By: Britnei Bilhete, Tyler Bloomfield, Erian Amor De Los Reyes, Tyler Hehn, Ken Kellar, Allyyssa Sousa-Kirpaul
Students seeking answers about IGNITE’s $400,000 rebranding project got some clarification at an information session on Wednesday, but tempers flared at the meeting and some questions still remain unanswered.
The student run organization that represents students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber changed its name from Humber Students Federation (HSF) to IGNITE in July 2016.
The rebrand was initiated because it was felt that the HSF name didn’t adequately represent students at the University of Guelph-Humber.
Many students are upset about the cost and transparency surrounding the rebrand and IGNITE held a meeting in an attempt to address the concerns.
Executives sat with their backs to a giant IGNITE sign, almost as opulent as the TORONTO sign at City Hall, and were peppered with questions by about 40 concerned students.
Ercole Perrone, Executive Director; Natalie Bobyk, Communications Director; Ammar Abdul-Raheem, VP Student Life at North; Maja Jocson, VP Student Affairs at Guelph-Humber; Ahmed Tahir, President were the IGNITE members who fielded the questions.
Tahir’s opening remarks echoed the first two questions on the FAQ page of the IGNITE website: What’s IGNITE? and Why the rebrand?
“We wanted to talk about why the rebrand is necessary and what we are doing here. The biggest piece that we are trying to solve is awareness. Awareness that IGNITE even existed on campus.”
Abdul-Raheem followed up by expanding briefly on Tahir’s thoughts.
“In one way or another, you are here for your success, personal success. We all define that differently, the college defines that differently than we do, but what we wanted to know is to make students aware of that.”
The general understanding after the opening remarks was that the rebrand was designed to create awareness about services the student association provides such as clubs, events, bursaries and insurance.
The name IGNITE was selected after a survey of Humber and Guelph-Humber students. IGNITE was the top choice by a wide margin, according to IGNITE executives.
Initially questions were about mundane issues such as parking, study spaces and textbook prices and were addressed adequately, although off-topic.
When the session turned to the cost of the rebrand, the fireworks began to fly.
Luke Allinson, a student who was visibly upset, had several questions for the IGNITE team.
“When you have a campus of 27,000 people and only several hundred students were surveyed, and then you sign off and plan a $400,000 budget…” (question cut off)
Although the IGNITE website states that several hundred students were polled, Tahir and Adbul-Raheem said they spoke with over 5,000 students.
Tahir said “That’s really what we focused on, conversations, qualitative research, talking to people intimately and getting their feedback on their beliefs behind their perception of our brand.” He elaborated by saying, “It’s a really elongated process, so we did, continually, different types of feedback throughout the process to make sure it resonated with students.”
Only $167,000 spent so far
On the issue of cost, Executive Director Perrone clarified that although the budget was $400,000, IGNITE has spent much less than that so far.
“We’re probably in the $167 (thousand) range, as of today,” Perrone said.
When questioned about transparency surrounding the budget, Tahir responded: “We will be posting all of our expenses, categorized at a special meeting of the members. What we don’t want to do is keep on putting up our information, misinformation, and confusing people by not having a full size look at what has happened with our rebrand. That will be going out Oct. 19.”
Perrone elaborated that a “categorized budget” would be released instead of an itemized budget, because IGNITE has to protect its vendors.
“Public sector organizations, called the MUSH sector, Municipalities, Universities, Colleges, Hospitals, they fall under an umbrella called public sector organizations,” said Perrone. “They are required by law to provide information to citizens who ask for that information.”
“IGNITE is not under that legislation,” Perrone added. “We are not considered a public sector organization. We are a non-profit organization. We do not receive taxpayer money, we do not receive government funding, and we are not a government agency.”
Mikki Decker weighs in
Mikki Decker, former VP of Student Affairs who was disqualified in the 2016 HSF election, challenged the IGNITE members repeatedly, often raising her voice in anger. She questioned the overall $400,000 expenditure, IGNITE’s communication style and the lack of accessibility of IGNITE’s new website.
You can watch one example of Decker’s many questions to the IGNITE board here.
IGNITE employee seizes reporter’s phone
About halfway through the question period, Decker walked across the student centre to approach a group of students and was followed by Humber News reporter Tyler Bloomfield, who wanted an interview.
As he started to film Decker, an IGNITE staff member, who identifies on Facebook as Ayan Davis, grabbed the phone out of his hand. Bloomfield retrieved his phone from Davis and proceeded to question her actions with the camera rolling.
“Excuse me, what was the deal with that … Why did you take my phone?” asked Bloomfield.
Davis responded with a slap to the phone and said “Why do you have a camera in my face?”
Davis was quickly ushered away by a full-time IGNITE staff member.
You can watch the entire interaction in the video below.
(The video appears in its entirety, the only that changes were made to the original footage was to include subtitles.)
After the event Humber News reporters Bloomfield and Erian Amor De Los Reyes were approached by security and told that a complaint had been filed against them. Humber Public Safety Supervisor Ken Domingo would not disclose who filed the complaint.
Security asked Bloomfield and De Los Reyes to delete the video – ironically, the reporters were standing beside a sign disclosing that the event was being held in an authorized media zone.
There will be an IGNITE Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 12 in North campus room D109.
The rebranding will be the main topic of conversation at a Special Meeting of the Members on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in the IGNITE Student Centre.
With files from Christian Aguirre.