Langara Students’ Union accused of misconduct

Former LSU board member Harsimran Malhi speaks with Voice reporters Chahira Merarsi and Jake Wray. Photo by Roberto Teixeira

Dec. 2, 2016

By Chahira Merarsi and Jake Wray

Bullying council members into silence, staff resisting changes by elected members, and booze on the students’ dime are just a few of the accusations being levelled against the Langara Students’ Union by sources who talked exclusively to The Voice.

The allegations come on the heels of the abrupt firing of the LSU’s general manager Desmond Rodenbour, who claims he was hired to implement reform. At the same meeting, the LSU also fired its legal counsel, which had recommended Rodenbour, and an elected board member.

Harsimran Malhi, who was elected in this year’s spring election, said she was fired last week after spending months trying to enact reform in the student union.

Staff allegedly threatened board members

Malhi said the LSU staff threatened to take legal action if she kept trying to improve transparency and modernize the union.

“We were threatened a few times,” she said. “It was like we were told ‘you’ll face grievances because this is not something that is our job.’”

Officially, she was fired for missing two board meetings. She said she had alerted the GM that she would miss the meetings for personal issues that had come up.

Malhi said she felt like some staff were unsupportive.

“We saw threats were given to us because we were trying to ask for policies because if you don’t know what the policies say, how can you do something?” She added that as a council member, they would be “accused of things again and again.”

Malhi said it was made very clear to her when she was elected, that asking questions was not seen favourably by the staff.

Malhi said staff also balked when council members discussed hiring legal counsel.

“They basically walked out of the meeting,” she told The Voice. “We wanted everyone to be on board. But the reaction that we got was really unexpected.”

Allegations of financial impropriety

Emma Leigha Munro, a former LSU member-at-large, said she witnesssed questionable financial decisions, although Malhi claims she never witnessed any evidence of that.

“There were definitely things that were questionable,” Munro said Thursday. “Such as alcoholic beverages at a party, open tabs, board parties, Christmas parties.”

Munro told The Voice that she was suspicious of LSU spending and her feeling was that staff wielded the real power in the LSU while elected members were treated as pawns.

“I feel like they ran the whole thing and we were just there because they needed it to look like we were there,” Munro said.

Another source familiar with the LSU said he was unimpressed with the way things were run and staff often pressured council members to do their bidding.

The source expressed concern about the number of people pushed out over the last 16 months.

“It’s essentially like putting Langara back into the dark ages,” he said.

The Voice reached out for comment from the LSU, which did not respond.

Another issue raised was how staff tried to prevent elected board members from connecting with other student societies, including the umbrella Alliance of B.C. Students.

In an April 2016 email obtained by The Voice, LSU staff member Gurbax Lealh instructed ABCS officials to always contact LSU staff before approaching elected LSU council members.

The Voice, Thursday, attempted to contact the LSU for comment and got no response.

Langara College officials also declined to comment.


Article originally appeared in The Langara Voice


Plan for LSU transparency gone with ousted general manager

Desmond Rodenbour was fired abruptly while attempting to implement reform in the LSU. Photo by Alyse Kotyk

Dec. 2, 2016

By Alyd Llewellyn and Jake Wray

Fired general manager, Desmond Rodenbour, was hired in August to make changes by one LSU board then fired in November by a new board before those changes could be implemented.

Rodenbour said in an interview with The Voice that his goal was to make the LSU more transparent and to improve its democratic process.

Some of the changes he said he implemented included streamlining the candidate selection process and strengthening the role of the chief returning officer. But left unfinished were his and the former board’s other plans. Those included starting a student run radio station, increasing services provided by the LSU and a new set of bylaws he hoped would increase the transparency of the organization.

“Early on I had great support,” Rodenbour said. “Until, to be quite frank, the by-election happened. The political demographics of the board changed and the board’s priorities changed.”

LSU quietly fires employees

Last week Rodenbour was dismissed just three months into his contract, which he thought would run until the end of next semester. Also dismissed was the LSU’s lawyers and council member Harsimran Malhi.

Malhi, who was part of the previous board that brought in Rodenbour, told The Voice that a fourth person was also fired.

“When we hired him he dealt with things so politely and so friendly. If he wanted to make a change he would go talk to staff members,” Malhi said of Rodenbour. “He would make them agree, if not then he would see if there was a common ground.”

Malhi said she believes her firing is related to her support of Rodenbour’s initiatives.

The LSU provided the names of the newly elected board, but refused to provide any contact information. The board members are: Diksha Arora, Saman Barring, Harjot Grewal, Amritpal Kaur Kaler, Harman Kaur, Meharban Singh and Parmeshar Toor.

Jeremy McElroy, general manager of the Kwantlen Student Association, said he was surprised to hear about the manner in which Rodenbour was let go.

“It’s not very common for general managers or executive directors of student unions to be let go quite like that,” McElroy said.

Rodenbour said he still believes in the democratic process.

“I was careful, that on the last day when things looked like they might go south, I presented the new by-laws at the open board meeting so they are not confidential,” Rodenbour said.


