SRC Decoded: What you missed on March 12th, 2021

The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) is a council composed of a body of students elected by their peers, who are tasked with running the Acadia Students’ Union (ASU). The SRC meets every Friday at 1:00 PM on Teams, however, they would usually meet in the Beveridge Forum located off the Michener Lounge in the Students’ Union Building (SUB). Each meeting is open to the public and students are welcome to attend meetings to learn more about the decisions being made on their behalf.

The council met this Friday with some new faces in the meeting! After general housekeeping (attendance, acceptance of agenda) the council opened up the floor for a question period. Colin Mitchell, recent Acadia Alumni, former Editor-in-Chief for the Athenaeum, Board of Governor Representative, and Arts Senator began the question period.

For some context, a hot topic during the past week has been the possible cutting of funding for Axe Radio and the Athenaeum by switching them from Internal Organizations (IO) of the ASU to make them clubs. This idea was brought up because the ASU needs to balance and budget and is currently in a deficit. Robbie Holmes, VP Student Life, clarified that this was not a matter that would be voted on any time soon, and also highlighted some potential benefits that this would give those organizations, in his opinion.

Colin made an articulate speech making the case to retain honoraria for these organizations, highlighting the significance of the Axe Radio and Athenaeum as a part of the freedom of the press at Acadia, saying they were the “the only two sources of union media of Acadia’s campus”. Colin explained that while it may be necessary for the ASU to make changes so as to cure their deficit, cutting these radio and newspapers from the Union only to suggest they ratify as clubs is not the best solution. Colin emphasized the work these organizations do in supporting and representing the voices of students, the great challenges the Athenaeum has endured (from WWI to COVID-19) and the necessity of free press on campus. He asked that anyone who is capable, please vote ‘no’ to any cuts to honoraria for the Athenaeum or Axe Radio.

Robbie Holmes took the floor to answer, clarifying that their intention would be to fund these clubs through grants and that the idea of a levy would be fantastic.

Colin finished by reemphasizing his passion to see the continuity of these organizations, making a personal commitment to do pro bono work making running a referendum to ensure the Ath is no longer a liability to the ASU.

Next up, Chris, an Acadia Alumni from 2019, took the floor. He shared that he shared many similar sentiments to Colin, explaining that while he was involved in many different clubs and organizations while at Acadia, the most meaningful of them was his involvement in the Athenaeum. Chris made an interesting point that while the council members may wholeheartedly and genuinely like to guarantee these organizations the grant money they have spoken of, that word is only good so long as “their butts are in their seats”, meaning when these positions turn over – which most will next year – there is no longer the same commitment. Chris also mentioned that it would be unfair to take this opportunity away from students, especially those to hope to have PR or journalism in their future. Chris finished by thanking the council for having him and asking them to please make the right choice on this matter.

Lydia Houck spoke up and clarify that these conversations being had at the council were not in any way trying to limit or prevent the freedom of the press at Acadia. She mentioned that if in the future there were to be a motion to separate the organization from the ASU she would be interested in making the motion conditional to the ongoing insurance of grants for the clubs.

Blake Steeves, VP Events and Promotions, asked the Alumni attending the meeting what their thoughts were on possible funding from Alumni or the Alumni’s Association. Chris answered that quite frankly he wasn’t sure, but he knew personally he would willingly contribute money to the Ath “for the rest of time” and he had a feeling that if the ASU did reach out to Acadia alumni for financial support of the Ath, they would have no trouble at all with money. He also mentioned that journalists need to be protected as writers and that the ASU offers them a certain degree of protection allowing them to write more honest, important, and perhaps personal articles than they would be able to otherwise.

Mary Tajeddin, Graduate Studies Senator, asked the Athenaeum Alumni two questions; the first being how did/does the Ath ensure the students hear them. Chris volunteered to answer, explaining that while it is really hard, if not impossible to be heard by the student body on the budget the Ath is given, especially as their resources become increasingly meagre. He said matter-of-factly that “it is hard to reach people with next to no money… Being heard comes down to a dollars and cents kind of conversation”.

Kyle, another Acadia Alumni who was an editor and contributor for the Athenaeum during his time at Acadia, spoke next. Kyle emphasized the importance, in his perspective, of the Ath remaining an IO, reasoning that having the ability to say you are an employee is much more valuable than having a club membership status, especially when it comes to future employability. Kyle argued that there are very few opportunities for journalism in Nova Scotia, so the Ath is extremely valuable for students. Kyle added that the job he has now, as a Technical Writer, was obtained in part because of the extensive experience he acquired during his time with the Ath. Kyle also echoed Chris in saying that any decisions made to support these organizations right now, unless made extremely securely and worded precisely, will be vulnerable to future council decisions.

Robbie Holmes answered this, assuring that these motions would be well-written. He then reiterated Mary’s second question, asking about the significance of hard copies, as did the paper online could be a great way to reduce costs. Alex Surette, Sustainability Representative, seconded that opinion, agreeing that going online would help cut down costs, be more accessible to students, and also be more sustainable. Colin subsequently reiterated what Chris mentioned, bringing home to point that the Ath simply cannot, in his opinion, operate the same capacity when they are being continually pressured to cut their budget and function on next to no funds. He added that the value of having print paper lays in its accessibility to the demographic of the Wolfville population who may not be so tech-savvy, and is much more comfortable using printed paper; he stressed that this helps bind the students and permanent residents of Wolfville, which is always a priority.

As the conversation drifted further away from the question period and more into the matter that would only be appropriately discussed with the current Athenaeum staff present, Chairperson Molly Anderson reminded folks to stay on topic and suggested that if a meeting needed to be had with the Athenaeum, that is something they could set up in the future.

After hearing from another Acadia Alumni, Christine who highlighted the historical significance of having print copies for students to read, Lara Hartman, Arts Senator, gave an impassioned speech stressing that this decision mattered, criticizing herself and the council for being so unresourceful that Alumni had to come in and help them solve these issues, and highlighting the importance that Ath has in providing a place for a diversity of voices to be expressed. She notably called out President Brendan MacNeil for writing in an email that “this was an elected council of sixteen students from an intentionally diverse background…” when, as Lara explained, there was no intention behind it. She continued that each member of the council made the decision themselves to run; they were not encouraged by anyone due to their potential diversity. Lara finished by reemphasizing the necessary role the Ath has in supporting student voices and making it clear that she is backing the Athenaeum Alumni one hundred percent.

Brendan MacNeil spoke up, sharing his desire to “speak to what this matter actually is at hand”, explaining how he felt the conversation had become dominated by questions of the Athenaeum, student newspaper, and freedom of speech, while the reason this was brought to the table in the first place was to discuss the monetary partnership between the ASU and its IOs (Axe Radio and the Ath in this case), specifically the consequences of those IOs do not live up to the agreements in their constitutions. Brendan expressed his concern that it seemed the only reason to fund the Ath was that it needed more money to do its job. He explained that the ASU is providing funding to the Ath and is not seeing any outreach on their behalf – be it advertisements, student engagement, other promotional opportunities, or adequate content being published.

Soyini Edwards, Diversity and Inclusion Representative and photographer for the Ath, asked why the organization was not given any notice of this concern before it was discussed in the meeting. Brendan MacNeil suggested she defer to Alicia Johnson who manages the IOs.

There was some debate about the level of independence of the Ath could have while it was still an Internal Organization, as well as about the amount that was being published this year, and how much of the possible lack of publication could be accredited to the global pandemic we find ourselves a year into.

Christine spoke to voice her concern not for the specific future of the Ath or Axe Radio, but rather for the future and vulnerability of IOs at Acadia if they can be turned into clubs so easily upon the perception of a less productive year and without a referendum. Blake Steeves and Robbie Holmes both clarified that they agree there should be student consultation upon these decisions.

Rylie Moscato, current Editor-in-Chief of the Athenaeum, joined the meeting and took the floor to allow attendees to ask any questions they may have. Lara Hartman asked Rylie if, to her knowledge or the knowledge of any other member on her team, the Ath had been warned that it was not functioning to standard, to which Rylie replied no, it had not come to her attention.

Brendan Keeler spoke up to clarify, once again, that this issue was brought up as a point of discussion, not as an item to be voted on, and also stated that at present, all IOs are within budget. Brendan also asked Rylie what the Ath was doing in terms of the available add space on their prints that have the potential of creating revenue for the Ath, to which she replied that while they were reaching out to many businesses in both Wolfville and New Minas, there was not much interest. She also mentioned that while there were some successful advertisements on their online editions, they could not cash that money until it reached 100 dollars.

Molly Anderson necessarily moved the meeting forward, as the discussion was not going to end in any motion or decision, and the council agreed that this would be a good conversation to follow-up on in an organized and planned matter later on.

Lydia Houck, VP Academic, made an announcement regarding her meeting with Academic Affairs. She explained that they talked about the various projects that the Senators are looking to undertake and well as the possibility of academic “mini councils”; their goal is for them to create a formal proposal and plan that they can pass onto the incoming council as there is not much time left in the term. Lastly, Lydia mentioned that they had conservation about potentially making the extended W and F a more permanent decision.

The next topic of discussion was the new Policy document that the Executive created, which was passed by the Governance Committee. Most changes made to the document were conventions that have been in place all along and are now written officially. The council passed the new Policy.

After a few last small discussions, the meeting was adjourned.