MUN Students’ Union May Decrease its numbers on the Board

Students at MUN may see dramatic changes at the voting booths and around the board table in the 2017 election. MUN Students’ Union decides to go forward with a proposal to change the structure of the board, which decreasing representation for certain students across Campus – while increasing representation for others.

A board of 45 student representatives previously, will be cut by 13 members in the upcoming election if this passes at the next board meeting on January 25.

The current proposal would cut all but one science and one arts representative, one paton college representative, and eliminate the five directors at large positions. But, goes on to add a racialized student representative, adding a queer students representative and a trans students representative, adding a sustainability representative, a first year representative and changing the name of the aboriginal student representative to the indigenous students representative.

As a result of cutting these 13 positions, MUN Students’ Union will save $8,400 and be able to create four student jobs including equity office, a breezeway coordinator, a volunteer coordinator, and a clubs and societies coordinator. Students who occupied the new student positions would be paid an honorarium of $1000 at the end of fall and winter semesters.

Pierce Collier, Director at Large for MUN Students’ Union, said “Changes to the structure of MUN Students’ Union normally happens through thorough discussions, where recommendations are made by the elections committee after each election. In this case, neither the elections committee or the newly formed policy committee had any say on this matter. It happened at the external affairs committee in which no agenda was sent out in advance.”

“This proposal will now be brought immediately to next week’s meeting despite the fact that there have been no in depth debate or study and absolutely no consultations with the student body.  This is a very serious matter.” He continued.

“We are changing the entire system or our union’s governing and the executives want to simply force it through next week’s meeting without consulting anyone. This is a sad day for students as their student leaders are trying to remove Representative positions without even consulting them. Instead of encouraging people to get involved and instead of encouraging good, active representation of faculties (in terms of cutting 2 arts and science reps each) they want to cut representation by 50 percent.  This isn’t right nor fair.”, Concluded Collier.

While some board members may feel that this is untimely and unjust, Brittany Lennox, Executive Director of External Affairs, Communications, and Research, says that, “A lot of students have been very positive about bringing the size of the Board under control and giving positions more focus and direction. Unfortunately a few people made some alarmist assumptions about what was going on without taking the time to clarify the facts, which is what we had a discussion about at the Board last night. Anyway, the proposal is up for consultation and feedback so I would hope any interested students would come talk to me and share their feedback on the various ideas. Our goal is to make the Board more effective and accountable for our members so we’d love to hear any thoughts!”

The problem, Lennox says is in part, “Achieving quorum – the number of Board members necessary to hold a meeting and carry on business – has been a significant problem, in part because of the large size of the Board. For the past two years, 40% or more of our Board meetings have been affected by quorum issues, either having to end early or not starting at all.”

“It’s unfortunate because when students are elected to serve on the Board, there’s an expectation that they will put in the time that requires, by coming to meetings and doing all the other work. When Board members don’t, they’re letting down their fellow students who pay students’ union fees, and they’re taking up space on the Board that other more dedicated students could occupy.”

Currently, MUN Students’ Union has a ratio of 1 representative for every 288 undergraduates on campus, which is much higher than the average ratio of representation in other levels of governance such as municipal, town councils, and so on.

When asked why the student’s union has this sort of ratio, Lennox said, “I think it’s in large part because we’ve ignored the problem so many years and neglected to take action to keep the Board size under control. Many years ago – in the 1980s I think, if not earlier – the Board was set up in such a way as to tie the size of the Board to enrolment, and have it grow proportionally with student enrolment. So as student enrolment at Memorial went up, the size of the Board went up as well. We are, so far as I know, the only students’ union to still have this type of proportional system. Other universities long since have abandoned it because it leads to over-sized Boards and it becomes unwieldy. So I think it’s long past time we took some proactive action around the issue as well.”

Ultimately, the decision to change the board structures will come down to what will likely be a tension-filled, heated board meeting next Wednesday at 5pm in the Council Chambers. This is the first time in recent history that MUN Students’ Union has attempted to make changes to the board structure.

Article By Emily Bonia