Shanti means peace in Sanskrit, but there were few feelings of peace in MacEwan Student Centre council chambers Fri., Oct. 13. Approximately 40 angry students involved in planning the second annual World University Service Club Shanti Day gathered to rally against a Students' Union decision.
The protest came after the SU clubs committee tentatively approved funding in July for the WUSC Shanti Day, which aims to promote the United Nations millennium development goals, as well as support the University of Calgary refugee student program by hosting fair trade vendors, information booths, entertainment and a charity raffle. Two weeks before the Tues., Oct. 24 event, the SU denied WUSC's previously agreed upon funding request.Though the funding has since been reinstated, tempers flared on both sides of the debate.
"We were expecting a fight, we thought it was going to get ugly," said WUSC Shanti Day coordinator Valerie Cassley of the Oct. 13 clubs committee meeting. "Especially at the meeting on Tuesday, we felt [the clubs committee] weren't changing their minds."
The misunderstanding began in July when WUSC first went before the clubs committee to request a charity project grant for Shanti Day.
According to the minutes of the July 31 meeting, clubs committee members were concerned the Shanti Day proposal did not have enough of a charity focus to qualify for free resources from the SU such as space, chairs, tables and sound equipment.
"They thought I should look at alternate sources of funding by charging [vendor] tables more," said Cassley, stressing that registered charities such as WUSC are not legally permitted to make a profit.
After an in camera discussion, which is private and not recorded in meeting minutes, the clubs committee approved the following motion: "Be it resolved that the 64th clubs committee agrees to approve WUSC Shanti Day with the condition that the club focus the general idea of the whole event on the Student Refugee Program."
Cassley said she left the July 31 meeting with the assumption the SU would waive the cost of space rental in the MSC north coutyard, basic audio equipment and stage and table set-up, granted she change the Shanti Day posters to place more focus on the charity raffle portion of the event.
Then, at the Oct. 6 clubs committee meeting, two weeks before the event, the committee decided Shanti Day still did not meet the necessary qualifications and voted to deny its request for a charity grant. This decision left WUSC without the space or equipment to hold the event.
Cassley was not present at the Oct. 6 meeting and said she was informed of this decision by email, late Friday night.
"It's unfortunate," noted clubs committee chair David Nixon. "At that original Oct. 6 meeting, if there was a WUSC member present we could have avoided this whole debacle. In the future, I will definitely make sure people will know they need to be there for all steps of the way."
Cassley said she jumped into action and consorted with the eight other clubs involved in Shanti Day to call an emergency clubs meeting for Wed., Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. This request was denied. She also sent emails of protest to other SU members and encouraged other club members to do the same.
Nixon said the meeting was denied because of committee members' class requirements.
"We just couldn't physically meet then," he said.
WUSC was placed on the old business portion of the Fri., Oct. 13 clubs committee meeting agenda.
Though Cassley claimed the SU said they would be first on the agenda, WUSC and the 40 or so observers in the gallery had to sit through an hour of other business items before their concerns were addressed.
"We just followed Roberts Rules of Order," said Nixon. "I didn't feel it would be fair to everyone else [on the agenda] just because a lot of people came out for one organization."
Before a decision was made, SU president Emily Wyatt--who is a non-voting member of the clubs committee--spoke up in support of WUSC, Shanti Day and all of the club members in the gallery.
"I always think it's wonderful when students come out to support something they're passionate about," said Wyatt. "After reviewing your new poster, I definitely encourage the clubs committee to vote in support of the charity funding. I ask that this get approved and we let it go forth."
The SU clubs committee then voted to approve the WUSC charity grant request, on the condition they change the event poster slightly. This decision was met with applause from the gallery.
Cassley said she is relieved with the decision, but she only changed three words on the poster to receive funding, which indicates there are still unresolved issues the SU needs to address.
"Even if I don't agree with it, there needs to be some clear policy in place," said Cassley, noting the current policy is vague about what constitutes a charity project and what steps need to be taken to secure funding.
Nixon said he will conduct a review of what went wrong, and hopes to have clear policy developed by next semester.
"I'd be really happy if I could get [the new policy] done for this semester," he said.
Shanti Day takes place in the MSC north courtyard Tues., Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., much to the relief of all involved.