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USSU VP of student affairs Ferwerda draws ire of student union co-workers: council votes to keep complaints from students

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Despite a duty to report to undergrads, student council decided to keep a complaint about VP Ferwerda (left) secret.
Alex Ferwerda’s frequent absences from meetings and inappropriate workplace behaviour have frustrated his co-workers on the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union executive, the Sheaf has learned.

Executive members president Scott Hitchings, vice-president academic Kelsey Topola and vice-president operations and finance Reid Nystuen have lodged a complaint with the Code of Ethics Disciplinary Committee, the second of the year against Ferwerda. They allege that Ferwerda, vice-president student affairs, has either missed or been late for several meetings; Ferwerda was to lead at least one of these meetings, and another was a breakfast meeting between the executive and university president Peter MacKinnon.

The complaint further said that Ferwerda has been argumentative and insulting in his treatment of some USSU staff. Ferwerda was responsible for a Jan. 30 “comment couch” event that was poorly planned and poorly attended: he failed to book USSU plasma TVs to advertise the event and there was little to no other advertising done. When the issue was raised at University Students’ Council, Ferwerda laid the blame on USSU staff.

The March 1 USC meeting went in camera — a legal term for a private meeting, with the discussion usually kept confidential — so that councillors could be told about the two complaints that were submitted against Ferwerda. Both complaints, they were told, were sustained by the CEDC, which is tasked with investigating and ruling on complaints of this nature.

Even before the complaint was read at council, Ferwerda had issued a formal apology to Jason Ventnor, the USSU Communications and Services Manager, and Jeff Jackson, who is on contract to provide IT services.

When asked for a comment, Ferwerda responded that it is against USSU bylaw to discuss in camera matters and that to do so would be a violation of his responsibilities. He also declined to comment on the substance of the complaint, from his absences and tardiness to his treatment of USSU staff.

According to USSU bylaw, the second sustained complaint against an executive member or councillor must be brought to USC for approval. If approved, council must then vote on whether or not to inform the student body about the complaint via a letter to the Sheaf.

With little debate on the subject, council voted overwhelmingly against publicizing the affair, with the three executives who filed the complaint among the few who wanted to notify students. An exact vote count could not be confirmed, but according to one source, “it wasn’t even close.”

Some councillors expressed concerns over the trust students might lose in student council were this information to become public.

Student councillors are unpaid representatives of various colleges and student groups on campus, while USSU executives can come from any college and collect a $32,000 salary. The USSU bylaw explicitly charges councillors with reporting “on a regular basis to the members,” but they appear to have acted differently on this matter, opting to keep potentially embarrassing information secret.

“I absolutely do not think this should be published in the Sheaf,” one member of council was quoted as saying. This councillor went on to say that if there were a third complaint against Ferwerda it would be worth debating going public.

For a third sustained complaint, the bylaw calls for council to discuss impeachment.

Photo: USSU

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