of time. I didn’t find out that they told people the meeting was closed until I was already in the meeting and somebody messaged me and said, “Oh good luck, tell me how it goes because the meeting is closed.” So I was already sitting in the Senate chamber when I found out that that was what had been communicated.

 

You were present at the meeting in its entirety, not counting the in-camera portions — correct?

I was only present for the impeachment motion itself, I left after that so I wasn’t there for the distribution of Brandon’s honorarium at the end of the meeting, or any of the other Council members honoraria discussions.

 

What was the general atmosphere of the Senate chamber on that day?

It was during exams, and a rumour went around that the meeting was closed to the public and no one wanted to get into the line of fire telling me who from the GCSU told them that, so all they would tell me is that it was a GCSU entity that told them that the meeting was closed. So that was interesting to find out about.

So there were only a couple of people [present at the meeting] and like I said it was during exams and holidays and whatnot, but a lot of people thought the meeting was closed and I had people messaging me asking what happened, where are the minutes, and I was just like, “Ahh the meeting wasn’t closed!

I think a lot of people had decided pre-this motion what they were going to do, like how they were going to vote so it was a lot of people were not paying attention. There was also poor control of the room, I was disappointed in the speaker. Brandon was given about an hour to speak; which is fine, I would never deny him the opportunity to speak the motion; however, I think that doing that and then capping me speaking to about two minutes, despite the fact that I was representing the stories of so many people. So I got to speak for about two minutes, and I understand that this [motion] says a lot, and a lot of it has to be explained for people to understand so I’m trying to explain, and Brandon has left the room at this point, Philip is hitting his watch and Fernando cuts me off, so I was like, “Okie.” Also, Brandon spoke a lot to things that didn’t have anything to do with the motion, it was a lot of here are all my accomplishments, let me lay them out for you. To which I said, the motion is not saying that you’ve never done anything, I did not going around trying to say that you’ve never done anything good in your time on Council — that is not what this is about, it’s irrelevant essentially. He’s like, “Well you had a point [in the motion] about professionalism.” I didn’t see it in the minutes, but I got up and told everyone what professionalism means. There’s an important distinction when we’re talking about professionalism: professionalism is not doing your job; professionalism is how you do your job. So telling me your accomplishments does not affect the part of this motion about professionalism either. But at that point he’d already got to go through his accomplishments as part of his half an hour anyways, so I guess it didn’t really matter that much. It was just so interesting that he could go on for so long about things that didn’t speak to the motion whatsoever but when I was speaking to the motion I had two minutes.

And then, if Fernando would say something and Brandon would be like, “Nonono,” then Fernando would just be like “Okay.” And I was disappointed in that because, of course if he’s trying to make his case, regardless of its relevance, if he feels like this is what he wants to say, he’s gonna say no I should be able to say it; and you can’t just sit down and say yes because he told you no, he should be able to say it.

 

Do you feel that your motion was appropriately communicated and understood by the Council?

I think a lot of people didn’t get it; I also think a lot of people in that room weren’t listening, like they didn’t care to get it. As I said, I think a lot of them went into this having already decided how they were gonna vote, some council members were heard saying that that if he gets impeached, that means they’re going to leave too — a promise that proved to have been fulfilled. I don’t know if all of them said it, but I know that a couple in particular did make that statement. I don’t want to say that all of their resignations had specifically to do with that, but I mean...

 

The impeachment vote was unsuccessful, what do you think this says about the then-council’s willingness to listen to the students’ opinion?

I think that a lot of things in the previous council, and you can see this if you go through all of their other meeting minutes, it’s a lot of “personally” this, “I” this, but that’s not what you were elected for — and I don’t know if that’s something that happened because they don’t care or something that happened because maybe somewhere down the road we lost sight of the reason you were elected in the first place. I know that from my experiences in working in a Council with Brandon that he kinda fosters an environment where that comes out of it.

I really think that as a leader, how you lead by example is how the people that work with you are also going to will follow. A lot of Brandon’s commentary is “I” this,”Everything is me me me, and it’s about all these great things that I’ve done.” It creates an environment where people are thinking, “Oh, this is supposed to be about all the great things I’ve done,” but that’s not the point. So I think they kind of banded together with personal interests in mind more so than anything else. A lot of that was just based on their friends, they mutually benefit each other, I think that also tied into my disappointment with their resignations all citing a toxic work environment. It was just kind of like a sad excuse, when you were there in a toxic environment for so long and in ways that you probably didn’t even intend, contributed and participated in that environment and now that the ss have told you that that’s not acceptable and now that this environment affects you more personally now it’s toxic for you and you want to leave. So you’re part of the problem, but you don’t want to be part of the solution.

