Changing the UWSA executives: 6 vs. 4

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

See the original bylaw here(scroll down to Bylaw 30), and my bylaw amendments here.

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.

Let’s talk about money for a minute as well, I’m sure folks will want to know, where will the funding for two new positions come from. There are a few ways this can be funded and while I do have a plan for funding them, I believe that question should be brought to the Board of Directors at a time when we’ve decided to pursue the six executive structure. I believe I will be able to convince the Board that positions can be funded. This is NOT AN ISSUE for the UWSA council, the UWSA is very clearly broken up into a financially responsible Board of Directors, and politically responsible Council. Council needs to figure out if this is better for students than the 4 executive structure.  Money is not what should be discussed by Council and is essentially irrelevant altogether. There is a reason for the division of powers in Board and Council and this is one that is beyond clear.
Another issue that raised by Kim Orr, our president when I brought this up to her was: have more commissioners/coordinators responsible for the two executives instead of having two new executives. These would be unelected, hired staff at a cost less than execs. I believe this is fundamentally flawed for the following reasons: while commissioners seem like a reasonable settlement, if you look at our coordinators all of them are overworked and underpaid. This manifests itself in different ways: Coordinators often tend to do less than what the job requires because they’re not paid to do more than 10-20 hours a week. Other coordinators feel they’re not appreciated due to the lack of support they have and become bitter and fail to follow through in their positions. My concern would be if we are using commisioners to do important work, they should still be paid as much as execs, otherwise there’s no point. In addition, if we are paying them as much as execs, I wouldn’t like the idea of them not being elected. The 6 group of duties I brought up above are important to the direction of the UWSA, and each should be done by an elected student, whose platform was defended to students in an election, which faced other platforms, and having low paid commissioners would be a travesty as it devalues the work being done.

This is my proposal. If you have any questions, comments or concerns contact me here, on facebook, twitter, or through email.

Motions for CFS NGM(Nov.27-30)

Hey folks

I’ve been extremely busy with VPUA work(mainly the access code reimbursements, read about that here) and have failed to blog up until now. THAT STOPS HERE, I’m going to blog once a week to make sure I keep everyone updated on what’s going on. Before getting into anything too much – Last week I was at the national Lobby Week of the Canadian Federation of Students

It was…AMAZING! I will be posting a youtube video about it shortly. In the mean time watch Adam Awad, current CFS-n chairperson during lobby week at the Standing Committee on finance(see it here)

In related news, the CFS National General Meeting will be taking place on November 27-30 in Gatineau/Ottawa.

You can see the entire agenda(and motions) here.(NOTE this package was scanned by the UTGSU – they are awesome check them out at utgsu.ca)

Here are the motions we submitted:

Motion on History of the Student Movement

whereas the student movement’s history is long and fruitful, filled with successes

Whereas the Federation has played an immense role in the shaping of post secondary education since its’ founding in 1981,

Whereas the student movement grows stronger by reflecting upon its’ history,

BIRT the Federation engage in creating a historical document detailing the history of the student movement in Canada and the history of the Federation since its’ founding in 1981

BIFRT this document specifically include:

-a list of the national executive for each year

-a list of all member locals including those that have decertified from the Federation

-a list of successes and drawbacks from each year

BIFRT the Federation reach out to alumni, including but not limited to those in past National Executive, former staff members, and former members of locals to create a narrative for the historical document,

BIFRT member locals be invited to participate in the development and reviewing of this document.

Goal: Students can only achieve success if we know our failures and our victories. We need to know our history in order to succeed. I think a historical document that spans the life of the federation will give us an accurate account of student unionism in Canada from 1981 to the present. Having this document updated will greatly help lobbying efforts and keep the federation on the right track.

Motion on Online Documents

Whereas the Policy Manual of the Federation includes a section titled “Federation Documents”

Whereas many Federation documents are posted on the Federation’s Website,

Whereas minutes of the Federation’s General Meetings have been posted on the internet by sources other than the federation,

Whereas these minutes may be doctored or altered to create a false impression of the Federation’s General Meetings’ content going back to 1981,

Whereas these minutes include financial documents of the Federation,

Whereas these financial documents may be doctored or altered to create a false impression of the Federation’s budgeted expenses,

Whereas some member locals of the Federation have no institutional memory in terms of documents of the Federation’s General Meetings,

