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Students suspend bylaws, call for removal of non-disclosure agreements and a forensic audit at AGM

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The Student Union Society’s (SUS) Annual General Meeting (AGM) met quorum Friday, April 5 after failing to meet quorum the previous week with an attendance of seven students. Students voted to allow motions from the floor to be presented, passing a motion requiring a forensic audit of SUS finances and putting forward another motion to rescind non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) signed by SUS.

SUS bylaws require any business items to be added to the AGM agenda 14 before the meeting is scheduled. By voting to suspend this bylaw, students from the floor were able to bring up motions not on the agenda.     

The motion to rescind NDAs was tabled to a follow up meeting that will take place at noon May 15 in Everend Hall, after a discussion on legal issues surrounding the motion.

If passed, the motion would allow SUS staff and employees to request the removal of previously signed NDAs. This would not affect future NDAs. A quorum of 38 students will be required to conduct the business at the follow up AGM.

Members of the SUS executive board expressed concern on the legal issues of revoking NDAs, as they are used by SUS to protect private financial information and student information. SUS executives will bring in a lawyer to provide legal council at the meeting.    

Under the suspended bylaws, a motion from the floor was passed instructing the SUS board of directors to organize a forensic audit of the last five years of SUS finances. Forensic audits are a specialized audit of all financial documentation to look for missing funds, and involve checking receipts, transactions, and payments against the numbers provided by an organization.

This motion amended the agenda motion to hire a new auditor. Students voted to approve the hiring of the suggested auditor, with the amendment that the SUS board of directors will arrange a forensic audit to be conducted.

Forensic audits are conducted to investigate fraud or negligence of funds, and cost more than a traditional audit. There was discussion on whether a forensic audit was worth student money, considering an audit of SUS finances is conducted every year by an independent auditor. Mark Wellington, ex-executive director of SUS, said the cost would likely be two to three times more than the year’s audit that had been budgeted for.

The previous auditor from MNP presented on the 2017/18 audited financial statement during the AGM, stating that overall it was a clean audit report.

The student who put forward the motion expressed frustration with SUS, and said the hope was a forensic audit would heal some trust towards the organization and bring transparency to SUS finances.

“We should consider the cost of not doing [a forensic audit] and having the mistrust of SUS continue,” another student from the floor said.

Agenda Items

Quorum was met at the AGM to conduct all business on the agenda. Students voted in favour of joining the Alliance of B.C. Students (ABCS) and the 2019/20 SUS budget was presented.

ABCS is a collective of B.C. student unions that advocate to the provincial government on student issues. There are four members of ABCS besides SUS: Capilano Students’ Union, Graduate Student Society of UBC Vancouver, Kwantlen Student Association, and Langara Students’ Union Association.

Membership is $0.32 per full-time student, or around $2,000 yearly based on the 6,400 full-time equivalent students at UFV in 2017/18. The full membership fee was not given at the meeting, but will come out of the SUS fees students pay semesterly and will not result in any fee increases.

Gurvir (G) Gill, SUS president, said during the discussion that the benefits of being members include free access to ABCS conferences, a vote on the ABCS board, and access to the research and advocacy campaigns conducted by ABCS. By being members, SUS can also gain access to “provincial decision makers” and help bring UFV students’ voices to the ABCS board.  

SUS has previously attended ABCS events, budgeting $4,700 to attend in the ABCS AGM and lobbying days in 2017/18. As members, SUS will no longer need to pay the $300 to attend lobbying days but will have to pay for travel and accommodations.

Even without the budgetary increases from joining ABCS and requiring a forensic audit, the 2019/20 SUS budget was “tight” according to Jaleen Mackay, SUS vice president internal. The budget showed wage increases to senior managers and executives and cuts to both SUS and Clubs and Associations (C&A) programming. There was a “conservative” deficit of $6,000, which Mackay said was minimal.

“We’ve undertaken a great deal of work to cut the amount of deficit students are paying into,” Mackay said during the budget presentation.

No funding was allocated to Clubs and Associations (C&A), and there was a $10,000 cut to orientation programming. SUS programming received $1,000 plus $2,000 to each of their three centres: the Pride Centre, the Ethnocultural Centre, and the Gender Equality Centre.

Mackay reported that the single greatest increase in the 2019/20 budget came from full-time staffing costs. There was a $24,000 total increase to the salaries of several senior managers and the executive director. Two new full-time positions were created, manager of events and programming and the administrative assistant, and $45,000 was set aside for hiring a technical coordinator.

Image: UFV Cascade

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