EDITOR’S NOTE: Why this matters

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By Chandler Walter

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The Voice editor and reporter, Chandler Walter

This is a special, investigative issue published by The Voice in reaction to allegations made about — and decisions made by — the Langara Students’ Union.

We have received statements alleging that financial mishandling and improper behaviour has been occurring within the LSU.

Furthermore, Desmond Rodenbour, who was the General Manager of the LSU, was fired last week during a closed meeting, along with the union’s legal counsel.

The Voice reported the firings in yesterday’s issue, and then launched into an investigation of the allegations.

For years, students have complained about the Langara Students’ Union’s lack of transparency and accountability towards its members.

In past The Voice publications, there have been attempts to delve into issues at the LSU, though our reporters have been consistently turned away.

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The exterior of the Langara Students’ Union building. Photo: Brian Kurokawa

Reporters have been told they are not allowed to shoot photos or video in the Students’ Union Building, and that the only communication available was through an often unresponsive media contact inquiry page on the LSU’s website.

Rodenbour was a window into the LSU for The Voice.

During an interview with one of our reporters, and again after his dismissal, Rodenbour said he hoped to steer the LSU in the direction of other students’ unions, as Langara has been lagging behind. In recent weeks, he spoke about the LSU’s democracy project, the LSU by-elections and other on-campus issues.

Rodenbour began his job in August with what he said was a mandate to change the union’s direction and he told instructors in the journalism program that he intended to improve the LSU’s transparency for Langara students through a stronger relationship with The Voice.

The LSU has planned a special general meeting on Dec. 7 — in the middle of this exam period — in which they plan to amend bylaws allowing for a change in the election cycle: cementing current LSU directors’ terms until December 2017, and making it impossible for students in one-year programs to run for office.

Our reporters handed a records request to the LSU around 10 a.m. on Dec. 1, asking for the names and contact information of the elected representatives.

It is our belief that bylaws in the newly-enacted Societies Act state that the information should have been provided immediately.

We also asked for their financial statements — such as travel expenses and entertainment expenses — which should be provided within a 14-day period.

A Voice reporter has visited the LSU at least six times since, and as of this paper’s print deadline, we have yet to receive any of the requested information.

It is an old story that corruption has occurred in student unions in B.C. — with some of the reasons being complications in the old Society Act — and some unions have been exposed for their lack of transparency and misallocations of funds, including the Kwantlen Student Association in 2011.

We are not talking about a few dollars here. Close to $1 million in students’ dollars are in the control of the LSU, and those who attend Langara should be aware of the weight that money carries, and become informed about how it is handled.

Get involved. Hold your union accountable.

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