The last BUSAC meeting of the first semester saw some important developments, as two major referendums for this semester were approved by the end of the night. However, early in the meeting a rather baffling turn of events came about when councillor Andrew Kemble moved to ban the use of video recording devices during meetings.
Kemble argued that, “having a camera here could really limit actual discussion from taking place and it could make […] shy councillor[s] less likely to speak up what’s really on their mind just knowing that their face is being attached to what’s being said”. This was all, of course, on camera, the tape of which you can view at brocktv.ca.
This argument is troubling because it undermines an assumption that I and many others made about the councillor position: it’s a public role. To become a BUSAC councillor, you publicly campaign. As a BUSAC councillor, your name is listed on the easily accessed BUSAC members page on busu.net. While it should be mentioned that none of the listings include photos (to say, put a face to a name), that’s less likely due to this recent turn of events and more likely because of how slowly the site gets updated. Quite frankly, none of it matters too much because with a full name you can find almost anyone on Facebook (including Kemble).
Whether the councillor was speaking his mind on an issue that’s affected him this entire semester, or on behalf of a genuinely shy member who sits on the council, the point is that we expect more (though lets be honest, this isn’t much) of our BUSAC councillors. Video recording is by far the most effective way to share the inner workings and discussion that goes behind these meetings. Not speaking against The Press’ medium, but even we would be using a recording device of some kind to cover developments at BUSAC, but quotes on a page do not compete with video coverage. Especially as BUSAC minutes tend to be very basic, lacking in detail and late.
However, this isn’t even the most concerning part of the ordeal. The motion passed 7-5-17, which is seven in favour, five opposed, and 17 abstentions. An abstention is an instance of declining to vote for or against a motion, perhaps when it in no way applies to the councillor, or when there may be a bias of note. But when voting on whether or not video recording devices should be permitted in the meetings, 17 of the voting members thought it wasn’t of concern to them, or at least that it wouldn’t matter enough for them to vote one way or another. 17 voting members felt that banning one of the major ways in which they are represented to and their actions shared with the public was beyond their consideration. 17 voting members didn’t care if the minutes (generally posted up to a month after the meetings take place) were the only way for students to learn about what happens in the meetings. 17 who could have voted, including the BUSU elective, couldn’t be bothered.
The fact is, Kemble brought something to BUSAC’s attention that he felt was important, and it very well may be. However, we’ll never really know, as motions like this are often qualified when debated or discussed, even in brief. Instead, all we know is that a few councillors agree with him, a few don’t, and a vast majority sat by. I believe we need BUSAC councillors who are not afraid to operate in the spotlight, and some may disagree with me. But I know we need a BUSAC with more guts, that doesn’t widely abstain when something like this is brought to their attention.