Whereas some member locals of the Federation have outdated policy manuals comprising of outdated copies of the Federation’s constating documents,

Whereas this disadvantages member locals, and gives individual members possibly improper information therefore:

BIRT the Policy Manual’s section titled “Federation Documents” be amended to include:

“Online Documents

The Federation’s Constating documents, General Meeting minutes and audits are to be posted online under a tab called “Federation Documents” on the cfs-fcee.ca website.  ”

Goal: the goal is to get documents of the Federation onlne at an official source. the fact that they’re already available should really mean this should pass easily. It doesn’t quite make sense to let 3rd parties post minutes and documents and not post them ourselves. Why hasn’t this been done yet? I believe it is largely because no one sent a motion like this in.

Amendment to Standing Resolution 3

whereas  Standing Resolution 3 governs plenary rules and procedures, and

whereas delegates at times have felt disadvantaged by confusion at opening and closing plenary, therefore

BIRT Standing Resolution 3 be amended to include:

“10 Display of Agenda

The Agenda should be displayed on projector screens during plenary.  When Motions are being discussed at Plenary, they should be visible on the projector screens in both French and English. If possible, amendments should be simultaneously displayed on screens.

Goal: In the two AGMs I’ve attended there’s always been a fair amount of confusion among delegates as to what amendments are being moved, what’s happening, who’s moving what, and it gets increasingly complicated as there’s a delay in translations because, obviously, it’s hard to translate from one language to another and do it without delays. So often a vote will take place while delegates are still listening to the translation and they’ll have to call for a point of personal privilege causing more issues. It’d be easier if we could get the agenda and motions displayed as we’re editing them. It’d really, really help delegates if the screens were showing amendments as the delegates were editing them.

Amendment to Standing Resolution 7

Whereas standing resolution 7 governs the record of resolutions, and

Whereas it is at times difficult for locals to discern the tally of votes at Plenary, therefore

BIRT standing Resolution be amended to read:

“Policy resolutions, standing resolutions, and constitutional amendments which are considered and adopted by the voting members of the Federation at a general meeting in accordance with Bylaws III, IV, and XVI shall be noted in the minutes of the general meeting as having met the requirements for notice and passage, as well as the tally of those locals in favor, those against, and any noted absentions.”

Goal: This might be tough to accomplish. I’m not really concerned about how much amendments or roll call votes or call the questions pass or fail by. I’d really just like to see the votes for motions as a whole recorded in minutes. With such changes it shouldn’t extend Plenary time by longer than 20 minutes total depending on the agenda of the plenary.

Motion on working group to review policies

BIRT a working group be established to review all Issues Policies and Education Policies of the Federation.

Goal: This one’s straightforward. Rather than have individual locals create or amend policy this is to get a group of locals together to propose many, many amendments to the policies of the Federation.

Motion on Livestreaming Plenary

Whereas the Federation is a democratic and member-driven union of students, and

Whereas opponents of the Federation claim allegedly that the Federation is a closed organization, and

Whereas livestreaming meetings via the web is a simple yet effective way to make meetings more available to members of the Federation, dispelling such ridiculous assertions, and

Whereas a livestream may be turned off and on at the convenience of delegates, therefore:

BIRT the Federation investigate livestreaming opening and closing plenary during National General Meetings and Semi Annual General Meetings,

BIFRT the Federation review the results of it’s investigation at the following General Meeting,

BIFRT the Federation include the investigation in it’s Executive Report.

Goal: I would like to see CFS plenaries livestreamed to our membership. It increases the transparency of the organization and shows that there’s no cloak and dagger secrecy at CFS meetings, which is something often thrown at the Federation. Further, livestreams can be turned off, so if a delegate is uncomfortable sharing something to the world, or needs a safe space to share, it can be turned off at their convenience. However, rather than move this immediately, I’d like it investigated by the national executive to see if they come to the same conclusions.

Motion on CFS-FCEE website:

Whereas some members have found the Federation’s website to lack user-friendliness, therefore

BIRT the National Executive work to develop a new National Website.

Goal: The Federation’s website is outdated. Let’s bring it up to current web standards. It’s especially noticeable when compared to the lobby week website for CFS-N and the actual website.

The favicon(the ticon that displays next to the site name in your tab) isn’t updated to reflect the new CFS logo, and neither is the national website.

The national website isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as it could be. A website is the first look most get at CFS, and the national website isn’t representative of the Federation in it’s current state.