Students union shirks responsibility by blocking recordings.
Author: Jason Chestney
Recently a report emerged in the Carillon (Vol. 57. Issue 10, p. 3) that the University of Regina Students Union (URSU) forbade the use of recording devices at the Board of Directors meetings. I am personally appalled at such a decision and critical of URSU for several reasons.
First of all, it places more onus and responsibility on the Carillon staff by making them frantically copy down notes and minutes, and then translate them into news articles for Carillon readers. The Carillon staff members already have enough on their proverbial plate without having to turn URSU meeting minutes and notes made by those in attendance into a sort of record that is available to university students.
The second and, I think more serious issue, is that it limits the public accountably of the Student Union to the university students that the union is supposed to represent.
To quote directly from Board chair Kyle Addison, taken from the same article, “The reason for [banning public recordings] in my experience, the recording of a Board meeting sacrifices the comfort of the Directors and has a negative impact on meeting participation.”
This is what makes me angry. Memo to the URSU Directors: you are not being paid out of our student fees, and were not elected, to be comfortable. The entire notion of URSU is to listen to the concerns of the students and to present these student concerns to the U of R’s Board of Directors. By their very nature, the students’ union’s interests should not coincide with the interests of the Board Directors. And, while I think that URSU has no power to actually make the university Board of Directors to listen and act on URSU’s recommendations, I believe that this action by URSU, particularly when it comes to the issue of accountability, will be counter-productive and only serve to decrease student confidence in the student union.
I also believe that while URSU is following the letter of their constitution, they are violating the spirit of the constitution. As it says in Section 2B of the URSU Constitution:
“To provide freedom of information in all activities of the Students’ Union, exempting where such information is in contravention of any laws or statutes, compromising any negotiations in progress, is in violation of any statutory rights of another individual, or where such information was given in confidence.”
If the turnout of the last URSU election and the last by-election are any indications, faith in URSU to take the interests of students to the University Board of Directors is woefully lacking due to students seeing URSU as irrelevant by not taking the time to vote in the elections.
Further, I believe somewhat cynically, that this is an attempt on the part of the URSU Board to limit their own accountability to the student populace by holding Conservative-style discussions and attempting to limit the Carillon’s ability to Board of Directors cover events. At the same time, the Board of Directors are enjoying their well-paying jobs with the President alone making $32,000 a year. I also find it interesting that URSU has yet to release their financial statement for the 2013-14 university fiscal year ending in April 2014. However, if the financial from 2012-13 is any indication, when URSU spent a total of $770,318 on its administration while failing to disclose the expenses for the Board of Directors or the President’s Advisory Council while making a total of $292,726 in net revenue after expenses, I expect we can see a similar trend. As such, URSU and their Board of Directors must make themselves more accountable to the student body by reversing this decision on recording devices and holding themselves accountable for their own actions rather than throwing the lower levels under the proverbial bus; the URSU day planner fiasco comes to mind. If URSU fails to carry this out, then I say that the URSU Board of Directors has the lost the ability to represent the student body. If that is the case, then I believe that a referendum needs to be held to see if the URSU Directors deserve to keep their positions.