Central Student Association Staff and Directors Advocate for Board Reform at the CSA
Wednesday, April 9, 20141 Comment
[This piece was sent to the Editor-in-Cheif of The Cannon.ca, and is therefore being treated as a letter to the editor. Any opinions expressed there in are not necessarily shared by The Cannon, the GCC or the CSA. The Author's name has been given to the Editor of the Cannon in Confidence and will not be shared at this time. Authors' name withheld--Ed.]
Because we believe that University of Guelph students have the right to be accurately represented by their student union and to hold their union accountable for its action and inaction, various Staff and Directors of the Central Student Association would like to issue an urgent call to reform the CSA Board of Directors.
Due to the intrinsically painful nature of change, if there is ever to be a positive and sustainable outcome, we need to talk freely about our challenges; therefore we would like to engage the student population in this dialogue. We would like to begin the conversation with the following recommendations:
1. The Executive Committee should not be considered as voting members on the Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors is the highest decision-making body of and employer for the student union. As such the Board of Directors are responsible for the supervision of the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee having voting rights on the Board of Directors create an automatic imbalance of power and is often perceived as a conflict of interest. How is the Board of Directors supposed to adequately supervise the full-time, paid Executive Committee and hold them accountable when they (the Executive Committee) are on equal footing with the board?
2. Every seat on the Board of Directors should be elected.
Out of the 35 person Board of Directors, 19 seats (including the 5 Commissioners), are elected and 16 are appointed. However, should the elected seats not be filled after the Fall by-election, there is an opportunity to have those seats filled by appointment. As a result, there is an opportunity to have a fully appointed, rather than elected, board with the exception of the Executive Committee.
“We do not support the removal of seats that are representative of the various marginalized communities on campus; however, we support a fair and transparent election process for all groups, including those from college governments, and all other on-campus organizations that currently have a seat on the Board.”
3. A maximum 2-year term limit for the Board of Directors.
According to the student union’s policies, anyone who is elected to an Executive position at the CSA can only be elected for a maximum of 2 academic years. The same should be true for Directors. Executive should also not be able to go from being an Executive to directly being a Director as it maintains a power imbalance among the Directors of the Board.
4. Hiring on-call experts as support for the Board of Directors
As the employers and highest decision-making body of the CSA, the Board of Directors frequently makes decisions that affect the human resources, financial and legal positions of the organization. As such, there should be a roster of on-call experts that can attend board meetings to provide professional opinions, advice, and ensure that processes, bylaws, policies and provincial legislation are followed.
5. Improved training for Board members
New Directors often feel intimidated and extremely overwhelmed when they sit on the Board. Staff and Directors support a more comprehensive training and education process that empowers the Directors to make the tough decisions needed to hold people accountable and accurately represent the needs and wants of the student body.
6. A fair elections process, including the removal of supervision of all Electoral staff from the Executive Committee.
To ensure a fair electoral process, it is imperative that the Chief Electoral Officer is able to make decisions independent from influence. Having the Chief Electoral Officer supervised by any member of the Executive Committee provides an influence that can affect the outcome of any election. We propose that the Electoral Officer also receive comprehensive training and that they report directly to the Board of Directors.
University of Guelph students are strongly encouraged to utilize social media and to contact their CSA board representatives to support the movement for increased accountability and representation through board reform.