Proposed amendment at USSU Annual General Meeting causes dispute

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The numbers reflected in the Ubyssey article were collected from the 2015-16 USSU budget.

On Nov. 23 at the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Annual General Meeting, a proposed amendment to the USSU bylaws led to an objection from a group of students from the U of S Campus Conservatives.

The AGM agenda consisted of eight proposed amendments to the USSU bylaws, but the amendment that garnered the most debate called for a removal of the requirement that USSU executives enroll in courses while they are in office. At the AGM, members from the Campus Conservatives, a politically-­focused student group, questioned whether or not the amendment is necessary and beneficial.

David D’Eon, president of the USSU, put forward the proposed amendment at the AGM. He explains that it is necessary to change the restrictive course-load requirements due to the demands of the executive positions.

“When I stepped into the job, I was very aware of a history of mental-health breakdowns amongst executive members, and that was something that I wanted to try [to] find a couple of ways of addressing. So, that was my first motivation,” D’Eon said.

Before the amendment passed, section 15 and 16 of the USSU bylaws required the executives of the union to enroll in a minimum of three credit units in both the fall session and the winter session. Failing to enroll in courses while working full time on the executive might have resulted in removal from office.

At the AGM, a group of about eight students objected to the proposed amendment and handed out small information sheets to convince students to vote against the amendment with them. The handouts stated that the purpose of the bylaw was “to ensure the executive remains under the control of U of S students” and that the amendment would give the executives an “easy ride while they get paid a massive salary.”

Erik Carey, a second-year political science student and a member of Campus Conservatives, notes that, while the students who objected to the amendment at the AGM were from a political student group, the amendment is not specifically a conservative issue. Carey explains that this amendment may allow some individuals to take advantage of the union positions.

“We are concerned that some people might see this as an opportunity to take a year off of studying while maintaining their student status, and at the same time, generate an income,” Carey said. “This opens up the possibility that people who don’t really care about the interests of the students [run] for the positions because of the benefits it offers.”

D’Eon explains there may be a misunderstanding amongst students that this amendment might allow people who are not U of S students to hold executive positions, but he says this is not the case.

“We have an agreement now, with the registrar’s office, where executives are coded as ‘placeholders,’ which is the same status given to students who take time off to partake in co-op programs. It is still in the bylaws that you are required to be a student to run for an executive position,” D’Eon said.

D’Eon explains that the U of S is not the only university to consider removing the requirement that student-union staff take classes during their work year. He says he discovered, while attending a student conference at the University of British Columbia, that the required course load is in review at other unions.

“This was a conversation that I carried with me to the Student Union Development Summit that I went to in August. It really became apparent when we spoke with other student-union members that this was one way that was being explored, by many unions, of reducing the burden on executive members,” D’Eon said.

Despite the opposition to the proposed amendment, the USSU passed all eight amendments during the AGM. Carey notes, however, that he and other students still have concerns about whether or not the amendment will encourage inept students to run for executive positions on the students’ union.

“Our point was that, if they cannot handle the workload of the classes and their responsibilities, they should not have taken the responsibility in the first place.”

Nafisa Islam

Photo: Emily Migchels / Opinions Editor