Back in the 2017-2018 academic year, in response to Durham and UOIT splitting their student associations, Durham’s new sole association had an election with three student presidential positions available. Students voted and Hayles won the President position, Toosaa won the Internal Vice President position, and Geoffrey the External Vice President. All three ended up winning student votes by over 700 compared to who got in second place.
This event was revealed to the public in August, amid allegations put forth by the three that they were fired because of their race.
There is proof there were racial tensions.
The letters given to them read: “We regret to inform you that, pursuant to a decision of the board of directors, your employment with Durham College Students Association Inc. will be terminated immediately.” The letters were signed by Corrina Collette, a Durham College student still working with DCSI today.
Collette said, as early as the last AGM (Annual General Meeting, where talks and votes about how the school and association should function take place), that the board came together and decided it would be best for the students if they were fired from their positions. This argument is the same DCSI said when first asked about their firing: that there were “confidential human resource matters” preventing them from fully explaining and “the decision to terminate their employment was only made after careful consideration by DCSI’s student selected Board of Directors, in the best interest of the association and the students we serve” was the quote they sent out when asked by the press about their actions.
The problem with this argument is the last part, because it was the students of Durham College themselves who voted the three presidents into their positions. How is firing someone for the best of the students when that person was who the students voted for in response to their ideas and persona? Furthermore, how is it in the interest of the students when DCSI refuses to tell the students why they chose to terminate the presidents they most saw fit? Also, while it is true Collette was elected in as director of the School of Science and Engineering Technology by the students, she won by 124 votes. She did not get nearly as many votes as the three former presidents and her position was not as competitive as theirs were, and neither were the positions for anyone else on the board.
Kinda shocked really! These 3 men were the only people to ever come up to talk to me during the elections process. They deserved it!
This shouldn’t have happened in the first place. I voted for them they should be in office.
Belinda Reid Thomas:
These gentlemen earned the right to represent their peers and should be able to so. May your case prevail!
There is obviously no accountability from the Board to students.
I am signing because after reading the articles it seems there is no justification for this action, especially for all three to be dismissed. The fact that there was no reason for termination stated in the letter is also concerning.
I watched these young men work HARD to get their positions. They talked to fellow students, took notes and listened. I watched them daily working to get their votes.
The signatures, as of 2019, reached 846, plus an extra 250 from written signatures the three have on file.
At the last AGM, new information about their firing was provided, but not the actual reason. Collette said there is a litigation in place, preventing anyone at DCSI from saying publicly the exact reasons for their termination because a court enforces that rule. What they didn’t say is why a litigation had to come into effect, when it did and why it has apparently shown no progress in the nine months since their termination, nor what date we can expect the litigation to end.
Some of the jobs Hayles, Olara and Bush were to do in their presidential positions involved the student health plan, campus radio station and outreach programs, the women’s centre, the pride + LGBTQ centre, and the sexual health resource centre. However, the three also wanted to touch on issues of their own, beginning problems.
One of their promises to the students was to look into lower parking costs. Collette said it is not up to the school or the association how much our parking costs, however Hayles says the three of them spoke to Durham College president Don Lovisa about the idea, and Lovisa winced, saying “I have a business to run” and that the school should be lucky he hasn’t increased parking rates in the last three years.
Back on June 6th, 2018, DCSI executives were invited to hear about a new proposed health plan from ACL (original name We Speak Students). Hayles was told about the plan, and was asked on the very same day to sign it through, but Hayles said he was reluctant, not knowing enough about the plan to be confident about it, so he asked General Manager Jennifer McHugh for a copy of the plan. McHugh was visibly offended but did so. Hayles was then warned there could be legal troubles if the bill was not signed by June 19th, so he sent an email to ACL Student Benefits asking if representatives could give a presentation about the bill so the board could better understand it. They agreed to do so.
McHugh, however, was not happy with the presentation idea. She advised them to cancel the meetings. She also informed there were certain bills she already rushed through involving the plan, and called it a “courtesy” for the three of them to be involved in the talks in the first place. Olara, shortly after hearing of the board not liking the presentation idea, said no board members were required to attend, that this was an information meeting only and it was so they could be sure the plan was best for the students.
It is possible the reason the board terminated the three presidents is because they did not expect the elected presidents to second-guess presented plans; when the health plan was put forward and the presidents not only did not fully trust the plan as it was presented but went through with organizing a session around it that the rest of the board wanted cancelled, they were scared to let the presidents keep the power over themselves – power they had earned – and they terminated them saying it was for the best of the students when they really meant they were worried about their independence and unpredictability.
According to their contract as presidents, there are six grounds for disciplinary action, or being terminated:
- Poor Attendance at Meetings
- Theft, Fraud or Embezzlement of Funds
- Failure to Disclose a Significant or Obvious Conflict of Interest
- Breach of Confidentiality
- Misuse of Corporation Property
- Failure to Perform Their Duties as Specified in the Corporation By-Laws
That is written in Section 18.1. Section 18.2 discusses how the board has the right to call a meeting for the purposes of considering removing a director or executive officer – here’s the important part – upon committing one of the above grounds. To this day, no evidence has been found tying the three to any of these offenses.
The section also states the director or officer will be entitled to give the corporation a statement giving reasons for opposing their removal if a meeting is called for that purpose. They were not allowed to give any such statement to the corporation.
The three former presidents have further proof of other wrongdoings and contract breaches by the school, including but not limited to, lack of training, violation of the operational agreement, disregard for bylaw procedures, lack of transparency, lack of preparation for newly elected executives, and mismanagement of student funds.
The contract also gives the presidents the right to be taught the necessities, to be trained to do the job properly. No one did so.
Back on February 27th, in response to the by-law, the three presidents plus a friend protested on-campus the by-law and the actions of the last school year. Acting general manager and chairperson of DCSI Charles Wilson later said the protest was “much ado about nothing” and "insulting".
Dr. Scotty Blakey, chief administrative officer and acting vice president of student affairs at Durham, said, in response to the protest: “The students were protesting against [DCSI], an organization independent of Durham College.” However, Durham College president Don Lovisa sent out a tweet advertising the AGM where the law was snuck through.
Durham College and DCSI have attempted to disregard the interests of students by going against them in firing their elected officials and have either kept their reasons secret or have done no effort to give themselves the right to do so. Another article will be written going into further detail about their wrongdoings.
It is a mystery what is to expected of the ongoing legal battle in the 2019-2020 academic year at the Oshawa institution.
Hayles, Olara, and Bush had this to say: “We want all students to know, you are not just a number, you are a person of value and your voice matters. You are the change of today and the future of tomorrow.”