CampusOpinion

Students’ Council’s lack of transparency hinders students from engaging with it

From vague minutes to failing to post presentations, Council is failing to get students to care about them in a time of need

Student councillors dedicate countless hours of unpaid time to govern the Students’ Union, but due to structural failures, an unknown amount of their work is disappearing into an administrative void.

Last month, I filed a complaint to the SU’s Discipline, Interpretation, and Enforcement (DIE) Board, the quasi-judicial court of the union. As a former councillor, I was concerned about ongoing transparency failures within Students’ Council.

Student groups, members of administration, and SU executives frequently give presentations to council, either to consult or to inform council’s vote on a motion coming up at a future meeting. It’s vital to have access to the presentations to understand why and how council is making decisions.

When I was a councillor in 2016/2017, I wrote an amendment to Council Standing Orders regarding presentation transparency after SU General Manager Marc Dumouchel gave a presentation to council regarding the proposed Myer Horowitz renovation. A slide was purposely removed from the version of the presentation uploaded to the website. I wanted to prevent this from happening again because students deserve access to all materials presented in council meetings. Somehow, the amendment was lost, a situation the DIE Board tribunal called “absurd” when it ruled against council.

This isn’t the only amendment that has vanished into thin air. Governor and Deputy Speaker Levi Flaman admitted himself during the hearing that countless council and committee motions over the past three years have been lost due to shoddy record keeping and inadequate staffing of Discover Governance.

How can Council accept that an unknown amount of their work is simply disappearing?

When SU governance is so dysfunctional that council can’t even govern itself, it’s impossible for the average student to follow SU politics. Written minutes of council and committee meetings have become frustratingly vague summaries of discussions instead of a detailed record of proceedings, making it difficult for even seasoned SU hacks to understand what actually goes on in them.

The Executive Committee, which can approve its own expenses, didn’t even publish any of their minutes from August until this month! Students were left in the dark about how their money was being spent.

Recordings of council meetings haven’t been uploaded online since September, and the quality of recordings is so bad you need to be an audio engineer to decipher what’s being said. Council livestreams are still broadcast using the difficult to use Adobe Connect software from eClass, something that I originally proposed as a pilot project until council could budget for a more permanent solution.

With the threat of opt-outable SU membership on the horizon, it’s more important now than ever that students are engaged with their union. Most students are engaged with politics at some level, so it wouldn’t be too hard to get them to also care about SU politics that directly affect their university experience. The SU is a multimillion dollar organization; it can afford the desperately needed governance staff and technology upgrades.

Students’ Council should be doing everything they can to make it easy for students at large to tune in, rather than letting their governance structure crumble.

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