Tierney Watkinson | News Director
*Please note—the writer of this article knows a number of the individuals involved, personally and professionally, and as such may present biases unintentionally.
“To make a motion of censure is honestly a fairly concerning step. Motions of censure are very serious, and the board, as I step out of the room, needs to reflect very carefully if that’s how we want to start this year.”
That was part of the defense given by Director of Internal Affairs, Seth Jex, at the August 24 NUGSS Board Meeting, just before leaving the room to allow the other attending board members to decide whether or not to censure him for his actions over the summer.
The board spent close to half an hour discussing and voting on their decision. All members excluding Directors Campbell and Snider, who were not in attendance at the time of Director Jex’s defense, participated in the vote.
Ultimately, the attending NUGSS board members came to the conclusion to censure Director Jex.
The conflict, such as it is, began in April when Director Jex brought forward a motion to create a Band Room. There, it was revealed that Jex had spoken about the initiative with certain clubs and their members before presenting the idea to the NUGSS Board of Directors; President Erik Searle, at the time, vocally expressed his discomfort at this. Then, in early May, it came to the attention of President Searle that Director Jex had submitted a work request (which, Jex later contended at the meeting, was simply a request for a quote and not an actual work order) concerning key card locks for the earlier proposed Band Room without notifying the board officially. President Searle, in a private meeting with Director Jex, expressed his concern that an official request form had been sent without the board’s approval and that it indeed could be seen as an action going against the board; the board had voted back in April to hold off on the official decision about creating a Band Room before consulting the greater student body. A motion by Jex for the installation of a key card lock on the Clubs Room door, however, was later successfully passed by the board in July.
In mid-August, General Manager Duncan Malkinson notified the board that although the work order for the lock had been submitted on time, University Facilities were not certain that they could have the Clubs Room key card lock installation completed by the beginning of the fall semester. An email was drafted by Malkinson to send to Facilities, as a request that the job be completed in time for returning students. According to President Searle, Director Jex decided to send a separate email to Facilities, despite Searle’s insistence that he refrain from doing so. President Searle was concerned that an additional email placing pressure on Facilities, who were agreeing to perform this job for free, might strain or otherwise affect the board’s relationship with them. Searle believed that the decision to send such an email directly from a NUGSS Director should be made by the board as a whole. Searle expressed these concerns to Director Jex, but Jex dismissed them, believing it was the board’s job to use their position to speed production.
Finally, on August 22, Director Jex uploaded the new, updated version of the Student Led Organization (SLO) Application Package to the SLO Facebook page. However, he did so without final approval from the board. President Searle deleted the link and sent a private message to Director Jex, reminding him that Directors cannot act on their own without board approval. Jex responded by re-posting the link and removing Searle as an administrator of that Facebook page. The actions surrounding the SLO Application Package seem to be the main focus of the censure. The President stated at the meeting, “These actions show a consistent disrespect for the opinions of other directors, and disregard for the board’s decision making, which culminated in a massive overstep of power in revoking a fellow Director’s admin privileges on a NUGSS-affiliated Facebook group.”
Director Jex responded that he remains “extremely confident” that the actions he took were “well within my right.” The idea for the band room, Jex insisted, was a collective idea that was originated not by himself but by other clubs, and was drafted by himself, other board members, and various clubs’ members. As for the SLO Package, Jex claimed that he did nothing wrong, maintaining that last year’s SLO Package was not approved by the board either; thus, despite not following protocol, Director Jex believes that precedent is on his side. The board meeting at which the package was meant to be officially approved had been cancelled due to lack of attendance, and Jex did not want that to further delay clubs from having access to the package. Director Jex does not see his actions as an overstep nor as an encroachment upon the position of other board members but rather as taking the initiative. In fact, he believes, the only overstep on behalf of any board member occurred when President Searle deleted Director Jex’s initial upload of the clubs package post without prior warning.
Part of Director Jex’s defense included a warning to other board members that to censure him would be “a catastrophe for the board, in terms of political relations.” He also explained that a censure was “extremely concerning, as we haven’t even started day one.”
“I’d be warning, to the other board members of the room, how this will look, and how this will talk, and where this will go,” Director Jex concluded.
Although Director Jex stated that he would be unable to see a censure as anything but “a direct infringement on my policy and on my bylaw-given responsibilities,” the board thoroughly examined the events of the summer and chose to censure Director Jex. Director Jex had, according to the rest of the board, acted inappropriately by bypassing certain steps deemed important by NUGSS.
The censure, an expression of formal disapproval, is a long step away from suspension or impeachment.
The official statements from both the NUGSS Board and Director Seth Jex are as follows:
Northern Undergraduate Student Society Board
“We the NUGSS Board of directors herby censure Director Jex for his actions regarding the club package. His removal of all other administrators from the NUGSS S.L.O. Facebook Group, the posting of the club package before it could be voted on by the Board and his failure to follow proper measures for time sensitive, online votes are things we consider inappropriate. We as the board recognize the Director’s frustration with the speed of the procedures for Board decisions, but we believe his methods in this circumstance to be inappropriate.”
Seth Jex, Director of Internal Affairs
While it is clear that I did not violate policy, broke no bylaws and that my actions were in accordance with precedent from previous years, the NUGSS board still decided to censure me for my action in releasing the SLO package. The censure focused around my release of the SLO package to the student body before the board had “approved” it. While this document does not need board approval, nor had it been approved in years past I still gave my fellow board members weeks in advance to send me edits and comments. After three meetings discussing the SLO package and its edits, I felt confident to present it in final form at the August 17th meeting of the board. However this meeting was canceled due to lack of quorum from other members who could not attend. Due to the readily approaching school semester I felt that it was important to send out the SLO package to students instead of waiting another week. My role as outlined in policy is to create and process all SLO applications, allowing me to provide a competent and thorough recommendation on their approval to the board. The decision to release the SLO package is well within my ability as Director of Internal Affairs and does not violate any policy or precedent. This censure changes nothing in terms of my role or abilities as Director of Internal Affairs which only emphasizes its ineffectiveness. For meaningful change edits to policy must be made, as ultimately it’s the policy that guides my actions.
I do not want this distraction to pull attention away from the real issues that the society is facing. So far, this year we have made some immense positive change for the society in regards to SLO policy, our budget and liability management and even work on board reform for our upcoming AGM. These are the achievements that make me eager to come to work and excited to work with my fellow board members. I encourage everyone to remember the important parts of our mandates as student government and focus on those.
I was elected into this position and owe my job, to my constituents, the students of UNBC, who entrusted me to work for them. I will continue to work within my role as outlined in policy and bylaws to the best of my abilities to serve the students of UNBC. This year is going to be critical for our society’s future and I am committed to working together to see our collective goals accomplished.”