Following a vote of non-confidence in her ability to carry out her duties, MASU Vice-President External Tina Oh was removed from her position as vice-chair of the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) last week.
The NBSA is a student advocacy organization representing over 12,000 students from four universities – including Mount Allison – in the province.
The vote of non-confidence occurred while Oh was in Marrakesh, Morocco, acting as a Canadian youth delegate at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP22.
Oh motioned for the discussion and vote not to occur in camera, as she felt it was valuable for the Mount Allison community, as well as other interested parties, to know what had happened.
“I felt that if I was okay with having that discussion on public record, [then] the board would not have a problem with it being public too. Unfortunately that was not the case,” Oh wrote in a Facebook message to the Argosy. Her motion did not carry.
The term “in camera” refers to a discussion in which the public and press are not allowed to take part. Because the session was held in camera, information regarding the reason or reasons for Oh’s removal has not been disclosed to the public.
“After the in-camera session, I did the best I could to have as much substance [as possible] appear in the minutes about that discussion,” she wrote.
At a MASU council meeting, Oh said that once the vote on whether or not to move in camera when discussing her removal had taken place, she asked the NBSA board if they would be willing to use the word “impeachment,” as it implied her unwillingness to resign more strongly than the word “removed.” Her request was denied.
At the moment of the vote on whether or not to move in camera when discussing Oh’s removal, Oh – who was not physically present, as she was in Morocco – said she lost internet connection. Oh said the board did not wait for her to regain internet connection and that Ryan LeBreton, MASU president and delegate on NBSA board, voted in her place.
Oh is the primary MASU delegate, and as such is usually responsible for voting on behalf of the MASU during NBSA board meetings.
The Argosy has acquired the minutes of the NBSA board meeting, which are pending approval. The minutes indicate that the MASU voted in favour of the motion to move in camera while discussing Oh’s removal. The minutes also indicate that prior to the vote, Oh dissented to moving the discussion on her removal in camera.
When LeBreton was asked to comment, he wrote in a Facebook message, “[t]he minutes are still pending approval. I will also stress that I am the secondary delegate. Voting responsibilities fall to the primary delegate.”
MASU Board of Regents Representative Willa McCaffrey-Noviss said she does not think it is fair that the conversation happened in camera.
“We had two executives go into an in-camera session and deliberate about whether one of them would be removed from a leadership position and I want to know whether that was a united front. I want to know if [Lebreton] was on [Oh’s] side,” she said.
“If one of our executive [members] is getting in trouble because they’re not doing their job, I want to know that as a councillor. On the other hand, if that executive [member] is just getting in trouble because she’s being a strong advocate, I would also think that that’s necessary information,” McCaffrey-Noviss said. Oh has been vocal about her climate justice activism.
In response to a question about the fairness of the vote and the discussion about whether or not to remove Oh in camera, NBSA Executive Director Robert Burroughs wrote in an email that “[t]he board, like most boards, holds HR-related and internal board governance discussions in camera.”
LeBreton wrote that “[t]he decision of the NBSA board to go in camera when discussing the performance of the executive follows governing policies.”
Burroughs added that “[a]ll officers of the board and the executive director serve at the pleasure of the board. They typically hold these positions concurrently with their directorships, though that tenure is, as suggested, at the discretion of the board.”
MASU Councillor Maureen Adegbidi thought it was strange that the discussion occurred in camera, since Oh had asked for it to be held out of camera.
“I feel like she knew coming back that there would be questions, and it being in camera doesn’t allow her to be transparent at the MASU level, even though she wanted to be,” Adegbidi wrote in a Facebook message to the Argosy. “I do think it also serves as an opportunity for all of us to learn more about the NBSA and how our union fits into that, advocacy-wise.”
MASU Councillor Osama Al Nammary said that he would like to understand why the decision to remove Oh was made.
“As a councillor and as a student, I want to know exactly why the decision was made and what led to it,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why I don’t agree with it being in camera, because we have the right to know.”
“But if that’s policy of how they conduct certain aspects, such as a removal, then I respect that,” Al Nammary said.
Burroughs said that a new vice-chair will be elected at the next board meeting in December. He added that Oh will remain the MASU’s primary delegate to the NBSA.