April 1st, 2009. Dalhousie Student Union Building, Halifax
6:32 pm - People are filing into the room. Approximately 40 pizzas have arrived, and they are being eaten as quickly as they are brought in. Attendance is at least 100 students, media, Sodexho staff, security, and others. The auditorium is three quarters full.
6:45 pm - Some students have faces painted from the carnival and concert, held earlier in the day in front of the Killam library, featuring bands, stilt walkers, clowns, and more. The line-up, according to Shannon Zimmerman (incoming DSU president), extends out to first floor lobby and out the front door.
6:57 pm - Mat Brechtel, chair of the meeting, has begun his preamble. "There was a tool called the challenge to the chair that was abused at the last meeting (March 11th).... It is not intended to procedurally do what you democratically cannot do. I encourage you all to achieve your democratic ends, through the use of a vote."
7:03: From the back of the room in the press booth, it looks like all the chairs are full.
7:28 pm - DSU Vice President Education Mark Coffin is presenting his portfolio, consisting mostly of lobbying nationally and provincially through CASA and ANSSA. Tony Seed, editor of Shunpiking Magazine and former candidate of the Marxist-Leninist Party, sitting beside me, says the lobbying model is selling out students' interests.
7:51 pm: DSU Vice President Student life Kris Osmond is interrupted during his presentation on white rock bands coming to Dal, by a black man from the floor, who says, "How do we reduce racism and discrimination on campus? Why is it that we didn't have anything to address inclusiveness on campus during the whole year?" Osmond responds with, "We have over 250 societies on campus.... Our doors were always open." The question, more or less unanswered, hangs in the air.
8:02: The NSPIRG motion is now on the floor: NSIRG shall have 90 days notice to vacate the Student Union Building. The DSU shall terminate the payroll of NSPIRG as of May 1st. NSPIRG's levy shall go to a referendum.
8:24 pm - Sebastian Labelle, from Students Mobilize for Action on Campus (SMAC), says "Stop NSPIRG claims that NSPIRG funds SMAC. The floor says that there is no funding of SMAC by NSPIRG. Everything is volunteer run. Furthermore, 'Stop NSPIRG' posts slander on their website, saying that NSPIRG is anti-semitic because it criticizes Israel. 'Stop NSPIRG' claims that NSPIRG spends too much money on executive salaries, when in fact NSPIRG staff are paid 'poverty-line' salaries, which is a bargain."
8:35 pm - Jean Steinberg, NSPIRG board member, reads an amendment to the motion, "All the whereas clauses need to be struck, because they are inflammatory. New wording: Be It Resolved That NSPIRG and the DSU will move forward in a productive way on how to find a resolution to the conflict."
Daniel Boyle, DSU VP Internal, seconds the motion: "The clause to remove NSPIRG from the building will have a crippling effect. Also, taking NSPIRG off the payroll would be highly unfortunate. The real issues have been lost in ideological discussions."
Mat Brechtel, chair: "The existence of NSPIRG via a levy is the most important part of the motion, therefore this amendment is permissible."
8:47: Colin Conrad, a member of Stop NSPIRG, says, "We want three things: a better advertised opt-out period; to address that NSPIRG's working groups have disrupted Dalhousie events; and that NSPIRG spends lots of money on non-Dalhousie students."
8:54 pm - Jane Kirby, from Student Coalition Against War, calls the question. Voting is done by holding paper ballots in the air. The student body votes on the amendment: the motion passes to thunderous applause. 500 votes for, and 40 against.
9:03 pm - A speaker to the floor targets Asaf Rashid, NSPIRG staff member. Brechtel gets heated as NSPIRG board members and supporters rise on points of personal privilege, claiming personal offense to the comments.
9:17 pm - A question from the floor asks if the NSPIRG board will be included in collaborating to draft the referendum question. Mat Brechtel rules in favour of the collaboration. The DSU council, however, has the authority to take NSPIRG to referendum without NSPIRG's approval, although Brechtel 'advises' against that.
9:30 pm - and the voting fiasco begins. We will be here for an hour at least for the paper ballot vote to happen.
10:40 pm - On the suggestion of the chair, the meeting is moved to be extended until all the votes are received, counted, and the results are released. We will be here at least another two hours.
11:38 pm - Mat Brechtel returns to the microphone: total 458, 214 for, 238 against. The motion fails. NSPIRG will not go to a referendum next year, at least for now. People file out of the MacInnes room, exhausted and victorious.