November 18, 2006

Update on the Silhouette Editor Being Fired by the MSU Politicians

(Prior to reading this, read The Eyeopener at Ryerson’s Editorial on this matter.)

Now, the second full week of the MSU procedural crisis caused by the MSU Board of Directors (the elected President and three appointed Vice-Presidents) firing, without cause, the Silhouette Executive Editor (Editor-in-Chief) in complete and total violation of MSU policies and procedures.
In this week’s edition of the Silhouette they write the following letter to the editor:

A message from your BOD

To Whom It May Concern:

Recently, much discussion has occurred regarding the MSU’s Operating Policies and Bylaws.  We encourage all students to take a minute to review the policies that bind the MSU.  Not only are they a great read, but they also provide substantial insight to the parameters developed to govern and manage the organization.  They can be found at www.msu.mcmaster.ca.  Just click on the Bylaws and Operating Policies link.

Unfortunately or fortunately for those impacted, employment procedures are dealt with in closed session at the governing board the employee reports to.  This is out of respect to the employee and is meant to ensure that the integrity and confidentiality of the issue is preserved.  It would be against our fiduciary duty to the organization to begin a debate on a specific employment relationship.

It can be said that the decision to dismiss the Silhouette Executive Editor had nothing to do with the content of the Silhouette, if it had, this would have been in violation of the Sil’s editorial autonomy, which is something that is important to all of us.  If it had anything to do with content, the procedure would have been taken through the Silhouette Board of Publication.

We do not take the responsibility of managing the day-to-day operations of the organization on behalf of the Executive Board, SRA and the full-time undergraduate population lightly.  Much diligence is taken before employment matters or operational issues are addressed.  We do understand when decisions are made that they will not please everyone.  We also understand that, as leaders, decisions need to be made that represent the best interests of the full-time undergraduate students we represent.  This responsibility is one that we hold paramount and are bound to be accountable to.

On a final note, we would like to extend our regards to the Silhouette staff and their continued commitment to the production of the paper and to the student voice.

With best regards,
John, Drew, Kyra, and Ryan  
MSU Board of Directors

(NOTE: John is John Popham, the elected President, Drew is Drew Mitchell the indirectly elected (i.e. not by the student body at large) VP Finance, Kyra is Kyra Machen the indirectly elected VP Education, Ryan is Ryan Moran the the indirectly elected  VP Administration)

Lets review this letter.

The title itself is interesting.  The term “your BOD” is interesting since only one member was elected by students.  The other three were the indirectly elected (i.e. not by the student body at large) and are completely unaccountable to students.  I could put together a petition with the signatures of over ten thousand students to impeach them and it means nothing.  They cannot be impeached by the membership of the Students Union here at McMaster.
The “To Whom It May Concern” says they do not have a clue who they are addressing and are not necessarily addressing the membership that is paying their wages.  Who can blame the VPs, after all they were not elected by the people forced to pay their wages and they are not accountable to us either.
The second sentence: “Recently, much discussion has occurred regarding the MSU’s Operating Policies and Bylaws.  We encourage all students to take a minute to review the policies that bind the MSU.” fails to point out that the Constitution does not bind the MSU because they cannot overrule students by creating something called “Corporate Bylaws” which trump all student referendums and the MSU Constitution itself.  Regular Students cannot say anything about “Corporate Bylaws”, again, I can get a massive petition together to force a referendum on something within “Corporate Bylaws” and it means nothing.  Only the BoD can amend or change “Corporate Bylaws” and no one else can.  Students, like me and you, have absolutely no say over Corporate Bylaws.
The third sentence: “Not only are they a great read, but they also provide substantial insight to the parameters developed to govern and manage the organization.” is interesting because of two things.  First, I am very confident in saying that the BoD has never actually read the bylaws because they never bother to follow them.  If they had actually read them, they would know what they did was a complete and total violation of Operating Policies 1K1K/a, and 4A.

