Following an intense Brock University Students’ Administrative Council meeting, a conclusion was reached to send Peter Henen’s role as Vice President, External Affairs to referendum.
The decision comes following a Recall Petition which was officially ratified by BUSAC on November 21.
The BUSU Board of Directors appointed President Aidan Hibma to organize the petition efforts, which needed a total of 318 full-time undergraduate signatures to prompt a BUSAC vote to ratify the referendum.
Hibma and his team were able to receive 375 signatures, 367 of which were confirmed by Brock University’s Office of the Registrar as current undergraduate students.
Following a question period at the BUSAC meeting, members of the council voted in a closed ballot to ratify the referendum, which passed but further details of the results were not made public.
The official dates to begin the referendum are as followed:
- November 22: Nomination Period
- November 23: All Candidates Meeting
- November 24: Prep Day
- November 26 to December 6: Campaigning Period
- December 4-6: Voting Days
Students are being asked to vote on the follow question:
“Do you support the recall of Peter Henen, Vice-President External Affairs, from elected office pursuant to Article XII, section 1 of the Constitution of the Brock University Students’ Union, Inc., effective immediately upon the success of this referendum?”
A ‘yes’ vote means you’re in favour of Henen’s removal; a ‘no’ vote supports Henen to keep his position.
The BUSU Board of Directors claimed they chose to begin a Recall Petition because they believed Henen was unorganized, late to meetings and had also missed a handful of meetings. Furthermore, an original letter that was sent to Henen from BUSU Board Chair Witta Nicoyishakiye states Henen was unprepared and lacked communication, which negatively impacted projects he was involved in and put stress on other members of the BUSU team.
It was stated during the meeting that there are 24 documented absences for Henen, and that all sick days and vacation days have been used as well.
The letter questioned Henen’s commitment to the Ontario University Student Alliance, saying Henen failed to meet BUSU and OUSA’s standards for elected officials.
The letter from Nicoyishakiye asked Henen to make the decision of resigning from his position as VPEA, which he chose not to do. Had he done so, BUSU’s Board was willing to make a joint statement saying Henen stepped away due to personal reasons; they would also pay his salary until January 31, 2019 and allow for him to continue his involvement with the Food Committee.
With his decision to turn down the Board’s offer, they proceeded with the Recall Referendum, which would remove any salary for Henen and his involvement with the Food Committee – a committee Henen has been a major advocate for.
In response to the letter, Henen reached out to OUSA President Danny Chang and OUSA member Matthew Gerrits for a statement regarding his efforts with the organization.
The Board of Directors were presented these letters, among other documents from Henen, but decided to unanimously proceed with the referendum.
A second letter to Henen regarding the Boards decision provided more in-depth reasoning to why they were proceeding with the Recall Referendum. The second letter stated that Henen would be suspended from BUSU or BUSAC.
“The first letter I received they told me that if I resign than they wouldn’t do an impeachment, but if I don’t resign they would do the impeachment and that I should refrain from using my email and the office. So I made my decision based on that, which I replied saying I don’t resign,” said Henen. “Then they sent me another letter with additional restriction such as, losing my voting rights in BUSAC until the end of the election period.”
Hibma refuted Henen’s point that he was not informed of a suspension.
“The first thing that needs to be understood is when we first brought [Henen] in and informed him of this, we notified him that we would be suspending his access to his Vice President email,” said Hibma.
Referencing the letter from November 20, Hibma further explained, “The BUSU Board is placing you on paid suspension from all your duties as VPEA until the conclusion of this referendum. This suspension will also be applied to: your seat on BUSAC, your involvement in OUSA, your involvement in CASA, your seat on the Brock University Food Committee.”
Hibma would not comment further on the letter, but says Henen was given ample time to be aware of the suspension from BUSAC and all other related functions.
“The Board has never contacted me about this issue until now,” said Henen. “I believe this is very personal. I have been culturally ousted since day one inside BUSU.”
Henen did note that he did have a meeting months prior with Hibma, BUSU General Manager Robert Hilson and Kate Swiatek (BUSU Human Resources) in which he was told he needed to go to conferences and not be late for meetings. According to Henen, he has not been late to a meeting since.
With the matter ongoing, Henen mentioned that he has been seeking legal counsel but would not comment further.
“From my understanding we did a pretty transparent job of explaining that elected officials do not adhere to the Employment Standards Act, we adhere to the Not-For-Profit Act wherein at any point anybody can recall any elected official,” said Hibma. “I feel like he was seeking legal counsel to ensure that we weren’t pulling the blanket over his eyes, to say it figuratively.”
Following the conclusion of the BUSAC meeting, this matter is now in the hands of the Brock undergraduate student-body. Should students vote to impeach Henen, Hibma said at the BUSAC meeting that 2017/18 VPEA Nadia Bathish was willing to return to the role on an interim basis. It was not established if Bathish would have to be approved by the student body to do so.
Students will be able to hear both sides through the campaign period and can cast their vote through their BrockU account from December 4 to Dec. 6.