 

Are you willing to confirm speculation that you are behind the ‘GL’s Student Voice’ facebook page and posters? If so, were you alone? If not, can you speculate as to who was their creator?

I’m kind of damned if I do and damned if I don’t with the answer to this question. What I’ll say is a lot of the reason that I — like I’m not afraid of saying that, “Yeah, I made those posters,” because I did, and it’s not like I said anything on those posters that wasn’t true, I used quotes from the minutes of things that other people said. These weren’t even things that I made up and put on a poster, I literally just copy-pasted what you recorded as you having said during this meeting so that’s fine like I did do that. I think where I made a mistake — and I’m going to make a post to rectify that on the page as well — when it came to the post about the resignations, I didn’t word it properly to get the message I was trying to get across properly because I was in New York and my phone started blowing up with people asking what happened and I panicked, because everyone was asking me “Where’s your statement?” and I said, “Ok, I’m gonna make a statement,” and it wasn’t well thought-out for what I was actually trying to get across, and I’m gonna fix that because when I make mistakes — I make mistakes, and I’m gonna own it, and I’m gonna apologize so I’m trying to find the best way to word that and put it in a post right now, but I think it sounds, when read, too much like I was blaming them for actively participating in sexual violence and that is not what I meant to have come across, the main point of that was just that when you are elected to do things for the student body and to do these things and to stand up for us and to represent us, and then all of a sudden — I mean a toxic environment has existed in that office the whole time — and now all of a sudden it affects you more personally and instead of being a part of the solution, you left. And that’s not cool. That wasn’t the point of you having been here, and the fact that two of those resignations what you’re saying is like students standing up and not letting you do things behind the shadows created a toxic environment, like you’re not comfortable with transparency. And a lot of it also when you read the tone of it, it was very [targeted] at me, you’re telling me that when I pushed this forward, I created this environment for you so it did put me on the defensive too when I wrote that post so I think that also contributed to the tone that I was not attempting to have. So as I said, I’m doing to rectify that, I’m working on writing a statement that explains it more clearly, because I don’t want any more misinterpretations, I don’t want to contribute to gossip, I don’t think that any of these people are bad people, I don’t even think that Brandon is a bad person. As I said, we all make mistakes and it happens but when you’re in a position of being in student government, you’re much more accountable to those mistakes, and you should be, there’s a higher standard for those things, and this is where I really expected them to own up to the fact that they made a mistake and then to be part of the solution.

And even with Brandon, he didn’t get impeached, fine. To be honest, I don’t think that he demonstrated a capacity to be President. So I don't think that he should have been impeached. But when he wasn’t, why couldn’t you have just been like, “I made mistakes, how do we turn this council around, what do the students want from me, how can I fix this?” That’s the response I would have wanted after that. Not, “This is slanderous,” and ripping down posters, like these are your quotes, I don’t understand, did you slander yourself? I don’t know. I just thought that there was so much potential throughout this whole situation where things could have been done better and they weren’t.

From all sides, like even from mine, and like I said, I’m really upset with how that post turned out and came across, and I’m really going to do my best to rectify that. But the point is, you have to be able to be like, “Hey, this is not how I meant to represent these students or these things, let me try to move forward and fix it.”

 

What were your intentions when you started this page?

The whole point of the page was to show students that we can be heard, we don’t have to be discouraged by the failure of the impeachment, this is not it. We don’t have to take this as proof that the GCSU is just one big clique, that council at Glendon will never matter and it’s always going to be the same. Especially since it’s a lot of first years, and I don’t want them to have that outlook in their university experience. I mean a lot of what you take from here you take into real life, and I don’t want anyone to go into real life saying, “Oh, I’ve learned and seen time again that the voice of the people doesn’t matter”. That’s not the way I want anyone to walk away from this.

 

Why did you choose the term ‘sexual violence’ to refer to the situation involving President Cheong and VP Operations Villemont?

