Feds councillors failed a motion to censure Feds President Chris Lolas at Nov. 20’s student council meeting.
The act of censuring a member of council expresses formal disapproval for a council member’s actions.
Math councillor Mistry Harsh explained why he proposed the motion at the last council meeting.
“I brought it up to express disapproval of the whole topic for discussion around [Lolas’] handling of the [WPIRG fee] referendum process and overall process of bringing it towards the board of governors,” said Harsh.
“It’s the first time that this was brought up since I’ve been president,” said Lolas when asked how common such motions are at council meetings. “It didn’t happen the year before and I wasn’t really involved in council the year before that.”
The WPIRG fee referendum, which took place Sept. 29, resulted in the majority of student voters voting to remove the termly opt-out fee. Previously, Lolas expressed how the next step to remove the fee would require him to bring these results to the next Board of Governors’ meeting.
According to Harsh, the WPIRG fee referendum was planned early in the term to make sure the fee would be removed in time for the winter term. However, the referendum results did not make it to the board of governors’ Oct. 25’s meeting agenda. As a result, the WPIRG fee will still be implemented for the upcoming Winter 2017 term.
“We had the idea that we hold the referendum early in September so there will be enough time to get it on the Board of Governors’ agenda and have voting,” said Harsh. “It’s happened before last term during the general meeting, the Feds fee was raised, and it was raised for this term as well. It is possible.”
Harsh also believes that Lolas’ overall process of addressing the removal of the WPIRG fee lacked transparency.
“I feel like [after] the referendum happened there was just silence … the entire executive team went silent on the issue [and] didn’t exactly communicate,” said Harsh. “Even as councillors we’re not sure what’s going on. He says ‘OK, the fee’s not being removed’ that’s pretty much it to the extent of his response.”
Lolas, on the other hand, believed there was some sort of miscommunication of what the process of removing the fee would entail, which is what led to the motion of censuring him.
“The referendum never specified when the fee was to be removed for this exact purpose that we may not be able to bring it forward for winter term,” said Lolas. “Also, I did indeed mention it at the Board [of Governors] meeting. However, as I’ve explained previously, the university determined they would wait until February.”
“I do understand if you’re not aware of the mechanics of the university, it does seem like it’s taking a long time. But as someone who has been involved in university processes, I know we move at a glacial pace at this university,” said Lolas. “Once I was able to explain the process and that I really have zero control over how the Board of Governors and the university operates, I think council was understanding and no one else seemed to have a problem with it.”
Harsh believes that Lolas’ explanation of the process was redundant. “It was the same explanation I got the first time when I actually asked about it,” said Harsh. “There wasn’t anything new in this explanation and it didn’t really explain some of the things regarding the transparencies we’ve had. A lot of students still don’t know the fee is there. They still think it’s gone.”
The meeting resulted in councillors voting unanimously against the motion of censuring Lolas. Harsh also abstained from the vote.
“I felt that after the discussion process and after a lot of councillors agreed that it was a bit extreme, I did come to the conclusion that maybe it was a bit extreme as well,” said Harsh when asked the reasoning to abstain. “The thing about the way that Feds works … if you want to express disapproval about something, there isn’t anything lower than censuring, there isn’t anything higher than censuring either.”
According to Harsh, some opt-in council members are planning to take more action on this issue by further expressing disapproval in the way the process was handled and attempting to demand more action from President Lolas in the next council meeting, which will take place Dec. 4.
Harsh also hopes that Feds will communicate to students that the fee is still implemented for the winter 2017 term and further communicate what the process will be to remove it.