At the Student Representative Assembly meeting on Oct. 29, ward 1 Hamilton city councillor Aidan Johnson addressed the SRA and Board of Directors for the first time since 2014.
After Johnson delivered some ward updates, he was met with contentious questions from the assembly.
Alex Wilson, caucus member (science) and Ainslie Wood resident, noted that students make up the largest demographic of ward 1, and asked Johnson if he agreed that “students deserve effective representation”. He also questioned Johnson about his characterization of ward 1’s off-campus student community as a “hygiene problem.”
Johnson responded that his use of “hygiene” was literal, not metaphorical, meaning that the community has a garbage, not student, problem.
Dodging the answer to Wilson’s first question, Johnson replied, “I’m sorry that you feel that way.”
Chukky Ibe, MSU president, expressed frustration over the fact that Johnson had not spoken in front of the SRA in three years. He also noted Johnson’s failure to sufficiently answer Wilson’s second question and alleged that Johnson characterized students as “low intelligence.”
Most of the following questions dealt with the recently passed motion to increase the number of bylaw officers in Westdale and Ainslie Wood. The program began in 2016, after Johnson stated that the McMaster area needed more help to aid the hygiene problem. The program does not address other problems within the community, such as absentee landlords for student housing.
This particular motion was met with a backlash from students, particularly Ryan Deshpande, vice president (Education) and Stephanie Bertolo, associate vice president (Municipal Affairs), who voiced the concern that “the proposal unfairly targets students who are still learning bylaws.”
Chukky Ibe, McMaster Students Union president, expressed frustration over the fact that Johnson had not spoken in front of the SRA in three years. He also noted Johnson’s failure to sufficiently answer Wilson’s second question and alleged that Johnson characterized students as “low intelligence.” Ibe asked Johnson if he “regards himself as an honest man.”
“I have never been so impressed with an MSU President,” Wilson tweeted. “Chukky Ibe’s questioning of Aidan Johnson and defense of McMaster students was phenomenal.”
Johnson reiterated that he would never reduce humans to garbage. He also stated that he would never work for a “stupid” population in the first place.
In addition, SRA members addressed the proposed change in ward boundaries, asking Johnson whether or not Ainslie Wood actually belongs in Dundas. Johnson stated that he favours the status quo.
After the discussion shifted back to the bylaw officer motion, Johnson stated that he “urges student tenants to learn bylaws.”
Bertolo noted that Johnson, in stating that students should learn bylaws, implies that bylaws are intuitive and free of legal jargon, putting the burden on them.
Johnson said students should seek out a lawyer first. “The notion that students can just ‘hire a lawyer’ is fallacious. We are in unsafe student housing because that’s what we can afford,” Wilson tweeted in response.
The next SRA meeting will be held on Nov. 12 in Gilmour Hall.