By Scott Strasser, December 1 2016 —
A bitterly contested policy proposal from the Students’ Union Policy Development and Review Committee (PDRC) failed at Students’ Legislative Council on Nov. 29.
The proposal aimed to change the SU’s elected official reporting mechanism for weekly SLC meetings. Had it passed, the policy would have eliminated weekly verbal reports from SU faculty representatives and replaced them with monthly verbal reports.
After an hour of heated debate among SU executives and faculty representatives, the open-ballot vote failed 8–10, with one abstention from Faculty of Arts representative Courtney Leblanc.
SU vice-president operations and finance Branden Cave chairs PDRC and initially brought the proposal forward as a discussion item at the Nov. 15 meeting. He urged SLC to reconsider the proposal following the opposition it faced on Nov. 15.
“What’s being brought forward tonight isn’t something I came up with on the fly in the last week. This discussion has been occurring for many years now,” Cave said before the vote took place.
PDRC members argued that faculty representatives’ weekly verbal reports often include irrelevant information, take up 10–20 minutes of every SLC and don’t provide a clear picture of what a faculty representative has been doing in the long term.
The proposal spurred argument among council members at both the Nov. 15 and Nov. 29 meetings.
SU vice-president external Tristan Bray was against the proposal. He said removing weekly verbal reports would remove a mechanism of the SU’s transparency.
“I’m proud of the transparency that weekly verbal reports provide for SLC. I’m proud any student can wander in here and sit in the gallery and hear first-hand exactly what their elected officials are up to,” Bray said during the Nov. 29 meeting.
Cave said he found opposition to the policy proposal “disconcerting.”
“I feel as though most of [the pushback] is grounded in a misunderstanding of operational versus policy and a somewhat conservative attitude of maintaining the status quo,” Cave said.
Early into the discussion, SU president Stephan Guscott stated he was in favour of PDRC’s proposal. A three-year veteran of SLC, Guscott brought up how he had spent “a week of his life” listening to verbal reports.
“If you were to decrease that frequency [of verbal reports], it would include more opportunity to have more substantive information to bring forward to council and I see that as an advantage,” Guscott said.
Arguments on both sides bounced back and forth throughout the debate.
“I don’t believe it’s the quantity of reports we need to change, it’s the quality,” SU vice-president academic Alicia Lunz said before the vote. “I’d like to keep verbal reporting because as an executive, I don’t have time to chase all 19 of you [faculty representatives] around to find out what it is you’re doing.”
Just like at the Nov. 15 meeting, Werklund School of Education representative Carson Reveen was a vocal opponent of the proposal.
“There is a problem with the quality of reporting and that I completely agree needs to be changed,” he said during the meeting. “So why are we looking at the frequency instead of the real problem, which is what is being reported? This is going to lead to us lumping four poor [weekly] reports into one poor monthly report.”
Like the executives, faculty representatives were also divided.
“I believe this change will increase the quality of reporting and communication with not just others in the SU, but also the students,” Cumming School of Medicine representative Sam Sirianni said during the discussion. “I do not see the harm in changing the policy to this because I believe this will give a well-rounded perspective of our initiatives, accomplishments, challenges and successes.”
Near the discussion’s end, Bray motioned for the vote to be done under secret ballot. The motion failed 9–10.
Alongside the change from weekly to monthly verbal reports, the proposal also suggested increasing the frequency of written reports for SU executives from tri-monthly to monthly and for committee chair reports to be given on a monthly basis instead of weekly. With the failed vote, no changes will occur to the SU’s reporting structure.