The first sentence of the second para: I will highlight the following “employment procedures are dealt with in closed session at the governing board the employee reports to.” That is correct, employment procedures are dealt with at the governing board that the employee reports to.  In this case it is clear who the Executive Editor reports to according to the policies of the MSU; The Silhouette Board of Publication.  Let me repeat that; the Silhouette Board of Publication.  NOT the Board of Directors.  **By their own statement, they (the BoD) admit they do not have the power to fire the Silhouette Executive Editor, let alone fire the Executive Editor without cause.
**The second sentence is true except that the BoD needs to get their story straight.  They have fired the Executive Editor without cause.  This is exactly what they stated in the firing letter.  Now they are going around campus telling anyone that will listen not to worry, there were causes for firing him.  So much for confidentiality. So what is it?  He was fired without cause after all.
The third sentence is true about their fiduciary duty to the organization.  Sadly, they do not seem to care about that duty as they have been going around telling people there were causes to the firing despite firing without cause.  If the fired Executive Editor sues, for slander and wrongful termination, the MSU he has a great case.  We, the students, will be paying for the lawyers to represent the BoD.  We will also be paying for the amount that the courts will award the plaintiff.  By the time this happens, the President (who graduated well over a year ago and has not been a student for a long time) and three VPs will be long gone from this University and we will be paying for their actions.  They speak of not beginning a debate on this specific employment relationship.  The debate is not about the employee, it is about the BoD gros
sly violating MSU Policies.

In the third para, the BoD admits that governing body of the Silhouette is the Silhouette Board of Publication.  They admit it exists.  They do, however, claim that the procedure is only for content of the *Silhouette.  *As you will read later in this post, the bylaws only say that any dismissal must be done the Silhouette Board of Publication.

The fourth para has the following sentence that is nothing short of ridiculous because of their past actions: “We also understand that, as leaders, decisions need to be made that represent the best interests of the full-time undergraduate students we represent.” 
This coming from the same people that when they were not at the Board of Governors meeting that hiked tuition (a meeting they are supposed to be at anyway, let alone that an important issue was being discussed) back in May and blamed students because they only follow what students do.
I completely agree with the theory of the statement and would not be calling them on it if they actually had been practicing this.  They have not.  The only time they take a leading stance is when it is in their personal interest.  This is why I do not believe them when they claim that Drew Mitchell’s, the VP Finance, long standing disputes with the fired Silhouette Editor had nothing to do with him moving and pushing to dismiss the Silhouette Editor without cause.

Let’s read the policies governing their actions

I am going to begin with Operating Policy 1K – The Silhouette.  This is the main policy governing the Silhouette which is one of the last student newspapers controlled by their student union.  There are two articles and one section of this bylaw that will draw attention to, Art. 2.10 , Art. 3.1.1.1. and Section 12.  Here are those articles and why they are important:

I point to article 2.10 because the BoD has been saying as an example of a situation that would not be dealt with by the Silhouette Board of Publication, if the Executive Editor decided, for example, the heat in the office would be set to 15 degrees Celsius and an employee of the Sil complained about it that this would be a matter for the BoD to deal with since it is not the content of the newspaper involved.  They are wrong, it would be the SRA because it is a workplace health and safety issue.  The above article clearly puts that power with the SRA.  Since the SRA was dissolved for two months here, that power rested with the Executive Board.  It has never rested with the BoD.  The BoD claims they have absolute power over The Silhouette in matters not outlined in policy and they fired The Sil Editor for reasons (which is not true since they dismissed without cause and stating otherwise opens the MSU to a lawsuit that students will pay for) outside of policy.  So it had nothing to do with the content of the Sil, nothing to do with financial management or workplace health and safety.  I ask the question: If it was not content, financial management, or workplace health and safety issues what is left?


The Silhouette Executive Editor position is created and exists only because of article 3.1.1.1 of the Operating Policy.  This makes clear that the position of Silhouette Executive Editor is created by the SRA not the Board of Directors.  All positions created by the SRA report to the SRA unless specifically legislated to report elsewhere.  In this case, the SRA created the Silhouette Board of Publication and gave it the power to deal with matters related to the discipline of Silhouette staff:
 
The process for *Silhouette *staff is clearly stated and outlined here.  It does not say anywhere that Silhouette staff can be dismissed without cause.  All Silhouette staff must be dismissed with cause.  It is extremely clear. Article 12.2.3 pretty much covers anything that the Silhouette Executive Editor could have done (since the BoD is going around telling anyone that will listen there were really causes) which would have given cause for the dismissal.  Clearly the BoD is acting outside of their power.  The only type of leaders that act in complete and total disregard for rules are tyrants.