Article originally appeared in The Langara Voice

Opinion: Take Trump seriously

Nov. 9, 2016


In the dark hours following Donald Trump’s unfathomable victory Tuesday night, I heard a dangerous sentiment repeated by many of my fellow progressive Canadians: “At least we don’t live in the States.”

I generally respect optimistic reactions to bad news, but the circumstances surrounding this disaster in America are so dire that it’s time for us to be unreservedly upset. Optimism might serve to calm us – this is not the time to relax.

On Wednesday morning, The Globe and Mail reported that Kellie Leitch, the Conservative leadership candidate pushing for codification and enforcement of “Canadian values,” sent an email earlier in the day to her supporters in which she praised Trump’s ideologies.

“It’s an exciting message and one that we need delivered in Canada as well,” she wrote.

Leitch is one of 12 candidates engaged in the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race. Remember when Trump was one of 17 candidates in the Republican primary back in March? He was a joke, an afterthought – not a serious contender. Look at how quickly that fell apart.

If Canadians take only one lesson away from Trump’s unpredictable ascent to power, it’s that we need to pay a little more attention to right wing fringe politicians and their raucous followers.

Trump’s win is only the latest example of a disturbing global trend toward dangerous right wing politics. The violent reign of Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte, the economically reckless Brexit vote and the forceful impeachment of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff are all examples of damage wreaked by the extreme right.

We cannot afford to underestimate Trump’s victory or the rumblings of fringe conservatives in Canada. That doesn’t mean we should demonize Trump’s supporters or their Canadian counterparts, either.

Forty seven per cent of the popular vote went to Trump on Tuesday. That’s not a small group of outliers whose concerns, no matter how vitriolic or offensive, can be written off.

Progressive Canadians need to study those concerns, so we can anticipate the course of our next federal election. Perhaps, by breaking bread with Canadians on the far right, we can steer our country away from a catastrophic federal election in 2019.


Article originally appeared in The Langara Voice

Longtime journalism instructor retires after three decades at Langara

Isobel Mackenzie BC Seniors Advocate
Journalism instructor Rob Dykstra will be retiring this June after 32 years. Photo by Les Bazso

March 31, 2016


When Rob Dykstra took a job as a journalism instructor at Langara College in 1984, he only planned to stay for two or three years. He ended up staying for 32.

Before he started at Langara, Dykstra worked as a journalist for over a decade. He started teaching because he wanted a break from the long hours and extreme stress that accompany news writing. He planned to return to news writing, but that didn’t happen. In June, he’s set to retire.

“It’s not because I just decided to perch myself here [at Langara] because it was a nice, comfortable place to be,” Dykstra said.

“Dealing with the journalism students has been very stimulating.”

Dykstra remembered fondly by past students

The first issue of the Langara Journalism Review. Dykstra founded the magazine 20 years ago. Photo by Jake Wray

Twenty years ago, Dykstra founded the Langara Journalism Review, an annual magazine produced by Langara journalism students that examines the journalism industry. Ash Kelly, a Langara journalism graduate, said working on last year’s edition of the magazine with Dykstra was a valuable learning opportunity.

“He really did make me a better writer, he really encouraged me to get my stories out there, and I’d say I wrote two of the best stories I’ve ever written in his class. He’s so encouraging,” Kelly said.

Jason Proctor, a CBC reporter who studied journalism at Langara in the early 90s, and lauded Dykstra for being good role model.

“A career is more than just what you think you might like to do, it’s also [about] the kinds of people that you work with,” Proctor said.

“You kind of look and think ‘OK, you know what, I can see myself working [like], or being [like] this type of person’.”

New adventures for Dykstra 

Dykstra plans to spend his retirement sailing on his boat. Photo by Les Bazso

After retirement, Dykstra said he plans to work in his garden, try beekeeping and, most importantly, spend lots of time on his sailboat.

“I like being on the water. I feel comfortable on the water. I feel, when I’m standing on shore looking at the water I kind of feel a bit melancholy — I feel like I’m in the wrong place,” Dykstra said.

“I’ve sailed since I was about 12 years old…there’s something magic about it.”

Article originally appeared in The Langara Voice

Canada has uphill battle to qualify for the 2018 World Cup

Canada dropped a World Cup qualifying match to Mexico at BC Place on March 25. Photo submitted by Brenda Becker

March 30, 2016


After the Canadian national soccer team dropped a pair of matches to Mexico this week, fans are questioning if the team has enough firepower to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Luca Locascio, a first-year Langara Falcons soccer player, said competitive soccer can be financially inaccessible to Canadian kids, so the national team has a limited talent pool to draw on, hurting the team’s international success.

“In Italy, I’ve gone there multiple times because I have family there, and like my cousins … they’ve been able to play soccer no problem just because they’ve had support from, say, the league, they’ve had support from the club, they’ve had support from their community in order to play,” Locascio said. “But here it’s kind of like, if you can’t afford it, it’s kind of tough luck.”

Canada lost 0-2 in Mexico City on Tuesday, and earlier lost 0-3 in Vancouver on Friday. They are scheduled to play two more qualifying rounds in the fall, against Honduras and El Salvador. Even if Canada wins both of those games, they’ll still have an uphill battle to qualify.

