Print Edition: November 20, 2013
Issues with the current SUS board structure
Greg Stickland explains the board has a strong structure but there are ultimately weaknesses in the hierarchal system currently in place. For instance, student representatives are intended to keep the board accountable, but also report to the board in day-to-day activities.
“It’s a lot more of a pyramid. The president and the executive committee [are] on the very top. Everyone reports to the president, and they get their direct orders from the president,” he notes. “Underneath we put the representatives, and their various vice-presidents.”
“I still found that this structure was very flawed, mainly because the representatives are there to represent various student voices – they’re meant to balance out the executives,” Stickland continues. “But on our current board structure, we have representatives being our labour – they do five hours a week and they need to report to the [executive committee]. So how awkward is that – you’re meant to be the power that oversees your boss. It’s very difficult and it’s broken, in my opinion.”
Stickland also acknowledges that SUS’s current structure makes it possible for the government to become cliquey and lacking in diverse representation – an issue he believes the board reform will address.
“There’s kind of a mentality that SUS is its own club. So there are obviously flaws in how representation is done if there’s that notion,” Stickland continues, “but if we can restructure the positions so that everyone can feel represented by at least one member of the board, that will help.”
How will the change affect students?
Although students may question how changing the SUS board structure will practically affect their everyday lives at UFV, both Stickland and Davies suggest that the new board structure will help SUS serve the student population faster and with more efficiency.
“Students often say, ‘what does SUS do for me?’ Well, we can do a lot more under this system,” Davies explains. “I can’t tell you what new service or what new thing is going to happen next year, but I can say it will be more efficient and we will be able to do more.
“There are flaws with everything,” he concludes, “but this [reform] is the best structure for us [and our student population].”
Proposed changes to SUS board structure
1. Move towards a policy/oversight board
One of the main changes proposed in the policy is to divide who does the practical labour within the government. Under this new plan, SUS representatives will no longer be required to do five hours of labour, which, in theory, will make them more neutral and therefore more effective in the role of overseeing SUS’s decisions. The responsibility of labour will be consolidated and given instead to four main directing positions – director of engagement, director of equality, director of finance, and the clubs and association director. “Under the old structure, everyone is a director and a member of the board – so they all contribute to the labour and they all sit on the board, but this board structure is different,” Stickland goes on. “You can be a member of the board that represents someone, but not expected to do labour – and the opposite. You can be a director that has to do labour, but not a member of the board.”
Aaron Levy, CIVL’s station manager, concisely explained what the changes will practically mean for those working within this structure.
“It’s specifically that you’re moving towards a policy or oversight board rather than a working board,” he said, and both Stickland and Davies agreed.
2. Changes to executive and director positions
For executive and director members the largest change comes in the number of hours they will be expected to work, as well as how they would be paid for those hours.
Since they would take over hours that were once allocated to representatives, the executive and directing board members will now work 20 hours a week.
“The hours are going to be drastically increased, because they are a combination of the reps – so the reps got five hours a week, these directors will get 20,” Stickland says.
Davies also spoke to the efficiency this change will bring, explaining that this core team will now also be paid hourly for the time they contribute.
“It is almost always much more efficient to have, in this case, four people doing 20 hours of work, than a whole bunch of people doing little bits of work – it’s much more efficient and much more beneficial to everyone who’s involved,” Davies notes. “They will be paid fairly on a per hour rate … for the directors the plan is to do $11 an hour, and then for the executives, so the two VPs and the president, they will get $12 an hour.”
Questions were raised about where the funding would come from to pay for these new positions. However, Stickland was adamant that the aggregate total that is currently being paid as honoraria to the board will be the same amount paid out to the new positions.
3. Changes to representative positions
The proposed board reform will also alter the representative positions that sit on the board. These members will no longer be paid or expected to work a set amount of hours.
Although many of the positions remain the same, such as aboriginal representative, the breadth of students sitting on the board will increase.
Along with adding a seat on the board for a student representative from each of the faculties, as divided by UFV, the SUS board will also have non-voting representatives from both The Cascade and CIVL Radio.
While the addition of the new positions will add to the diversity of the board, questions were raised as to whether one student representative would be able to accurately represent the diversity of students within each faculty group.
“That is something that we recognize in each of these positions – nothing is perfect. We recognize there are flaws, but we do feel this is the best we can do,” Davies notes. “We certainly hope that we do get students who are engaged, who are involved in their associations, who are leaders on campus, and therefore do have a connection with those they [will be] representing.”
Along with adding representative positions, the proposed policy will also remove some. For instance, the representative-at-large position will no longer exist.
4. Hiring director positions
Due to the extensive amount of work directors will now be required to do under the proposed reform, positions will no longer be elected by the student body; instead they will be hired.
“One thing that will make the board, and the government as a whole, more productive is the director positions will now be hired by the vice-presidents,” Stickland says. “So, whereas now all of our labour is based on elections, now these ones will be hired.”
The rationale behind this decision is that directors will need to have specific skill sets in order to properly carry out their jobs.
“[We’re] hiring based on skill sets and turning it into a student job,” Davies explains. “It’s based on the skills that these students have and can contribute to the society.”
Both Stickland and Davies recognize that students may be concerned that these positions are now out of the hands of voters. However, they believe that the vice-presidents, who will be elected and have the ability to change the direction of the hired board, will give the government room to properly accommodate student voices.
“The [vice-presidents] have strategic oversight and are able to give strategic direction,” Davies says. “So yes, the vice president external and vice president internal …. have the oversight and the direction to say ‘[students] want to go in this direction, therefore I’m going to assign these tasks … for this goal or plan.’”
5. Hiring the board chair
Under the proposed reform the board chair will also be a separately hired student position. Currently, the SUS president doubles as the board chair, which Davies believes does not give the president the proper ability to speak or express reasonable opinions.
“One of the key things is that it is important for the board chair in the meeting to be neutral and in the current set-up we generally have the president operating as the chair,” he explains. “It doesn’t allow the president to express fair opinions on anything that’s going on, because [they’re] not allowed to.
“The board chair is a hired position, and because it’s non-voting we can do that,” Davies continues. “The logic being a chair is an important job to make sure you can keep the meetings controlled and organized.”
Over the course of the discussion, the ability for a student to remain truly neutral was questioned. He or she will pay SUS fees and be a part of one of the represented faculties, and therefore may have a vested interest in the direction and choices brought to SUS board level.
This concern was heard by both Stickland and Davies, to be taken into account in the ongoing organization of the proposed reform.