So for that part of the motion, I did a lot of talking with VP Villemont. It was her story, I wanted to make sure I portrayed it in the best way possible. As far as the verbage goes, I personally didn’t go through the SVRO training myself, but from how I’ve heard it communicated at least about that training and that office, that is what they would have termed it as. That’s why that exact term was used. Sexual violence is a broad term, it’s not just physical assault.

I also want to point out that both Elodie and Brandon would have done the training. Brandon, I think, would have done it twice having been on the Orientation training sessions both years so he definitely knew that definition.

 

Do you think that term has been misinterpreted and caused rumors about the nature of the incident?

What I’ve been saying to people when it comes to that, is that I’m not the best person to answer questions when it comes to the use of terms and so forth, so I think like I put the link to the SVRO, and if they want to ask them, you can reach out to them and they are the best to give an answer why sexual violence is a term that encompasses so much. As a PoliSci student, it is debated across realms what violence as a definition includes, and in a lot of definitions it includes things that are not physical. I think it depends on the definition that you’re using, and I think the SVRO’s definition would be the best definition to take as a member of this university, and in this situation. I wouldn’t have wanted to use a different term that they wouldn’t have used in an official petition.

 

Do you believe that the GCSU has handled the communication of these resignations properly?

I’ve never seen resignations from the GCSU happen the way they were taped up in the window like that. When the argument is made that we’re not resigning to make this grandstand, we have our own reasons for resigning but you resign in a way that is making a grandstand, it’s very hard to believe that you’re not doing it for that purpose. I mean Brandon’s came earlier than the others, yet was made public the same day in the same manner, so it’s like it waited to go with the rest. They’re all copy/pasted too, so everyone had their own reasons, but they all pretty much wrote the same letter. I don’t want to accuse anyone of things I can’t prove, and I’m also not trying to be accusatory in the sense of “grab a pitchfork” — I don’t think anyone is particularly a bad person. I just think that there are responsibilities that come with these roles that need to be met and we need to demand that they do get met. And that doesn’t mean that these people never make mistakes, it just means that when they do, they fix it.

 

You were an avid critic of the GCSU under President Cheong’s governance for not being transparent. Following this month’s events, students are now — more than ever — asking for answers. Do you think the remaining council should be more transparent?

I think the reason they haven’t had a statement yet is because it’s hard to pull that together when all of this is happening at the same time. But I do know that they are writing the statement, I’ve asked and a statement is coming. I’m not going to make a big deal of why it’s not here yet, like no I understand that especially after such a huge shift and all of this happening that it’s going to take some time writing a statement. To be honest, I think that time is important because as I said where I made my own fault on the GL page was rushing into it without rereading it a couple times and making sure that what I was trying to articulate is what people would get when they read it. So I think it’s good that they’re taking their time and going through it a few times and making sure that whatever they’re trying to say is what comes across.

So I don’t think that anyone should be upset that their statement is taking a little bit longer, or think that they’re not being transparent because it’s taking a bit longer. I think we just have to give it some time and see how it plays out before we make any final judgements on the way the new council is going to handle things after this moment because I think they need a period of just pulling it back together and having the time to figure out how to do that. I am impressed with how they — the people who are left — really care about doing that, and how much the Councillors and First Year Reps are pitching in more than ever to fill in gaps that need to be filled it’s really wonderful to see the council — from the outside, because I don’t know their inner workings — but from the outside, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a council in my time here work so much like a team — even without so much of the team. I think we need to give them some time to see how it ends up working out but I’m hopeful.

 

Will the Student Voice page continue to pressure the remaining Council to be transparent and to consider the needs and wishes of the student body?

I think the whole point of continuing the campaign, even after the impeachment, was that I told a lot of students that their voices mattered, like I believe that’s true and I want them to be able to believe that’s true. The point was to continue the platform that told them that, “You don’t have to accept not being heard when these things don’t go through” and when these things happen like this, we can keep demanding things — as the constituency and as the students. And we should! Because these should be the standards for the student government — transparency and honesty. As I said, I don’t think there was ever a need to hide. You’re better off telling the students, “Look, I made a mistake, I’m going to fix it,” instead of trying to hide it forever. A lot of what happened in that Council during my time on it was just like blaming anyone you could for anything that you contributed to in any way. That’s not how things should go. Shifting blame so you look better isn’t solving the problem either, and the whole point of this is to solve the student’s problems and to do things for the students. That’s my emphasis.

