AUS Legislative Council debates future of recording ban

On Oct. 16, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council was close to undoing its recording ban, but ended up tabling the motion until the next meeting after some councillors raised concerns about student safety. Instituted during last semester’s debates about POLI 399, a summer exchange course in Israel, Article 10 of the Standing Rules of Council prohibits audio and/or visual recording by councillors or members of the gallery.

Legislative Council approved Article 10 during the Feb. 14 meeting, prior to discussing POLI 339. Some councillors echoed the concerns cited during that meeting, regarding their safety and that of gallery members.

Until Sept. 18, the ban included campus media, subject to a two-thirds majority vote; however, major campus media outlets now have a permanent exemption. 

“[We’re taking] that step further now, in the name of transparency and accountability [by] removing the ban altogether,” AUS President Jamal Tarrabain said.

While anyone would be able to record, Article 10 requires that recordings be ‘sonically comparable’ to what is heard by individuals at council meetings and must capture the full conversation without emphasis on certain individuals or the exclusion of others.

This amendment would be enforced by the publication of official AUS recordings, which will be released immediately following meetings.

A representative from the History Students’ Association (HSA) raised concerns over the possibility of official recordings being taken from the AUS website, selectively edited, and then republished elsewhere. Tarrabain explained that such issues are unlikely to occur.

“Honestly, I think that that’s stretching the realities of what will happen to an AUS Legislative Council recording,” Tarrabain said. “In the grand scheme of things, we’re kind of small fish. There was no issue with recording or any of that stuff prior to that one motion and that one debate. We had no issues with this whatsoever, and in previous years, there was never a recording ban in place.”

Canadian Studies Councillor Brent Jamsa explained that recordings can help the AUS be more transparent. 

“At the end of the day, we are elected officials,” Jamsa said. “We need to be held accountable. The minutes are comprehensive and amazing but audio just [helps to] really tell students what goes on here every day.” 

HSA councillor Dalton Ligett, however, warned against trivializing councillors’ safety concerns with VP Social Kim Yang agreeing, disclosing past incidents with stalking and harassment for things that she had said in council. 

“Individually, I have been attacked before for calls that I’ve made regarding investigations, especially ones regarding sexual assault,” Yang said. “Someone could say I still stand strongly by what I said in that recording on legislative council, it doesn’t make it any [worse] to be followed around by three men.”

Unable to reach a unique conclusion, the council agreed to table the motion for the next meeting so as to give themselves more time to look for precedents in other student bodies, namely the Student Society of McGill University, that would serve as a guide.

 “There could be other successful models that we could be emulating on campus,” Tarrabain said. 

Council will reconvene on Oct. 30, at 6:00 p.m.

Flashback

AUS President Jamal Tarrabain’s motion to repeal the recording ban saw two sides facing off at the latest legislative council. One side emphasized the primacy of students’ easy and open access to elected officials, with the other side primarily concerned with questions of students’ safety and how to prevent organizations with malicious intent from doctoring councillors’ remarks.

Sound Byte

“That looks like that bird potentially has feet, and the martlet is a flightless bird with no feet whatsoever, so perhaps the [History Students’ Association] wanted to make the assertion that […] that [their logo] isn’t 100 per cent a martlet but a martlet hybrid, perhaps,” — CSAUS councillor Brent Jamsa, commenting about the History Students’ Association successful motion to change their logo.

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