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NSPIRG, the Stop NSPIRG campaign, and the Dalhouise Student Union

April 1, 2009

NSPIRG, the Stop NSPIRG campaign, and the Dalhouise Student Union

Live Blogging from the Dalhousie Student Union Annual General Meeting (Part Deux)

Does the fate of NSPIRG hang in the balance?

April 1st, 2009

Dalhousie Student Union Building, MacInnes Auditorium


6:32 pm - People are filing into the room. Approximately 40 pizzas have arrived, and they are being eaten as quickly as they are brought in. Attendance is at least 100 students, media, Sodexho staff, security, and others. The auditorium is three quarters full.

6:45 pm - Some students have faces painted from the carnival and concert, held earlier in the day in front of the Killam library, featuring bands, stilt walkers, clowns, and more. The line-up, according to Shannon Zimmerman (incoming DSU president), extends out to first floor lobby and out the front door.

6:57 pm - Mat Brechtel, chair of the meeting, has begun his preamble. "There was a tool called the challenge to the chair that was abused at the last meeting (March 11th).... It is not intended to procedurally do what you democratically cannot do. I encourage you all to achieve your democratic ends, through the use of a vote."

7:03: From the back of the room in the press booth, it looks like all the chairs are full.

7:28 pm - DSU Vice President Education Mark Coffin is presenting his portfolio, consisting mostly of lobbying nationally and provincially through CASA and ANSSA. Tony Seed, editor of Shunpiking Magazine and former candidate of the Marxist-Leninist Party, sitting beside me, says the lobbying model is selling out students' interests.

7:51 pm: DSU Vice President Student life Kris Osmond is interrupted during his presentation about white rock bands coming to Dal, by a black man from the floor, who says, "How do we reduce racism and discrimination on campus? Why is it that we didn't have anything to address inclusiveness on campus during the whole year?" Osmond responds with, "We have over 250 societies on campus.... Our doors were always open." The question, more or less unanswered, hangs in the air.

8:02: The NSPIRG motion is now on the floor. New wording: NSIRG shall have 90 days notice to vacate the Student Union Building. The DSU shall terminate the payroll of NSPIRG as of May 1st. NSPIRG's levy shall go to a referendum.

8:24 pm - Sebastian Labelle of Students Mobilize for Action on Campus (SMAC), addresses the audience. "Stop NSPIRG' posts slander on their website, saying that NSPIRG is anti-semitic because it criticizes Israel. 'Stop NSPIRG' claims that NSPIRG spends too much money on executive salaries, when in fact NSPIRG staff are paid 'poverty-line' salaries, which is a bargain."

8:35 pm - Jean Steinberg, NSPIRG board member, reads an amendment to the motion, "All the whereas clauses need to be struck, because they are inflammatory. New wording: Be It Resolved That NSPIRG and the DSU will move forward in a productive way on how to find a resolution to the conflict."

Daniel Boyle, DSU VP Internal, seconds the motion: "The clause to remove NSPIRG from the building will have a crippling effect. Also, taking NSPIRG off the payroll would be highly unfortunate. The real issues have been lost in ideological discussions."

Mat Brechtel, chair: "The existence of NSPIRG via a levy is the most important part of the motion, therefore this amendment is permissible."

8:47: Colin Conrad, a member of Stop NSPIRG, says, "We want three things: a better advertised opt-out period; to address that NSPIRG's working groups have disrupted Dalhousie events; and that NSPIRG spends lots of money on non-Dalhousie students."

8:54 pm - Jane Kirby, from Student Coalition Against War, calls the question. Voting is done by holding paper ballots in the air. The student body votes on the amendment: the amendment passes to thunderous applause. Approximately 500 votes for, and 40 against.

9:03 pm - A speaker to the floor targets Asaf Rashid, NSPIRG staff member. Brechtel gets heated as NSPIRG board members and supporters rise on points of personal privilege, claiming personal offense to the comments.

9:17 pm - A question from the floor asks if the NSPIRG board will be included in collaborating to draft the referendum question. Mat Brechtel rules in favour of the collaboration. The DSU council, however, has the authority to take NSPIRG to referendum without NSPIRG's approval, although Brechtel 'advises' against that.

9:30 pm - and the voting fiasco begins. We will be here for an hour at least for the paper ballot vote to happen.

10:40 pm - On the suggestion of the chair, the meeting is moved to be extended until all the votes are received, counted, and the results are released. We will be here at least another two hours.

11:38 pm - Mat Brechtel returns to the microphone: total 458 votes, 214 for, 238 against. The motion fails. NSPIRG will not go to a referendum next year. People file out of the MacInnes room, exhausted and victorious. NSPIRG has won, at least for now.

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Sorry, I tried making it as clear as possible, but it's all kind of confusing.
The original motion was to have NSPIRG go to a referendum for it's levy next year, to be forced to vacate it's offices, and for the DSU to withhold their payroll money for an indeterminate amount of time. This motion was amended to say that NSPIRG will only go to a referendum next year, but not be forced to vacate offices or have funding withheld. This was a compromise between NSPIRG board and DSU executives. Because of both sides' support, the amendment won the floor in a clear majority (approx. 500 to 40). Then the amended motion was debated, and voted on. The motion failed by a slim margin: 238 vs. 214. Now NSPIRG is not forced into a referendum next year. However, the DSU council can make a vote in a subsequent council meeting to put NSPIRG's levy to a referendum, regardless of the ruling at the AGM.
Furthermore, it should be noted that one of the main ideologues behind the 'Stop NSPIRG' campaign and a recruiter for the students Conservative Party society, has been elected to the incoming DSU council.

Please clarify result of AGM

Thanks for your great work David. However, I had a hard time following the final result of the AGM. From your reporting, it made it seem as though the entire motion against NSPIRG failed. However, there was some ambiguity as to whether it was only the referendum aspect of the motion that failed or the entire thing. Could you please clarify. Is NSPIRG's funding going to be revoked? Will they have to vacate their Dalhousie offices?