Story by Madison Ranta,

File photo.

The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) passed several amendments to their electoral policies, and discussed a number of motions at their Dec. 5 meeting, including support for the school’s neuroscience department.

Following several hours of debate and discussion, councillors adopted a number of changes to CUSA’s electoral policies and bylaws. After hiring a legal policy analyst to review the existing bylaws and policies during July and August, suggested changes were brought forward for approval.

Among the many changes passed, council voted to strike a policy that barred the chief electoral officer, deputy electoral officer, and members of the electoral board from voting in CUSA elections.

Councillors also struck down a previously existing policy that limited candidates in by-elections to campaigning solely online, allowing for future candidates to make use of posters and handbills. The pronouns used in the bylaws were also changed from “he” and “her,” to “they” and “their.”

At the beginning of the meeting, Ashley Courchene, vice-president (student services), tabled a motion “to support the staff, faculty and students of the neuroscience department,” calling it “a matter of urgency.”

“I think it’s important to come out and publicly state these sorts of things,” Courchene said. “In the past many students have felt that CUSA has not had their back, and this is a chance for us to say that ‘we support you.’ ”

Carleton’s neuroscience department is required to temporarily relocate to space at the University of Ottawa in March 2017, while their current home in the Life Sciences Research building is renovated to become the Institute for Advanced Research and Innovation in Smart Environments (ARISE).

According to CUSA president Fahd Alhattab, the renovations must be completed by April 2018 in order for the university to take advantage of a $14 million grant from the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund.

Alhattab said that Alexandra Noguera, vice-president (student issues), “is currently meeting with the neuroscience department to discuss with them the things that they’d like CUSA to do.”

According to science councillor Austin de Ste Croix, “part of the reason why [the neuroscience department move] is such a big deal, is that a lot of the research projects that have the most funding have a time period that finishes after the move.”

“If this was a chemistry lab or physics lab, it wouldn’t be a big deal, because those labs are easy to relocate. But all of these experiments have living animals,” de Ste Croix said. “Even the colour of gloves that you use when you handle the animals every day can’t change, because anything that changes in their environment can totally mess up the results of your research.”

Alhattab said he took issue with some of the claims made in Courchene’s motion, including statements that the neuroscience department was not given adequate explanation for the planned relocation, that the department was being moved to “an undisclosed location,” and that students would be unable to complete their research projects due to the move.

“The language used here is factually wrong, and I would feel completely uncomfortable to put it in a motion and actually send it out,” Alhattab said. “According to the dean . . . the majority of them should be able to complete their [research] projects.”

In the end, council voted to “theoretically accept this [motion] in spirit, and allow the executives to create a press release in consultation with Courchene and with the students that [Noguera] is meeting,” in order to correct some of the original motion’s statements.

“I think we all agree with it, we just don’t like the language it currently uses and the assumptions it holds,” Alhattab said.

Courchene also took time to address the “extremely rude” comments made by some members of the Carleton community regarding the proposed women’s-only gym hour, and said a video would be made following the Christmas break to “address the backlash” and “highlight the absurdity of some people’s arguments.”