By Jesse Stilwell, April 4 2017 —
Last week, the Students’ Union Policy Development and Review Committee brought the same policy to repeal faculty representatives’ monthly bonuses back to the Student Legislative Council from a March 7 discussion, despite receiving criticism and suggestions to change it. The policy failed to receive the two-thirds supermajority it needed to pass. Its failure could have been avoided had PDRC done a better job defending their decision to not change their original policy and took the suggestions they received during the first read-through seriously. Instead, they failed to change their peers’ minds and wasted everyone’s time by repeating the exact same policy council criticized a few weeks prior.
PDRC had the right intentions. As vice-president operations and finance Branden Cave said “we don’t get paid to do our work — we get paid so that we are able to do that work.” Being an elected official in a non-profit organization is not meant to be a lucrative cash cow. There is a reason elected officials are given honorariums and not a salary — their job is not-for-profit. Most student associations in Canada don’t pay their elected officials at all. The representatives at the University of Calgary aren’t more deserving of pay than those at the University of Lethbridge, let alone deserving of a monthly bonus. So why are they getting it?
Student representatives know how the SU pays before they decide to run. The networking and lobbying skills that EOs gain are beneficial and transferable to different jobs that actually provide a salary in the future. The SU never claimed to offer this salary for their EOs, and nor should they when the money could be used more responsibly. As a full-time honours student who has worked multiple “for profit” jobs at once, I understand this.
The policy’s failure however, revealed that those who were in favour of removing the bonuses were unprepared for the criticisms they faced. When PDRC decided to bring the same idea back to SLC even after extensive feedback, they should have been ready to defend this decision and the policy all over again. They used the same rebuttals to criticism as they did during the first read-through. They failed to provide any new or better reasons why this policy was the best option.
The fact that the SU lost control of $1.9 million this year after the MacHall injunction wasn’t mentioned. Neither was the promise that this loss will not affect students. A great way to show they take this promise seriously and want to actively serve those they represent would be to cap salaries and cut bonuses. This is how the most responsible governing bodies rein in spending, and is what non-profit organization like the SU should too. The bonuses could go a long way towards supporting the Wellness Centre, the SU Food Bank or other things students directly benefit from. This would have been a good point to explain why they brought the policy back unchanged, but unfortunately they omitted this line of thought.
The next time a polarizing policy is brought to SLC, it needs to have a better defence backing it up. Repeatedly presenting flawed policies not only wastes time, it also reflects poorly on the SU. Capable student leaders should avoid these awkward conflicts by working and compromising with other members of council. When members of SLC provide feedback, it should be deeply considered, and if that feedback is ignored it must be acknowledged and justified openly. There are good reasons why the bonuses should have been repealed and it shouldn’t have been impossible to convince council why this is the case.