A non-student will have the tie-breaking vote at Dalhousie Student Union council this year after a controversial decision to grant honorary union membership to the chair was narrowly approved Wednesday night.
Former King’s Student Union council chair Jake Eidinger is the beneficiary of the DSU’s move to allow non-students to hold the chair position after some councillors expressed that the most qualified individual should receive the demanding job, regardless of union membership.
The motion passed despite concerns it violates the union constitution, with 10 supporters, nine against and four abstentions.
DSU council then elected to pick Eidinger, the non-student, as chair over William Coney, the choice of the union’s nominating committee following an application process open to all Dalhousie students.
Vote counts are not known as selections were cast privately.
Concerns were brought forth during the debate that permitting a non-Dalhousie student to assume the chair’s duties goes against the DSU constitution.
In Bylaw II, the constitution reads that honorary membership is allowed but these individuals cannot have voting privileges. Bylaw XIII-8, however, states the chair must vote in case of a tie, “according to his or her own judgement of the issue.”
When asked by the Gazette prior to vote counting if his appointment breaches the DSU constitution, Eidinger said an organization can interpret its own constitution how it sees fit.
Unless the DSU’s decision to grant union membership is challenged, it will continue to stand.
Previous chair and current senate representative Ali Calladine suggested Wednesday that choosing a chair should perhaps be delayed until the next council meeting after the board of operations determines the move’s legality. The suggestion, though, was rejected by other councillors who wanted to fill the position that night.
Executive members were split on the matter.
Vice-president academic and external Jacqueline Skiptunis said she was supportive of opening the position to all as it involves a skill set a current student may not have.
Danny Shanahan, vice-president student life, disagreed. He said the time for an open nomination process passed weeks ago when the job was initially made available to all Dalhousie students.
Picking Eidinger dismisses the advice of the DSU’s nominating committee, who were also overruled last month when a nominee off the floor, Mahbubur Rahman, was selected vice-president finance and operations instead of the committee’s candidate, Alexa Reedman.
In Eidinger’s speech telling council why he wants the gig, the University of King’s College student said he recently found out he would be able to afford to reside in Halifax post-graduation this month. Once this happened, he applied for the DSU chair position but the deadline passed two days earlier.
Calladine, who presented the non-student motion, told council earlier that she was approached by Eidinger on the day of Wednesday’s council meeting about the possibility of becoming DSU chair.
Earlier in that meeting, Eidinger presented an introductory lesson about council’s rules and regulations as part of an orientation session for new members.
In other council matters, Rahman said he wants to make the DSU’s budget more transparent by launching a committee and holding a consultation session to encourage public input.
Each full-time student paid $127.28 to the DSU last year. That total will increase by $10.05 in the 2014-15 academic year after six levy increases were approved in the recent DSU election.
The council meeting had to end at 9 p.m. Wednesday because the Student Union Building was closed. This meant that several matters were postponed until the next DSU council meeting, including the appointment of committee members.
Check out our Twitter play-by-play of the May 7 council meeting, featuring commentary from DSU insiders.