Author: Emily Bonia
January 11 marks one of the more important board meetings of the winter semester for MUN Students’ Union in which the board of directors and executive members will be debating and discussing bylaw and policy amendments. The January 11 meeting is open to the public to spectate and will be held in the Council Chambers at 5:00pm.
For those unfamiliar with the internal structure of bylaws and policies of MUN Students’ Union, as per the union’s website, “MUNSU’s policies define its positions, procedures, and election regulations” while “The constitution and bylaws are two of the governing documents of the Students’ Union. The constitution is the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union Act (1968), which incorporates the MUNSU Board of Directors as the official representation of undergraduate students at Memorial’s St. John’s campus. This Act is provincial legislation. The bylaws state the governing and operational rules of MUNSU: when and how meetings are scheduled, how the Board of Directors is structured, and how decisions are made.”
While the majority of the policy and bylaw amendments simply ensure that there is more engagement from the board of directors and executive directly, there are some policies and bylaw changes that are not as simple says Brendon Dixon, MUN Students Union representative for Burton’s Pond.
Some of the additional policies include the monitoring of regrets sent – absences from scheduled meetings; changing the expected amount of notice to 6 hours before a meeting; and ensuring that the acceptable guidelines for absences from meetings include bereavement, illness or accident, an academic or employment specific conflict, or a personal or family emergency.
Others include the reduction of the use of Robert’s Rules of Order which have been used to chair MUN Students’ Union meetings for memorable history.
“With the policy changes students can expect a union that limits how long it meets for, is intrusive on a board members personal life, stopping board members from making certain motions during a meeting that will give the executive time to privately strategize and coordinate on how to approach a subject,” said Dixon.
“One policy measure actually gives the chair more power than they should have leaving how meetings are conducted completely up to them as the new change seeks to immensely water down our usage of Robert’s Rules. A set of rules that are very basic and easy to understand.”
“Essentially the policy change weakens the board, gives the exec the ability to focus less on these meetings and make more decisions in private. These are bad policy changes that have been poorly written and should be reworked or scrapped.”
The specific policy that Dixon is referring to is written on the MUN Students’ Union website as, “The Chair may use Robert’s Rules of Order as a guide for conducting meetings, however, it must be borne in mind that overly strict application of complex technical rules can become a barrier to participation in a meeting and can prevent consensus-based decision-making. The Chair is therefore authorized to bypass Robert’s Rules when necessary in the interest of equity and consensus. Decisions of the Chair are always subject to challenge from the floor.”
Other by-law changes that students can expect to see discussed is revising the current standing committee structure to only having to meet once per month and changing quorum from three board members to five during these committee meetings.
Dixon continued, “This changes our committee structures by adding two standing committees (committees that meet on a scheduled basis). The addition of the policy/bylaw and breezeway committees are two important things that are the product of a 3-4 year struggle to try and make the union take action on the inner workings and some of the operations of the union.”
When asked if students will see any difference as a result of these policy and bylaw changes, Dixon said, “I think students won’t necessarily see the impact of the policy/bylaw committee, but students who want to see the people who represent them as students will be pleased to see some of their views reflected and discussed in our bylaw and policy manuals and committee discussions.”
“The Breezeway Committee will definitely in the long term make students happy. We see every election students promising to improve it, this is now an actual outlet where we can work on that. The Breezeway is an important part of student life just like any student bar is.”
Ultimately, Dixon concluded, “The policy changes are reactive measures to issues that the board has never had. The Bylaw changes are going to be good for the union overall and a better union is good for students!”
Brittany Lennox, MUN Students’ Union Executive Director of External Affairs, Communications and Research was contacted for comment but was unavailable at the time of production.