 

Was this movement successful because people resigned?

Brandon wasn’t in a position to be President. The movement wasn’t just based on, “Everybody leave because you all made a mistake,” it was like, “Be accountable for what you did.” The other people that resigned didn’t really have to, you could have done things differently. And I was actually hoping they would have. Especially because it’s a lot harder now to fix problems when people that were part of the problem just picked up and left.

 

It’s going to be a rough time for them [the remaining council]. I don’t want to just entirely shut down the page because it wasn’t a targeted attack. And if I just shut down the page, it’s going to look like a targeted thing, and I don’t want the movement to be overshadowed — clouded — in that way. I don’t want that to take away from what the actual point was. Am I going to nitpick at them? No. I’m going to hold them accountable if they do things wrong, and praise them if they do things right. Just the same way, like I wasn’t nitpicking the last Council either. I was just trying to hold them accountable. And when they did things that were great it’s not like I didn’t tell them. Café Chantant in Lunik last semester was great, and I told Keesha that. It’s not like everything you did is under attack and scrutiny like just know that you’re going to be held accountable when you do things that require you to be held accountable.

 

Will you be retracting the plan of action, posted via the GL’s Student Voice page, calling on students to boycott GCSU events?

Yes. I think it’s good to give this council a chance; this is not the council that didn’t listen to them. I think everybody should be given a chance; I think we at least need to give that chance to them and see how it goes.

 

In presenting your motion to impeach President Cheong at the Dec. 14 meeting, you refer to the uncomfortable atmosphere he and his council created. How do you think the remaining members of the GCSU could try to make their office feel like a more welcoming place for students?

I think there are a lot of even just little things that could work to that effect. Even just posting on the outside bulletin board when whichever member of council will be there, who is responsible for what, so the students can know who to go to and generally being more willing to accept concerns and I get that that’s hard, because the instinct is to be defensive. If they can get over that and validate the concerns of students and show them that you’re working to care and hear about their concerns. Let them into the office to sit and talk with you, little impromptu mini-meetings. Stuff like that is a big deal, those are small things that make a big impact. I think little things like that are going to help rebuild that relationship.

 

Do you think the relationship between students and their Union will be able to overcome the tumult of these past few months and potentially improve?

I think that that’s a relationship that needs to be built up again. So just because all of this happened, I think they’re going to have to put in the work to build a good working relationship with the student body again. At the end of the day, yes these people resigned but that doesn’t mean that everything that happened didn’t happen — they still need to work on that relationship.

 

Looking forward to the Spring elections, what do you think Glendon needs in its next President? Its next Council?

The big thing is the willingness to listen to student concerns; I think the atmosphere from it being seen as a clique. The quick dismissal of any sort of criticism any time and suggestion for change. Don’t take it personally, this is what we need from people in this position. I’ve been there a lot when people in previous council definitely didn’t take concerns seriously and that’s a big deal. I think as a President you need to listen to the students, even when it comes to my petition. This is the democratic process and instead of in the meeting going on for an hour, and then not letting me talk maybe you should have listened to the concerns that I brought forward. Those are the things we need in a President. Also, a willingness to learn. A lot of people want to be like, ”I’m so great at this.” But once you believe that you’re the best at something, you stop learning how to be better. And you can always be better. You can always learn more. I think that’s what Glendon needs: a president that listens, a president that learns from mistakes of the past and from their own mistakes and pushes forward and represents the Glendon community.


 

Would you consider campaigning for a role on the GCSU to help carry out the vision you have articulated?

For the Spring elections, I would consider it. I think it would be a good experience for me, and I would hope for the student body, if that’s what I choose to do. As far as the interim council, I would not want to participate in that, because I wouldn’t want this movement to be seen as a means to that end. I wouldn’t want to undermine my movement by doing something like that. That was not, and will never, be the point of why I did this or why I chose to advocate for the students and for myself and for Glendon and what I think Glendon represents and believes in as a whole. But I’m thinking about the Spring. I think it would be nice to give back in any way that I can, if I can help rebuild what has happened from here then that would be a nice experience, so we’ll see.

Transcript of Pro Tem's Interview with Brandon Cheong

An Open Letter to Pro Tem Regarding the GCSU