Greater board accountability outlined in new contract
Authors: Alec Salloum, News Editor and Derek Cameron, News Writer
On Jan. 28, the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) held a regularly mandated board meeting. Former board chair Kyle Addison stepped down from his position prior to the meeting, resigning over email. As such, Brad Lulik, vice-president academic at Regina Engineering Students’ Society INC., was elected interim chair for the meeting.
To start the meeting, the Indigenous Students Association made a presentation asking for $2,885 in funding for the second annual round dance. They mentioned that the expected attendance this year was 400, thanks to the university’s smudging and feasting policies, which will allow the round dance to be held on the main campus. Last year, the event attracted 200 attendants.
The policy, enacted in February of 2014, states, “The University of Regina recognizes that smudging, the use of tobacco and other medicines are a part of the Aboriginal traditional way of life and are, therefore, permitted on campus in appropriate spaces.”
The association went on to say, “We want to encourage others to come to our event and learn about Indigenous culture, traditions, customs and protocols.” This ceremony is also in accordance with the new strategic plan and its goals to further promote diversity at our university.”
The next presentation was the audit report, which took up the bulk of the meeting. In the report, a few promising notes were made, like the increase in revenue due to the new fee structure, and the decreasing operating deficit this year. Last year, URSU ran at a loss of $292,000; this year, it ran at a loss of $204,000. However, many concerns were noted, like large advances made without board approval, corporate credit cards were used by multiple people and lacked supporting documentation (costs are only documented in excess of $2,000), terminated employees received payment after termination, and cash was left unattended in the URSU office during Welcome Week. Another issue was that the PayPal account used by URSU was in the name of the former general manager. The report cited ways in which these issues can be ameliorated. The organization also received a note of “going concern,” which indicates the operation is struggling, and requires mending in a number of areas. One of the main areas of concern was that URSU lacks “policies governing significant areas, such as appropriate expenses, and employee loans and advances,” according to the auditors report.
Following presentations, four motions were put to the board for vote.
The first motion was to approve a new contract for the URSU executives. Policy currently in place was considered too vague to be enforceable. The new contract outlined expectations for hours spent in office, vacation days and sick days, and benefits such as free parking passes and free health and dental. USRU members are expected to have hours during the week where they are available at school. However, these hours were supposed to be recorded on the ‘honor system,’ as no formal structure for recording hours had been implemented or proposed.
There was also discussion on what ‘available’ meant, with no definitive definition given. Also, as it currently stands, URSU executives make $13-14*(see correction below) an hour and are eligible for four courses to be paid for per semester. Luanne Drake, vice president student affairs, raised concerns about whether an executive contract should be voted on when Daniella Zemlak, vice-president of external affairs, was not present. Ultimately, however, the motion passed.
Next to be debated was a motion regarding the information presented on the referendum question for the U-Pass. 758 students signed a petition to start the process. Discussion centered on how long the results of the referendum would be valid. The debate was focused on how after a certain number of years the student body would have changed dramatically and, as a result, another vote would be needed to best serve the needs of students.
After debate, the motion was amended to include a two-year limit on negotiations before the referendum would become invalid. Also, the price per semester would range from $70-90 as previously discussed. The board also mentioned considerations to who was exempted from the U-Pass fees. Students living in a 1 km radius from the school or outside of city limits will not have to pay. Also, para-transit will be included in the fee structure at no additional cost. The motion passed unanimously as amended.
$136,000 of URSU funding goes to the Varsity Club Athletics Board (VCAB) annually. URSU ultimately has the final say on the distribution of the funds. The third motion was to accept a proposal from VCAB for how to allocate the funds. VCAB recommended funds go towards equipment and fee space with any extra funds financing national competitions. The motion passed with one abstention.
The final motion of the night was a request to pay Randy and Lahey from the Trailer Park Boys $4800 to come to the Owl for a show on April 19. The Trailer Park Boys were the ones who originally approached URSU to perform at the Owl. It should be stated that the Boys, Bubbles, Ricky and Julian won’t be coming.
Devon Peters said, “URSU is excited to have big acts that are coming to Regina asking specifically for the Owl. We know that more shows and more activities are what students are asking for at the Owl and we are very excited to provide that.”
The motion was received with excitement from the board and passed unanimously.
After motions, the board went into an in camera portion regarding the new Extreme Pita.
The date of the next board meeting is yet to be announced.
*CORRECTION: Feb. 6, 2:26 a.m.
In a previous version of this article, we made an error where we incorrectly stated that the URSU executive makes $29 dollars an hour. In fact, they make, according to URSU President Devon Peters, about $13 dollars an hour. Their yearly wage is $29,000, so that works out. We attribute this fault to an error in editing. Apologies. The error has been corrected in the story.