I’ve called an emergency meeting of the UWSA council on Tuesday at 6pm in Council Chambers to discuss some huge changes to the organization’s structure in terms of the executive that I am proposing. Allow me to begin by outlining some of the big problems in the UWSA which I believe cause a lot of the problems students see in the UWSA:
1) there is no clear division of powers between board, council and the executive, which give executives far too much power, which I believe is opposed to the mandate given to us by the constitution, by-laws, and by students.
2) there is a tendency for executives to attempt to impose groupthink on each other and on the UWSA Board and Council to dismiss concerns of students and to create a hierarchy and give themselves more control over the affairs of the UWSA without much dissent.
3) the roles of the executives are a mess and not really guided by reality but rather shoved together in any way seen fit for a time when the UWSA was in a great period of instability.
4) There is a chronic lack of proper training for not only the executive, but also coordinators, and the CRO. The only student staff who I believe are properly trained are the front desk staff and infodesk staff, who are personally trained by veteran staff who have been in their positions for years. There also isn’t a very good transition for student staff and often no transition for coordinators.
5) The UWSA executive are forced to choose one part of their job and do that or risk doing terrible in all aspects of their job because of the overloading that exists.
6) It is fundamentally improper for UWSA executives to have voting seats on Council, which is supposed to hold the executives accountable.
That being said, let’s talk about the actual bylaw changes. The original bylaw is broken up in the following manner:
Part 1: General Duties of Execs
Part 2: President
Part 3: VPUA
Part 4: VPA
Part 5: VPFO
The new bylaw adds two new positions, VP-External, and VP Equity and Administration and heavily changes the descriptions of each position.
The reason for this breakdown is this: After researching about 20 student unions(both college and university) and looking critically at the consistent failures of the UWSA in the past few years, which are often blamed on individual executives, I believe the issue is more based on the fact that executives are destined to fail because of how the jobs are laid out. I believe that there are 7 different areas that executives needs to cover that are currently being covered by 4 individuals.
The areas are the following:
1 – general oversight and leadership duties, direction setting et. al(currently handled by the President)
2 – Administrative, Corporate, and Secretarial Duties(currently handled by the Vice President Administration)
3 – Academic Affairs, including but not limited to senate, academic appeals, judicial panels and to an extent Board of Governors(Currently handled by Vice President University Affairs, and President, and the Academic Advocate)
4 – External Affairs, including CFS, OUSA, Municipal, work with other student unions, and a variety of advocacy work that is focused on organizations that are not part of the UWSA but part of the University community. Campaigns from OUSA/CFS, and advocacy campaigns would also fall under this category.
5 – Parties and social events, both political and non political. (currently handled by the VPA with support from the Director of Student Life, )
6 Finances and Services, providing students with the best possible benefits for membership and having solid finances(handled by a combination of the VPFO, The General Manager, Finance Manager, Junior Accountant, and *sometimes* President, services are handled by all execs, front desk staff, the General Manager, the Director of Student Life, the Operations Manager, and the UWSA coordinators)
7 – an area I’ve put last because it’s been ignored and not seen as something the UWSA should be doing but - outreaching directly to individual students. No one really does this but everyone does, each exec meets students in a different capacity as do many staff.
Right now the positions are dysfunctional. The VPUA needs to handle a variety of academic affairs but also needs to spend a lot of time travelling and can’t be on campus to deal with senate due to these meetings. This is exacerbated by our being members in both OUSA and CFS. When I brought this up to Kim she suggested I focus on one area rather than try and do all of it, this is extremely problematic because it essentially destines executives to fail by giving them work that is polar and therefore impossible to accomplish and do well. In addition if ever a time came where the VPUA had to replace a president (as per the bylaws) this would only exacerbate this and cause a huge problem in academic and external affairs.
It’s the same for the VP-Admin. The vpa should NOT be doing parties. It encourages the people who want to plan parties to run for the position and it means that the very very necessary work of bylaw and constitution upkeep is ignored. Our Constitution and Bylaws have been changed A LOT since last year and NONE of the changes are actually IN the constitution or bylaws. it’s horrendous. and it’s going to keep on happening because the people who plan parties usually have no want to do the administration side of things and it’s impossible to hold them accountable as execs are directly accountable to students.
The changes I’m proposing do not make the jobs EASIER and I would like to stress that, every exec changes not just VPUA and VPA, and the positions that are changed actually still maintain a great deal of work, for example VPUA does academic affairs and senate affairs, and is forced to do more in senate. This year I did a lot of academic stuff(trials, the access code reimbursements) but was unable to get senate caucus to meet regularly. THAT is because of how my position worked. A lot of senate meetings, I was at an OUSA meeting or in a meeting with a student or a CFS meeting.
The president’s role is changed so that they can no longer essentially do whatever they want without any checks and balances.
The VPFO is given more of a finance AND service oriented role. The FO can now do more in terms of oversight of businesses and different services of the UWSA, and oversees the services already offered by the UWSA(Walksafe, Womyn’s Centre, Shinerama, Afrofest, Peer Support Centre, Clubs support, and a variety of in office services) and micromanage to improve them.
All the positions are changed so that they work together more. Under the current rules there’s no requirement for execs to work together on issues, leaving execs as islands unto themselves if they choose to do so. Therefore, I as an exec can simply stop consulting the rest of the execs and do my own thing, which is what VPUAs often do, from what other VPUAs tell me. The VP Equity and Administration and the VP External MUST work together on human rights complaints and equity issues, the VPUA and the VP External must work together on campaigns and some advocacy. In addition, the Executives must consult with the staff of the UWSA a lot more especially when making decisions about those services.