Now, lets review, the firing could not have been for any or any part of the following:

  • Content of the paper;
  • Financial management of the paper;
  • Workplace health and safety issues;
  • Acting in contempt or contrary to this policy or any policy of The Silhouette;
  • Acting in contempt or contrary to any known decision of the staff or the Editorial Board taken with quorum present; or
  • Abuse of rights, privileges, or duties as a Silhouette Editor.

Clearly, just having read Operating Policy 1, it is clear that the BoD has acted in complete violation of MSU policy.

Now, we move onto the next Operating Policy involving The Silhouette.  This one is Operating Policy 1K/a – The Silhouette Board of Publication.  It governs the operations of the committee that governs *The Silhouette.  *There are three sections in this policy that I drawn your attention to, Sections 1, 2, and 4.

 
Clearly, the Silhouette Board of Publication is the publisher of The Silhouette.  The publisher of a newspaper is always the person or, as in this case, the entity that the Editor-in-Chief (in this case the Executive Editor) reports to.  The SRA has made clear that the SRA has decided to give power over the paper and the staff (as well as in Operating Policy 1K which we have already seen), the SRA choose to not give such power to the BoD for obvious reason.  The BoD would likely abuse such powers since it would concentrated among so few people.  This BoD intentionally ignored that they did not have such powers and abusing their offices, fired without cause The Silhouette Editor.![](http://blog.joeycoleman.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/WindowsLiveWriter/UpdateontheSilhouetteEditorBeingFiredbyt_4E7/Oper
ating_Policy_1Ka_Section_Two_Mem.gif)
The
SRA set the membership of the Silhouette Board of Publication in such a ways that the student politicians did not have absolute power.  It set the composition of the Board such that it can be reasonably independent of political interference.  The BoD clearly decided this built in check on their power was unacceptable and ignored the rules governing The Silhouette.  This is unacceptable.
Now, you would think that the Chair of the Silhouette Board of Publication would speak out against this violation of the sovereignty of his Board?  That is not the case, actually the Chair, the VP Finance as allowed his personal grudge against The Sil Editor to interfere in his judgement.  Drew Mitchell, VP Finance, is the one widely believed to have convince the BoD to violate all MSU policies in order to fire The Sil Editor.  It is worth noting that Drew Mitchell is already campaigning for President and that he is now in a position to heavily influence who the next Silhouette Editor will be.  It has been stated by many who believe he already has a person that he will try to place in the job to make sure that the paper publishes glowing reviews of him as “Great Leader” (use of term with apologies to Kim Il-sung) to help him in securing the Presidency of the MSU.    
This is interesting, The Silhouette Board of Publication has not been called to meet at all this year because the VP Finance, as chair, has never called a meeting time that was workable for all parties involved.  The SRA member that sits on the Board of Publication has never received any call to a meeting.  There is a lot of smoke on this file, the question is if there is fire.

Clearly, the BoD is acting in violation of this policy as well with the exception possibly of section 4.

As Colbert would say “Moving On”; We now move on to Operating Policy 4 – Employment which deals with the Employment within the MSU.  Here are the sections dealing with dismissal:
 

In this case, no verbal warning was given.  The Sil Editor has not been allowed to appeal because the BoD claims they have absolute power over this decision.

**Clearly they are in complete, absolute and total violation of MSU Bylaws.
**

It is a violation of the McMaster Student Code of Conduct for me to call on them to resign for this gross violation of Bylaws or to call for any action to be taken against them.
Regardless of the protection that their friends in the University Administration will give them and regardless of the threats from University Administration that I will receive.  I am calling for the SRA to act on this matter.  I will be involved in a student movement for justice on this matter and I will take the punishment that the University deals out against the opponents of the MSU BoD.

Now, the BoD claims that nothing in the policies explicitly forbids them from taking the action they took and that the Executive Editor is a full-time position thereby giving them complete power to do as they please to that individual.   The SRA always gives the BoD clear reign over positions that the BoD does have free reign over.

Operating Policy 1/J – Campus Events:

Operating Policy 1/X – Quarters Restaurant & Bar:

Operating Policy 1/G – Compass Information Centre:

Operating Policy 1/E – Underground Media & Design:

Operating Policy 1/D – Child Care Centre:
 
Operating Policy 1/A – The Union Market: