Friday, September 5, 2008

GSS Council Overwhelming Overturns President's Ban on Student Handbooks

After about an hour and a half of an often sloppy debate, GSS Council decided near unanimously to reject GSS President Mona Maghsoodi's ban on distribution of the already printed and controversial GSS Handbook. Out of approximately 34 Councilors present, only 4 voted in favour of banning distribution.

I went to attend the meeting and was greeted by about 20 students standing outside the GSS Ballroom and a hired security guard blocking non-graduate students from entering the meeting, citing that Mona had invoked one of the GSS' bylaws. Mona informed me that I would not be allowed to enter, but that the Ubyssey would, even though I was reporting for UBC Insiders. She later came back and notified the students waiting outside that "after talking with a couple of Councilors, I decided that it would be best to let you in."

It was a bit of a ridiculous scene. Half of the Councilors there thought the entire emergency meeting charade was a joke and the other half waited patiently for Mona to give a convincing argument to prevent distribution of the Handbook. I'll present here Mona's two primary problems with the Handbook and you can judge for yourself.

1) The tone of the Handbook would disturb the "really, really helpful UBC Administration". Mona felt that it would compromise this relationship. UBC has commented that it doesn't really care about this issue.
2) The book contained "inappropriate hypocritical slurs would disturb our political advertisers - ie. Gordon Campbell". She added that since Campbell paid to be an advertiser, the GSS "must protect him". This comment was met by enormous laughter.

Mona was also concerned about the claim on page 95 of the Handbook that childcare is not a priority on this campus. She said that this was factually incorrect and that "UBC is crazy dedicated to helping us with childcare".

In response, honorary council member Joshua Caulkins claimed that the Handbook was a bit controversial, but that it's important to "shake things up" and it would not jeopardize the GSS' relationship with the UBC Administration or the Handbook's sponsors. He added that the issue "should have been dealt with months ago". Josh said that "the Society's reputation is at stake" and the Handbooks should be distributed to "avoid further embarrassment."

Council ultimately decided to distribute the Handbooks on the condition that they contain a disclaimer insert stating that the views expressed in the Handbook are not necessarily those of the GSS, its Council, or the advertisers. The Handbooks are expected to be released to students once this insert is added.