They suspect that the 16 provincial government appointees -- many from firms like Brascan Financial Corporation, Rogers Cable and the former Arthur Andersen Consulting -- simply don't like the scrutiny.
"The reason we need videotape is because the transcripts are not verbatim,' complains student governor Elan Ohayon.
"We're looking at other institutions -- school boards, city council," says student Chris Ramsaroop, another student governor. "In all of these other forums people can videotape. Why does GC have to be any different?"
According to minutes, the objection to videotaping was first raised at an exec meeting last March following a Governing Council meeting that students attended to protest a new student code of conduct. Demonstrators felt the code was unfair because it marked the academic records of students who had committed non-academic offences. The ruckus ultimately disrupted the meeting, which was forced to reconvene at a different location.
At the March 25 meeting, members called for measures to deal with such interruptions, and it was in this discussion that videotaping came up.
David Melville, a student governor and a member of the exec at the time, believes the decision "was all part of this paranoia that they have (of student activism), that these are somehow terrorists-in-the-making.'
But GC chair Thomas Simpson says the video ban isn't about limiting access as all Council meetings are open to the public. "The purpose of the minutes is to record the results of our work, not to record all the to-ing and fro-ing that happens before we reach the results. These minutes are pretty comprehensive compared to most minutes you can imagine -- certainly in any corporate setting.'
Videotaping, he says, will sometimes be allowed when there is an overflow crowd, but only by an approved technician who will turn the camera toward the chair during voting. A U of T bylaw implies there should be no record of how individuals vote.
But a look at earlier videos, some of which are stored at the Graduate Students' Union office and that of the Association of Part-time Undergraduates, reveals the problem. For example, at the meeting of October 31, president Robert Birgeneau blundered into his controversial remark that "white students too often choose to go to other universities because we are so diverse."
He later withdrew the remark, and it didn't appear anywhere in the minutes.
Ohayon notes that the chair's reference to corporate minute-taking is highly inappropriate in a public institution. "The current GC chair used to work at a bank (Scotia McLeod). The vice-chair is at a bank (Bank of Montreal). The last chair was involved with the Fraser Institute,' he says, pointing to the prevalence of business values on the board.
Emily Sadowski, prez of the Association of Part-time Undergraduates, says the council "is afraid we're holding them accountable. And that they're not doing their job as governors and administrators of this university."