Fans disappointed by lackluster showing

Canadian soccer fan Rustum Johnson, who attended the March 25 game at BC Place and watched Tuesday’s game on TV, said he doesn’t think Canada will make it to the World Cup, a feat Canada hasn’t achieved since the 80s.

“I was unimpressed with them. I thought they could have done better. When they played in front of the home crowd, they were much stronger. When they were playing in Mexico, it looked like they were jet-lagged,” Johnson said.

Canadian fan Brenda Becker, who also attended the March 25 game, said there was a surprising amount of Mexican fans in the stands.

“The energy in there was something else, there was really good representation. The Mexican national anthem, I mean, you could hear people singing it. There were a lot of people from Mexico, or there to support Mexico,” she said.

Mexican fans gather prior to the Canada vs Mexico soccer match at BC Place. Video provided by Rustum Johnson.

Article originally appeared in The Langara Voice

Studio 58 grad finds notable role in play tackling complex issues

Arthur MacKinnon has landed himself a substantial new role. Photo by Jake Wray

March 24, 2016


Studio 58 alumnus Arthur MacKinnon has landed a major role as a high-school bully in Touchstone Theatre‘s Late Company, a play that addresses themes of bullying, homophobia, and teen suicide.

MacKinnon said Late Company provides an opportunity for him to sink his teeth into a substantial role. He will play 17-year-old Curtis, a bully whose victim recently committed suicide.

MacKinnon said the play does a good job tackling complex themes.

“It’s coming from a really real place, and I think Jordan Tannahill, who wrote the script, I think he was really exploring some interesting subject matter,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t realize that seemingly funny acts of bullying add up over time and have a greater effect on someone than you might initially imagine.”

Morality in play is not basic

Katrina Dunn, the play’s director, said the conflict between the character Curtis and his victim’s family is not black and white.

“During the play, you probably shift allegiances a couple of times, and wonder, who is at fault? And that is kind of a question that the play asks: who is to blame? And who is at fault? And is blame really a useful thing at all?” Dunn said.

Pair has worked together before

This isn’t the first project that MacKinnon and Dunn have worked on together. In 2012, while MacKinnon was a student at Studio 58, Dunn guest-directed a Studio 58 play. She spoke highly of the experience.

“I was quite impressed with him when I worked with him at Studio 58, so it’s great to work with him again,” Dunn said.

“Going into the [acting] industry, which is a scary industry, I mean it’s tough to work and tough to survive in, so kids mature quickly as they get out there in the work force, and Arthur’s done a great job.”

Late Company runs at the Evergreen Cultural Centre from March 29 to April 2, and at the Vancity Culture Lab from April 5 to 9.

Article originally appeared in The Langara Voice

Langara Falcons win provincial badminton title

Langara’s badminton team are the PacWest provincial champions. Back from left: Kelven Chu, Angus Li, Eric Chiu, Jim Guo, Kent Trung, Preston Wong, assistant coach Hugh Leung. Front from left: Head coach Marc Petreman, Paulina Hsu, Arilda Lau, Michelle Hang, Emily Ip, Noel Deleon, Jacinda Leung, assistant coach Bonnie Cheng. Photo by Jake Wray

Feb. 17, 2016


The Langara Falcons badminton team won their third consecutive provincial title after competing at the PacWest Badminton Provincial championships on Feb. 12 and 13.

Langara faced off against the Vancouver Island University Mariners and the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Eagles, who hosted the tournament at their Surrey campus. For the Falcons to bring home the provincial banner, they had to best their competition in at least three out of five categories. The Falcons’ squad consisted of 11 athletes, four women and seven men.

Langara beat KPU in women’s singles, women’s doubles, and men’s doubles for a final score of 3-2. VIU forfeited the men’s doubles point due to a shortage of players, and Langara beat them in men’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles for a final score of 4-1.

Clinching the title

The matches against KPU were early, so it was the later wins against VIU that clinched the championship title for Langara. Bonnie Cheng, Falcons’ assistant coach, said VIU was a formidable opponent, despite the forfeit round.

08 Badminton ChiuMug
Langara badminton player Eric Chiu.

“VIU has actually beaten us twice in exhibition events,” said Cheng. “To be honest, it was close, it could have gone either way.”

Langara’s Eric Chiu and Arilda Lau upset VIU Mariners Graydon Robb and Amanda Rizzo in mixed doubles in the final match of the tournament. Chiu said they had a rocky start but finished strong.

“We struggled in the beginning because we weren’t very stable with our serves,” Chiu said. “Afterwards we started playing smoother together, going for every shot, diving and everything.”

Falcon overcame personal challenges

Langara’s Preston Wong, who defeated VIU Mariner Robert Foster in the men’s singles category, said the biggest challenge was making sure his shots landed within the playing zone.

“It was more of a match against myself,” said Wong. “I think all I needed to do was just keep it in and stay consistent, because my problem in singles is I’m not consistent, but that game was pretty consistent so I’m pretty happy about that.”

The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Badminton National Championships will be hosted by Vancouver Island University, from March 2 to 5. The B.C. team roster is yet to be announced.

Article originally appeared in The Langara Voice