Thomson’s resignation, submitted to Chairperson Eilish Elliott on Nov. 17, read: “I cannot bring myself to agree with the way it is currently run and I am uncomfortable being associated with it any longer. In my opinion, the way in which people are treated during council is not conducive to productivity and is not the way in which people should be treated in any setting, particularly a professional one.”
Set against a backdrop of intense debate about a proposed restructuring of the executive, it is no surprise emotions were running high.
Thomson outlined her concerns in a Nov. 21 interview, saying: “Those that have the courage to speak up are being silenced, and I really feel like it’s bullying. People are in that room and want to speak up, but when they do their voices and opinions are being shot right back down.”
Thomson suggested that the way in which councillors addressed each other was inappropriate: “There were times when councillors were called out specifically, and it became really personal.” She declined to identify the individuals she feels were responsible.
“I think her words should not go in vain and we should look introspectively and ask ourselves how are we doing business in a way that someone is so uncomfortable that they decided to step out of their role,” said Councillor Nikki Bhatia, in the wake of Thomson’s resignation.
Following her resignation, several students who attended the meeting to voice their opinions on an executive restructuring document said they felt unwelcome. As a guest, Alex Smithers said she felt “really uncomfortable and a little disappointed” with the atmosphere in the room and the reception of her comments.
“I lost a lot of respect for a couple of people in the room for the way they handled questions and the way they handled people,” said Entertainment Director Jordan Skaarup.
When Shinerama Chair and former councillor Caleb Stark expressed some discomfort in council about the restructuring document’s approval process, Vice-President, External Affairs Ian Smith replied in a way that Stark later characterized as “a perfect example” of the sort of comments that made him uncomfortable. Stark said, “I feel like this is more than a two-week deal, and I don’t know if this is something council should be able to vote for as a whole, because there are so many different aspects of it.”
Smith replied, addressing the chair and, over the laughter of several councillors, said, “Ms. Chair, I apologize for my next comment. You’re right, I totally agree with Mr. Caleb. It is more than a two-week process, you’re absolutely right. That’s why I’m glad it hasn’t been a two-week process.”
Stark also said that during the debate some members were rolling their eyes, slamming their hands, and holding whispered conversations, which contributed to the uncomfortable atmosphere.
Smith told The Argosy that “[c]ouncil isn’t supposed to be the most positive and happy place where everyone gets along, because sometimes that can get in the way of constructive discourse.”
“The only thing I would say needs to change is [for] everyone who attends council to realize that nothing said is meant to be or should be taken personally.”