Canada FOI Resource Website

By Stanley Tromp, Vancouver
Freedom of information policy, study, law reform, journalism

A non-governmental resource site


Student Society Transparency Reforms Needed

The Langara Students’ Union (LSU),

Historical Background

By Stanley L. Tromp, Langara College journalism graduate, 1993

Comments and corrections may be sent to stanleytromp@gmail.com 

See – FILE 1

And – FILE 2

“I’m very concerned about the information you presented about what’s happening at Langara, as an advocate for open government and transparency at all levels.” 

“Student unions [….] control a significant amount of money and don’t have the greatest track record.”

  • B.C. Premier David Eby, then NDP opposition critic for advanced education, quoted in the Langara Voice, Dec. 2, 2016

________________________

 

This record chronicles the controversial history of the student society of Langara College, Vancouver, B.C., the site of longstanding dark and bitter conflicts with the student media and student electoral reformers.

Combined with governmental officials’ apathy and deafness to student pleas on the LSU, a weak and virtually unenforceable B.C. Societies Act, and student societies’ exclusion from the B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, it means that Langara College is indeed “the school of hard knocks” – one where students seeking accountability for their money are lost in a legislative Twilight Zone.

As what is out of sight is out of mind, one of the student unions’ sources of power at community colleges is the two-year turnover rate of graduates, with the institutional memory slate wiped clean, and the old games renewed again with near-impunity.

The purpose of the chronology below is to reverse that woeful custom. The time is overdue to see the big picture and take the long view, and so, for the first time, most of these cases have been gathered into one file, here.

What may have seemed at the time to be one-time aberrations are now shown to be persistent patterns of misconduct over the past 55 years. For instance, we can see how the College temporarily stopped collecting fees for the union (in 1987, 1989, and 1992), elections were voided due to “irregularities” (in 1995, 3005, and 2015), and it was nearly de-registered for non-compliance with the Societies Act (in 1983 and 2000).

This LSU story begins in 1969, decades before most B.C. college students were born. For example, in 1976, LSU ombudsman Bob Ross investigated the LSS’s bank accounts after its bookkeeper was fired, and by 1978 discovered that a trust fund of $75,000 (i.e., $327,000 in 2024 funds) for a new student building was missing from LSU records.

It seems reasonable to wonder if the activities noted below – revealed only via strenuous efforts (by intrepid Voice and Gleaner reporters, LSU whistleblowers, police probes, and external audits) – are only the tip of the iceberg.

The stories below are summarized and paraphrased; an asterisk (*) marks items of special relevance for today; and there are links to the full texts of especially noteworthy articles.

I would further say to the hundreds of my past, present and future Langara journalism student colleagues (such as those who have endured beatings from LSU staffers in the 1990s) that you can be very proud to uphold a lengthy tradition of public interest reporting over the decades.

The hard work of your forerunners cited below can serve as an inspiration, as you forever press the student union to account for students’ involuntarily-extracted funds, against such onerous roadblocks (and it may serve as a kind of boot camp for the harsh world beyond). It would be an admirable service indeed to complete their great unfinished task begun in the 1970s.

Many issues raised in The Voice stories of the long ago are, regrettably, so timeless they could have been written this morning; and with the LSU’s current rising level of secrecy, how can we know if similar problems are not reoccurring today?

In sum, if the news articles below do not convince Victoria lawmakers of the urgent need for a complete legislative reform to student societies, then I fear that nothing else ever can. If not this, then what?

 

 “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  • George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905.

 

===========================